Better policy through symmetry? : Examining the whiteness of green governance in Manchester

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A small but growing number of studies analyse Global South (GS) to Global North (GN) migration experiences as part of a research agenda aiming to problematize the cultural specificity of the indicators of pro-environmental behaviour that inform green policy agendas in rich countries. For example, drawing on nine Australian studies, Head et al. (2021) seek to ‘unlock the potential of ethnic diversity’ for improving environmental governance by discussing the barriers to and enablers of sustainability practices experienced by GS (im)migrants, which include such factors as faith, pre-migration norms and knowledge and post-migration economic constraints and weather conditions.  While we agree that research centering experiences and knowledges that have been marginalized is an important step towards greater the diversification (and potential ‘decolonisation’) of sustainability policy, we also suggest that it risks affirming the problematic positioning of GS (im)migrants as unexplored ‘others’ who are ‘hard to reach’ and in need of environmental education/acculturation to meet official targets. Awareness of, and desire to avoid, this risk leads us to pursue a different, yet complimentary research objective of holding up a mirror to those who make policy and set targets. In the UK the environmental sector is overwhelmingly white: just 3.1% of environmental professionals identify as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (or BAME) (Griffith and Bevan 2021; NUS 2018). We ask: to what extent do the attitudes and behaviours of white policymakers, serve to obstruct, erase or facilitate the engagement of racialized (im)migrants in activities relevant for a just transition?  To begin to answer this question, this paper sets out a symmetrical approach to understanding the migration-sustainability nexus at the level of the local state. To complement and complicate our own focus on the household sustainability practices and knowledges of GS (im)migrants (see MacGregor et al. 2019), we explore the barriers and enablers of greater sensitivity to ethnic diversity within white-dominated environmental governance processes. Using the city-region of Greater Manchester as a study site, we discuss the findings of 25 elite interviews (including local councillors and officials and representatives of third sector organisations) against a backdrop of contextual information gleaned from policy documents, websites, social media and other relevant sources. 
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 9 Jun 2022
EventNordic Environmental Social Science (NESS) Conference - University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 7 Jun 20229 Jun 2022


ConferenceNordic Environmental Social Science (NESS) Conference
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Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Consumption Institute


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