Environmental Engagement as a Practice of Inclusion

In ENVS 295, we have come to agree on a pattern in our readings in regard to the theme of connection in environmental engagement.  Just as we have come to view environmental engagement as relating to the connecting of ideas, disciplines, practices, and more, the readings for each week similarly relate to one another.  In class we noticed themes in the readings such as identity and communication, however, the topic that particularly stood to me within the theme of connection and the interwoven qualities of ENVS, was this continuous cry I was hearing for inclusion.

A sweeping range of topics and opinions were voiced in our initial readings on environmental scholarship, yet they still all touched on this idea of coalescing different factors into engagement, tying different elements together, and bringing new ideas into a framework.  White (2000) argues that “purity” keeps categories separate with boundaries, such as distinguishing the “man-made” and “natural” world, and yet this is not how the real world works.  White stands against this segregation of the different aspects of our life as bring unconnected and easily distinguishable.  Another first week reading by Rayner (2014) contends that solving the complicated environmental issues of today’s world necessitates the diverse amount of people and opinions that exist working together under the same framework. Rayner calls these clumsy solutions and contends that, “rather than depending on getting people with different values and priorities to think the same way, clumsy solutions focus on getting them to do the same thing for their own diverse reasons.”  Even Robbins and Moore (2015), who focus’s not on concepts, people or solutions, but objects, toys with the idea of inclusion, arguing that teaching environmental studies through objects suits the interdisciplinary nature of the field.  Viewing environmental studies through objects allows us to see this vast picture, full of myriad topics and themes under a single framework.

The 2016 election readings also extensively discuss inclusion.  Lilla (2016) deduces that liberals obsession with diversity has consequently  lead to exclusion by separating people and not addressing everyone. Lilla claims that Trump supporters in part arouse out of a feeling of being ostracized . Schaffner (2017) similarly argues that Trump won the election by winning the trust of people who felt left out, specifically white people who felt threatened and were drawn to the racist and sexist rhetoric used in Trump’s campaign. Schaffner asserts that, “whites now view themselves as an embattled racial group, and this has led to both strong ingroup identity and a greater tolerance for expressions of hostility toward outgroups.”  Both Lilla and Shaffner see Trump’s election as a result of exclusion of others, on the part of both main political parties.

Bain et al. (2012), who I read for my environmental communications reading, argued similarly that there is an issue of using categorizations to separate us from one another in a harmful manner.  Bain argues that we need to find common ground between the climate change believers and deniers to work off of, to accomplish shared goals, letting in diverse opinions instead of attempting to make everyones opinion homogenous. Bain says, “public discussion should broaden to encompass the societal effects of action, especially how mitigation efforts will promote scientific and economic progress, and can make us more caring and considerate people.”  Once again, the message conveys a call of action of bringing people (or concepts, or ideas, or methods…) together instead of detaching from one another.



Bain, Paul G., Matthew J. Hornsey, Renata Bongiorno, and Carla Jeffries. 2012. “Promoting pro-Environmental Action in Climate Change Deniers.” Nature Climate Change 2 (8): 600–603. doi:10.1038/nclimate1532.
Lilla, Mark. 2016. “The End of Identity Liberalism.” The New York Times, November 18. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html.
Rayner, Steve. 2014. “Wicked Problems.” Environmental Scientist 23 (2): 3–4.
Robbins, Paul, and Sarah A. Moore. 2015. “Teaching through Objects: Grounding Environmental Studies in Things.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 5 (2): 231–36. doi:10.1007/s13412-015-0242-z.
Schaffner, Brian F., Matthew MacWilliams, and Tatishe Nteta. 2017. “Explaining White Polarization in the 2016 Vote for President: The Sobering Role of Racism and Sexism.” presented at the Conference on The U.S. Elections of 2016: Domestic and International Aspects, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya Israel, January 9. http://people.umass.edu/schaffne/schaffner_et_al_IDC_conference.pdf.
White, R. 2000. “The Problem with Purity.” Tanner Lectures on Human Values 21: 211–28.

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