Emily Huddart Kennedy
My research program is inspired by my curiosity with human-environmental relationships. Within this general area, I use empirical evidence to explore two broad questions. First, what motivates civic engagement in efforts to protect the environment? Second, how do pro-environmental practices reflect and reproduce social differences? I engage these broad questions in the following specific areas, each of which involve multiple research projects.
- Household-level Sustainable Consumption. Over the past decade, I have conducted city-level, province-level, and national-level surveys as well as qualitative interviews to understand Canadian environmental practices. Key themes emerging from these projects include the observation that those who engage most frequently in pro-environmental behaviours (like recycling and buying organic food) have high levels of carbon dioxide emissions, and evidence that more than environmental values, it is our access to green systems of provision (e.g., public transit, curb-side recycling) that explain our commitment to a green lifestyle. I was recently awarded an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to examine different cultures of environmentalism in Canada and the United States.
- Alternative Food Initiatives. My current research in this area is a collaboration with Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann (Toronto). Using focus groups and survey data, we are examining the role of meat in our contemporary socio-ecological and political imaginaries.
- Gender, Politics and Social Class in Environmentalism. I have an enduring interest in the ways that pro-environmental beliefs and practices can paradoxically thwart efforts to bridge social divisions and make society more equitable. For instance, my research has shown (1) that the relationship between household-level pro-environmental behaviour and labour force participation/status is different for women than it is for men; (2) that while conservatives tend to undervalue environmental protection compared with liberals, conservatives and liberals place similar value on renewable energy (though for different reasons); and (3) that low environmental impact lifestyles (e.g., living in a small home, not owning a vehicle) are seen as evidence of moral worth—but only for wealthy families, not low-income families.
Together, these projects position me among a group of innovators within environmental sociology examining the reciprocal relationships between culture, gender and class boundaries, and individual-level mainstream environmental protection.