Through an experiential, field-based investigative opportunity in the anthropology of climate change, this project introduced college and university students from the United States and Guinea-Bissau through active research encounters. This article examines one part of the larger project, perceptions of natural environment futures via 287 drawings collected by three United States-based undergraduate students from 145 college and university students and alumni (ages 18-53) in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. Guinea-Bissau is a climate change hotspot. This study’s specific focus was on how participants represent natural environmental change over time. Participants were asked to produce two drawings, one depicting their natural environment hundreds of years in the past (pre-European contact) and one representing their natural environment twenty years in the future. Using content analysis, descriptive statistics, Chi-squared test, and McNemar’s test, the study finds that (1a) participants’ depictions of the future contain statistically significantly more pollution, scarcity, deforestation, desertification, and less biodiversity than those in the past, and (1b) these depictions of environmental change hazards highly correlate; (2) participants draw the natural environment statistically significantly more in the past than in the future; (3a) women are statistically significantly more likely than men to draw environmental management in the past and future, and (3b) men are statistically significantly more likely than women to draw commercialization in the past and future; and (4) environmental sciences and teaching professionals are statistically significantly more likely than business professionals to draw environmental management in the past and future. The study found no differences in perceptions of the natural environment based on age, place of birth, or religion. Results indicate that people perceive real differences between their past and future natural environments, especially related to future environmental change hazards. Furthermore, gender and professional differences in participant drawings of environmental management suggest that women and non-business professionals are likely ecoallies. This concept is important from an applied perspective because through this research project, United States- and Guinea-Bissau-based undergraduate students and alumni are able to recognize in each other their shared advocacy capacities, acknowledge the systematic nature of the climate change problem, and establish a common cause around sustainable environmental management.
- Environmental change
- Natural environment