Latinos and the Natural Environment Along the United States-Mexico Border



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The vitality of international transborder natural resources is important for the preservation of wildlife corridors, clean water, clean air, and working lands. In particular, not only does the Texas Rio Grande Valley Region in the United States (U.S.), on the U.S.-Mexico border, offer critical habitat important to North American migratory species, the area also provides substantial agricultural goods (i.e., sugarcane, sorghum, melons, onions, citrus, carrots, cabbage, and cattle). Hence, the dilemma between consumptive and non-consumptive uses of natural resources along a large geographic expanse separated by sociopolitical and sociocultural differences, is further complicated. Latinos of Mexican descent along the southwestern U.S. are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the U.S., yet their influence on U.S. natural resource allocation and management has been largely ignored. For this reason, the purpose of my study was threefold: (1) to determine public perceptions toward natural resources, the environment, and conservation; (2) to assess general environmental behaviors; and (3) to determine general recreational behaviors among three student population groups along the U.S.Mexico border region. The student groups were comprised of Texas students (Texas Latino and Texas non-Latino white), and Mexican students from three northern Mexico states, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas. A survey was derived from three of the most frequently used environmental concern, behavior, and recreation indices used for research in the discipline.

Predictors of environmental concern, behavior, and outdoor recreation participation for my sample varied across sociodemographic and sociopolitical variables for each student group. A review of environmental attitudes found Mexican students were more environmentally friendly (~ 2.35 odds; P < 0.05) than their U.S. counterparts. Among the three student groups, basic environmental behaviors (environmental conservation contribution; avoiding environmentally harmful products; changing car oil; and lawn responsibility) were influenced (P < 0.05) by environmental orientation, political candidate's environmental position, father and mother's educational attainment, place of origin, sex, and combined parent income. Outdoor recreation participation and constraints to outdoor recreation participation among the student groups were influenced (P < 0.05) by parent income, age, place of origin, and environmental orientation. Examples of constraints were: not enough money, personal health reasons, inadequate transportation, and personal safety reasons. Findings from my study benefit natural resource and environmental organizations pursuing collaborative program development and implementation along the U.S.-Mexico border and other transborder regions.