ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVISM
I am currently researching the tactical choices among environmental justice organizations (EJOs). While previous research tends to focus on either structural or individual factors affecting tactics, I argue that it is crucial to investigate both in order to best understand how EJOs operate. As such, I address two main research questions. First, I ask how the political, cultural and economic climate in which EJOs operate affects their tactical choices. To answer this question, I conducted a national-level survey of nearly 80 EJOs. Findings indicate that EJOs embedded in states with more liberal governments are less likely to engage in institutional tactics. Additionally, some conditions predict both institutional and disruptive tactics, including collaborations with other EJOs, the type of community in which the EJO works, and the amount of toxic chemicals released in the state.
Second, I ask how activists’ characteristics, histories, and perceptions of the political, cultural, and economic climate contribute to the processes through which organizations make tactical decisions. Interviews with EJO activists serve as the data for this question. The research site for the qualitative data is in West Virginia. Many EJOs have mobilized there in response to a coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal (MTR). Coal corporations have adopted MTR, an extreme form of strip mining, due to the ease with which it is executed. Despite coal corporations’ claims that MTR is not environmentally harmful, researchers have found the effects of MTR are environmentally, socially, and culturally detrimental. In response, residents of the impoverished communities in which MTR occurs have joined together to form numerous EJOs in an attempt to combat the stranglehold Big Coal has in the area. I am currently in the analysis phase of these interviews.
I have been working with a team of researchers on an environmental concerns research project since 2008. This team currently consists of two colleagues at Emory University (Drs. Karen Hegtvedt and Cathy Johnson) and myself. Originally, this collaboration focused on the how the environmental concerns of undergraduates changes over the course of their college career. We examined environmental attitudes, behaviors, motivations, and identities among students who lived in both traditional and LEED-Certified “green” dorms their freshman year via electronic surveys. Additionally, we examined processes that link environmental identities and behaviors via in-depth interviews. We received funding for this research from Emory University and a grant from the Spencer Foundation.
To date, we have published two papers out of this research.
Parris, Christie L., Karen A. Hegtvedt, Lesley Watson, and Cathryn Johnson. 2014. “Justice for All? Factors Affecting Perceptions of Environmental and “Ecological” Injustice.” Social Justice Research 27:67-98.
Watson, Lesley, Cathryn Johnson, Christie L. Parris, and Karen A. Hegtvedt. 2015. “Living Green: Examining Sustainable Dorms and Identities.” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 16(3):310-26.
The final area of research in which I am engaging is policy-driven. I am currently working with a research team investigating the inclusion of gays and lesbians as a protected status under state-level hate crime statutes. This project examines how social movement and political factors shape policy passage over time. This project is divided into two papers, one investigating the factors affecting policy passage, and the other examining policy enforcement. Both papers are longitudinal in nature, examining the time period between 1983 and 2008. The first paper was published recently in Research in Social Movements, Conflict, and Change.
Parris, Christie L. and Heather L. Scheuerman. 2015. “Social Movements Matter: The Inclusion of Sexual Orientation in State-Level Hate Crime Legislation.” Research in Social Movements, Conflict, and Change 38:231-58.