Aspects of Identity that Inform Black College Students' Experiences and Consideration of the Natural Environment

Joelle Jenkins, University of Northern Colorado


Previous researchers have questioned whether people of color show concern regarding nature. Some studies suggested they do not show concern, while others suggest they are just as or even more concerned than their white peers. These studies did not examine the reasons behind having an affinity for nature, which is a problem because they did not thoroughly explain and provide context to those affinities. This research explores preferences and thoughts relating to black undergraduate students' experiences in the natural environment. In this study, we propose a new paradigm to understand how one chooses to interact with the natural environment. Understanding the factors involved will strengthen the awareness of underrepresented groups' attitudes and perceptions toward natural surroundings through the use of an in-depth lens to advance the perspective of environmental attitudes. This study aims to answer the question: "How do elements of one's black identity inform their experiences with the environment, and why do they feel that way?" A thematic analysis of 10 interviews will take place to better answer this question. Anticipated topics include trends in knowledge, likes and dislikes, values and beliefs, and behavior related to identity and experience in natural settings. Preliminary findings from interviewees show that the word environment is associated with sustainability, and environmental justice is associated with environmental racism. This study is essential for addressing environmental issues in diverse communities because it allows voices to be heard so that they can be included in environmental decision-making.