Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





William Kornblum

Committee Members

Kenneth Gould

Hester Eisenstein

Subject Categories



It is often assumed that people living in urban areas lack connections to the natural world and are the source of environmental problems. This assumption, however, is an oversimplification of urban life. Employing an eco-ethnography, with participant observations, qualitative interviews, and an environmental history, this study examines New York City's Jamaica Bay estuary and surrounding neighborhoods to understand how residents cultivate their relationships to nature in a dense urban setting. Many residents near Jamaica Bay have developed a strong connection to place that is rooted in their regular, embodied experiences living, working, playing, and praying on the Jamaica Bay estuary. Through the process of creating place, residents have come to view Jamaica Bay as alive and a regular participant in daily life. As a result, some residents have come to take environmental action to preserve and protect the Bay. However, not all residents living along Jamaica Bay have the same access to the environmental experiences of the estuary, and therefore do not have the same opportunities to cultivate their relationship with nature. Furthermore, some residents have used their connection to place and environmental protection as reasons to keep "others" from accessing the Bay, resulting in environmental privilege. Consequently, the Jamaica Bay situation suggests the need for urban environmental policy that foregrounds the natural environment and engenders a sense, among all urban residents, that nature is a regular part of daily life.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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