NEIL LEWIS JR.: If we disagree about what even counts as an important environmental issue in the first place, it's hard to come together to work on solving those issues.
JONATHON SCHULDT: Some of the groups that are most affected by environmental problems are least likely to have a seat at the table. So if you're thinking about ways to engage members of those communities, I think these data might have some really practical insights. Right? Because you could go to communities and talk about climate change and invasive species, but those might not be the issues that really count as the leading environmental issues for the communities you most want to reach.
Like, for certain communities, it might be the flooding that floods their city sidewalks. That might be the pressing environmental issue that prevents their kids from enjoying the city park.
NEIL LEWIS JR.: Low income people, racial minority people in the US are more likely to live closer to environmental hazards. And so if you're living in different places, you're going to come to different mental representations about these issues. So if you're closer to these environmental hazards, then it's much clearer to you that there's actually a link here between sort of the racism and poverty and things that led to me living in one place versus another place.
And so it becomes more clear for some groups than for others. That's what we think is sort of going on.
JONATHON SCHULDT: And it made us face some of our own preconceptions and prejudices as researchers, because if we had just gone ahead and done this survey that we ended up doing without engaging community members, it would've been a very different survey.
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Minorities and lower-income people are more likely to consider human factors such as racism and poverty to be environmental issues, a Cornell co-led study found.