Hip Hop Ecology
There is an emerging pairing between the grassroot hip hop movement and urban sustainability initiatives that I call hip hop ecology. The synergy between hip hop and environmentalism defies stereotypes of the whiteness of the environmental movement and the forms of discourse that are used to raise awareness of the ecological crisis. This dissertation builds from my work in the Boston Public Schools, where for four years, I have taught environmental science using environmentally-themed (green) hip hop. In these classes I have asked students to express their learning in their own creative verse. I present three studies that situate the connection between hip hop and environmentalism in social and educational contexts. The first is a comparative content analysis of environmental science textbooks and green hip hop tracks that will help define the sociotextual scene of the urban environmental classrooms where I worked. The second research site is the community, where I interviewed "hip hop ecologists," activists and emcees who work directly on urban sustainability and environmental justice while producing hip hop with green themes. The second study provides an in-depth look at how these young environmental activists of color navigate the racial dynamics of the movement and try to sustain their careers as leaders and artists. The third study is an ethnography where I synthesize four years of classroom teaching and analyze the various cases where constructs of race and nature intersected, deconstructing both the social interactions in the classroom as well as the green hip hop lyrics written by the students. The implications of a hip hop ecology are that we as environmental practitioners actively rethink what counts as an environmental text and what part of our own creativity we tap as educators who endeavor to promote a more racially diverse and powerful movement for sustainability.