The National Audubon Society has been making an effort to be more inclusive. Several years ago, Audubon and several other environmental organizations, realized their membership (and staff) was predominantly white and middle class. With predominantly males in decision-making positions.
These organizations have diversity that reflected the makeup of the national population.
As the white population is a smaller percentage of U.S. demographics, Audubon and other organizations were hit with the fact of shrinking membership. Shrinking membership also means shrinking power and influence. And shrinking money and donations.
Another fact that hit these environmental groups, was a lack of urban chapters and centers. Audubon, in particular, realized that the organization didn’t have one single Audubon Center in an urban area in the United States.
Many environmental organizations also suffered from unwelcoming atmospheres. Many POC (people of color), including myself, have experienced interactions with white environmentalists who behave as if the environment is none of our business. Think about that idea, Earth is “none of my business”.
This crazy thinking is at odds with the racist ideas that people of color were nature-worshippers and too close to nature. And that our ties to the land had to be broken for us to be “civilized”. But racism is at its core, insane.
These organizations also suffered from the erroneous idea that people of color are ignorant of environmental issues. They are not. The need for clean water, air, and healthy planet is not only an idea for the college-educated or middle class. It’s just basic, human common sense. You don’t have to be highly educated or have plenty of disposable income to understand that.
And many people of color vote pro-environment on many issues. And protest. And get arrested.
But many white environmentalists consider people of color dumb and ignorant of environmental issues and needs. It was our care, gratitude, and love for the land that had to be silenced. Now that being “close to nature” is considered a good trait, we no longer have it.
When Indigenous environmental activists in the United States protest, they are arrested, hosed, and shouted down. With taunts, like, “it’s not just your land”. And “you are expected to protest since white people don’t have to, the get the coverage.” Yes, these are true Twitter stories.
There is Mari “Little Miss Flint” Copeny, an African-American young lady, who has been protesting water in Flint, Michigan for two years now. Heard of her? or Autumn Peltier, Water Ambassador of the Anishinabek Nation?
Or the Indigenous peoples protesting and arrested at Standing Rock? Or NoDAPL (No Dakota Acess Pipe LIne)?
But think about this. If one group of people says they are the only ones to make environmental decisions, then they are the only ones who are responsible for the success or failure of those decisions. And they get the blame.
In thinking about environmental issues I am often reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein. I don’t remember the exact quote but I will paraphrase it. “The thinking that got us into a mess, will not be the same thinking that gets us out of the mess. We need new thinking and a new paradigm.” We need voices with different perspectives.
The European-Western idea that the Earth is created for exploitation has been proven false.
Whatever your skin color, welcome and greet new members who join environmental groups. Send notices of local events to libraries and schools with large populations of people of color.
There are environmental organizations which are open to everyone but focus on being a safe place for people of color to participate and work as an activist.
I use Twitter to find out what is going on. I learn of the news that doesn’t get reported or only gets a brief mention.
On Twitter, I follow many environmental groups and people. Follow me on Twitter and find new people to follow. @donnallong. The Twitter button at the top of the blog leads to my twitter page. You need to have a Twitter account to follow.
POC in Environmental Work
Indigenous Environmental Work