Photo: Here I was out with a group of teenagers at an urban park in Toronto, in 2020 (at a time when groups of up to 25 could meet outside, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic). We had just planted about 100 plants in an area beside the path, and had found some dead wood to try to make a barrier between the path and the planted area. (Photo copyright Tyler J. Bateman).
Most broadly, my research aims to bring a sociological perspective to understanding instances of environmental destruction and instances of environmental stewardship. My objectives are to bring environmental sociology into dialogue with mainstream sociology, conservation biology, Indigenous teachers, and interdisciplinary studies of mental health. I use mixed methods.
How people come to care about nature and the social structures that allow care for nature to exist I am working with groups who provide nature-based education to children, teenagers, and adults, asking about the role of these groups in helping people feel connected to and cultivating care for nature. I am also studying the life histories of naturalists to see how naturalists narrate their trajectory of caring about the natural world.
Indigenous Sovereignty and Being in Right Relations I see Indigenous ways of relating to nature as critical for reorienting how governments and much of the public thinks and acts toward nature. It is critical to listen to Indigenous scholars, teachers, and others to know details of the history of violence that Canada and other states are based upon and to learn how settlers can best act in solidarity with Indigenous people. I aim to nest my work about caring about nature in the history of Indigenous-settler relations.
Mental Health, Social Equity, and Nature I think any movements for environmental sustainability must consider how they link with mental health and social equity. Environmental justice and work about nature's impacts on health inform my work. In this vein, my work is also a dialogue between environmental sociology and interdisciplinary perspectives on mental health (Indigenous thought and action, sociology, psychology, and studies of religious practice such as Stephanie Kaza's work linking Buddhism and sustainability). Naturalists often find enjoyment, meaning, and personal fulfillment in nature, which is one area I focus on in my work about how people come to care about nature.
Invasive/Introduced Species I am currently working with the Global Urban Biological Invasions Consortium (https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/projects/gubic/) to assess how policies in many cities in different countries address invasive species at the municipal level. I am also exploring how people use and attempt to restrict the proliferation of invasive species in their everyday lives, and how different areas of invasive species are more or less susceptible to invasive species.
Discourses of the meat commodity chain With Shyon Baumann and Josée Johnston (see Publications), I demonstrated how frames related to meat are discussed on blogs and newspapers. This paper builds a theoretical and methodological framework for understanding complex, ambiguous, cultural objects like meat that encompass many benign and risky qualities (also like invasive species, see below). One of the main findings in this article is that in the public discussion of meat, more critical ideas (about climate change, pollution, health, etc.) are present in blogs than in mainstream, for-profit, newspapers.