Date Thesis Awarded

4-2017

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Environmental Science and Policy

Advisor

Randy Chambers

Committee Member

Alan C. Braddock

Committee Member

Sarah Stafford

Committee Member

Carey Bagdassarian

Abstract

This thesis explores the extent to which Chesapeake Bay environmental nonprofits incorporate issues of environmental justice into their external communications. This study begins with a baseline assessment of the state of environmental justice communications for almost one hundred Bay nonprofits. The nonprofits’ websites were coded by hand, and were extensively and methodically examined for environmental-justice oriented language. This quantitative study shows that nonprofits are exceptionally unlikely to have mission statements that engage with environmental justice. Nonprofits are somewhat more likely to engage with environmental justice on their issue pages and in their newsletters, but this engagement is sporadic, and is rarely indicative of a broader commitment to justice-oriented environmental communications.

This study also includes semi-structured interviews that explore the reasons for variation in the external communications of environmental nonprofits. It shows that some progress has been made in making environmental communication more effective, but that funders, mission statements, and organizational history all constrain progress.

Lastly, this study puts forth recommendations based on interviews and the results of the quantitative analysis. Mainstream environmental nonprofits should actively seek to build long-term partnerships with environmental justice groups, in which they leverage their privilege to elevate the voices of environmental justice groups. Mainstream environmental nonprofits should also let their messaging be shaped by communities, and should incorporate environmental justice more fully into their mission, programmatic work, and communications.

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