COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Digging in the ground to plant trees may be an excellent gateway to further involvement in politics and civic affairs, concludes a new University of Maryland study, based on work with New York City environmental volunteers.
"The more a person is involved in environmental stewardship, the more s/he engages with other types of civic and political activities," says the report, "Digging Together", which the researchers released to coincide with Arbor Day.
The study finds that participants in the MillionTreesNYC project are significantly more active civically than other New Yorkers and other Americans. This is especially true among the veteran volunteers, suggesting that environmental stewardship bears fruit in other civic arenas.
"Getting off the couch and doing a real activity is infectious and frequently leads to additional civic involvement," says Principal Investigator Dana R. Fisher, a University of Maryland sociologist who directs the new Center for Society and the Environment. "Digging in the dirt seems to be an excellent pathway to greater involvement."
Research has shown a general decline in political, social and civic involvement over the past couple decades, Fisher adds. "Environmental stewardship may prove to be something of an antidote, and our next step is to look more closely at this relationship."
Fisher and her team surveyed a random sample of hundreds of adult volunteers who came out to plant trees in four of New York City's five boroughs in the spring and fall of 2010. The MillionTreesNYC project is a public-private collaboration launched by New York City. It aims to plant a million trees throughout the city by 2017.
The survey reveals the New York volunteers to be atypical demographicall
|Contact: Neil Tickner|
University of Maryland