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Shifting the Balance in Environmental Governance: Ethnicity, Environmental Citizenship and Discourses of Responsibility



Abstract:  This paper focuses on the notion of environmental citizenship in examining how black and minority ethnic groups (BME) in Britain talk about environmental “rights” alongside environmental responsibilities. This broader discursive context leads us to engage with two interpretations of sustainability promoting different policy and planning agendas—the environmental sustainability and just sustainability policy agendas—in understanding the multiple spaces of identity, power and agency in which BME communities respond to environmental issues in institutional and daily life. We conducted ten semi-structured interviews with community key informants and ten focus groups with African-Caribbean or Indian communities. We identified four environmental responsibility discourses in the participants’ talk, that were variously defined by issues of trust, social equity, off-loading of responsibility and government intervention and that served to shift environmental responsibility away from the individual onto “institutional others”. We conclude by suggesting policy implications for the environmental and sustainability policy and planning community.