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Reframing environmental responsibility at the intersections of cultural and generational difference: Learning from migrant families in Manchester and Melbourne

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Catherine WalkerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Intersectional approaches to studying climate change reveal the diverse and uneven ways in which people are impacted by and able to respond to the consequences of climate change. Concurrently, scholars are adapting conceptualisations of environmental responsibility to the challenges of climate change to balance the responsibilities of individuals, collectives and governments and those people with greater and lesser abilities to benefit from and act to curb carbon emissions. This article contributes to these efforts by offering an intersectional conceptualisation of environmental responsibility. It does so by drawing on research in which young people interviewed their parent who migrated to Manchester or Melbourne about their experiences of climate change in their country of origin. These interviews showed that multi-generation migrant families offer a unique perspective on how environmental responsibility is configured. Migrant parents’ stories highlight that responsibility is acquired in multi-directional ways that traverse trajectories of education and migration. They also show that how responsibility is constituted gives shape to repertories of action and barriers to environmental responsibility that young people may experience due to cultural differences between themselves and members of their communities and between themselves and their parents. Based on the findings, we argue for a recalibration of the concept of environmental responsibility that accounts for the place-based and intergenerationally informed ways in which understandings of environmental responsibility are (re)produced. Geographical critiques of environmental responsibilisation stand to gain from research that traces perceptions and beliefs on responsibility as it traverses generational and place-based cultures of environmentalism.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Van Holstein E, Walker C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geoforum

Year: 2023

Volume: 146

Print publication date: 01/11/2023

Online publication date: 06/10/2023

Acceptance date: 21/09/2023

Date deposited: 12/12/2023

ISSN (print): 0016-7185

ISSN (electronic): 1872-9398

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2023.103869

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/5090-0e87


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Funder referenceFunder name
ESRC ES/T015594/1