How Can Faith Leaders Make the Climate Conversation More Inclusive?

Non-white minorities are often left out of climate conversations. There are several reasons for this, as this article points out: minorities often do not self-identify as environmentalists, and at some point policy-makers and researchers believed that minorities do not prioritize climate issues. Recent studies, however, have shown that non-white minorities are statistically as concerned with climate change as majority white populations. Moreover, communities of color are often disproportionately affected by climate impacts – and they are highly aware of these impacts on their communities, but often lack the resources to make a difference.  

As the U.S. diversifies (Hispanics and Asian Pacific Americans make up the fastest-growing demographics in the U.S.) and non-white minority communities grow, how can the faith community work to include them in the climate conversation? Faith leaders can take a stand for these vulnerable communities by continuing to raise awareness about climate change, to support policies that protect people from harmful air pollution or toxic water, and to bridge the perceived divide between religion and science and show that we all share the responsibility to care for our Earth. By framing climate change in a  context that is relatable and relevant (for instance, focusing on the climate implications in a local community, rather than on what is going on thousands of miles away), and providing a culturally sensitive climate dialogue, we can harness much more potential and power when it comes to climate action. 

Climate change less politicized among minority groups

Tom Fleischman | Phys Org | March 9, 2016

Picture someone who identifies as an "environmentalist," and you've probably got one of several images in your head – a hippie from the 1960s or the child/grandchild of one, maybe a celebrity who has famously taken up the cause, or perhaps a Gen Xer or millennial with liberal leanings.

No matter what mental picture you conjure, it's probably got one thing in common with others: whiteness.

Non-white minorities statistically are as concerned with climate change as are whites but are less likely to self-identify as environmentalists. This suggests that racial and ethnic representation, in areas of outreach and climate science advocacy, can shape core climate change beliefs in previously overlooked ways. That's of major importance for a nation that, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, is on track to become a majority-minority nation by the year 2050.

Race and ethnicity as a function of climate-change attitudes is the subject of a recent study by Jonathan Schuldt '04, assistant professor of communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and collaborator Adam Pearson '03, assistant professor of psychology at Pomona (Calif.) College.

Their work is documented in a paper, "The role of race and ethnicity in climate change polarization: Evidence from a U.S. national survey experiment," and is published online in the journal Climatic Change.

Schuldt and Pearson analyzed data from a 2012 survey that focused on the respondents' opinions regarding climate change and their political partisanship. They then examined the role minority vs. majority status played in terms of respondents' views on the issue. The final sample broke down as 75.6 percent white, and 24.4 percent non-white.

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