Editor’s note: Emily Huddart Kennedy is the author of Eco-Types: Five Ways of Caring about the Environment. This is an edited version of an article and Q&A titled “Which of these five eco-types are you.”

When it comes to environmental politics there’s a tendency to associate the left as pro-environment and the right as anti-environment, but a University of British Columbia (UBC) sociologist says this polarization might slow down our collective progress on environmental issues.

In her new book Eco-Types: Five Ways of Caring about the Environment, Emily Huddart Kennedy, an associate professor in UBC’s faculty of arts, proposes five new categories to describe how people interact with the environment. The work is based on research she conducted from 2015 to 2017 where she conducted over 60 interviews and conducted survey research in all 50 U.S. states.

I started this project to understand the place of the environment in people’s lives – with the assumption that I’m not out there to find out who cares about the environment, but how people care about the environment. 

I see this less as depoliticizing and more like taking a step to move us away from polarization.

Ever since the 1970s when we started looking at people’s relationships to the environment, their concern, engagement and behaviors, we’ve always seen political differences. But even in the 1970s, when these differences existed, we also passed some of the more comprehensive legislation than ever before or ever since.

I think that political differences can exist alongside passing proactive environmental policy. And I see this as an opportunity to look at some important common ground that we have. The common ground is that everyone cares about the environment.

It has to do with the way we are communicating environmental issues to the public. Whether it’s messaging on voting or lifestyle decisions, I think that a lot of that m...