Cultivando Comunidad: A Community-Based Approach to Study the Link between Cultural and Environmental Identities in Latinxs Living in the Seattle Metropolitan Area

by Zamanillo Maria Carrera

Institution: University of Washington
Year: 2018
Keywords: Foodways; Latinx; Pro-environmental behavior; Sense of belonging; Sense of connectedness to nature; Environmental studies; Latin American studies; Sustainability; Forestry
Posted: 02/01/2018
Record ID: 2215977
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/40900


The extent of biodiversity losses in natural ecosystems has accelerated mainly due to anthropogenic causes. The governance of natural resources and environmental policies attempting to address these losses usually reflect the economic and environmental behavior of limited groups of people in power positions. As a results, environmental policies tend not to reflect the diversity in environmental values and cultural links to environmental behaviors. Previous studies have mostly focused on explaining psychological factors that guide pro-environmental behavior. These studies have focused on values linked to the modern environmentalism movement, which adopts a more globalized ideal of sustainability. Recent studies have started to pay attention to the human health links to nature. However, all these approaches explore these relationships at an individual level and have not attempted to address whether socially transmitted behavior patterns, such as cultural values, have an impact on attitudes and decision-making processes related to the natural environment. In fact, some researchers have postulated that some members of a group may have stronger sense of connectedness to nature that is expressed as stronger pro-environmental values. Furthermore, a sense of connectedness to nature is affected by personal experiences, memories and habits guided by ethnic or cultural identities. The focus of this research was to look into the strength of connections a group of people Latinxs - have to nature through their food choices, i.e., foodways. Food represents the first contact many people have to nature, so foodways become a rich lens through which the connection to nature and pro-environmental decision-making can be analyzed. In addition, foodways can serve to index tendencies in the attitudes toward nature of smaller populations living at a local or regional scale. The objective of this research was to explore the links between cultural and environmental identities through the lens of traditional foodways. It specifically focused on the impact of migration on day to day food practices and values in Latinxs living in the Seattle metropolitan area, to analyze if there is in fact a link between cultural and environmental identities. A mixed methods approach was used to describe extensively and intensively participants habits related to a sense of belonging and a sense of connectedness to nature according to their own perspectives. A multidimensional analysis approach allowed data collection to occur using an iterative and multi-stage process that combined qualitative and quantitative methods. This research supports anecdotal evidence that ethnic and cultural links may contribute to Latinxs sense of connectedness to nature, and therefore, environmental behavior. Foodways was an effective index to detect ethnic and cultural links to environment decisions that could not have been identified by correlating cultural and environmental factors. In this sense, foodways constituted a representation of the beliefs and values that sustainAdvisors/Committee Members: Vogt, Kristiina (advisor).