Global Warming Is Colorblind

Jennifer Oladipo

In nearly two years of volunteering and working at an urban nature preserve, I have never seen another face like mine come through our doors.

At least, I’ve not seen another black woman come for a morning hike or native-wildlife program. The few I do encounter are teachers and chaperones with school groups, or aides assisting people with disabilities. When I commute by bus to the preserve, located in the middle of Louisville, Kentucky, I disembark with blacks and other minorities. Yet none of them ever seems to make it to the trails.

I might have assumed they simply weren’t interested, but then I saw that none of the center’s newsletters were mailed to predominantly minority areas of town, nor did any press releases go to popular minority radio stations or newspapers. Not ever, as far as I could tell. Although the nature center seeks a stronger community presence and feels the same budget pinch as other small nonprofits, it has missed large swaths of the community with its message.

The terms environmentalist and minority conjure two distinct images in most people’s minds — a false dichotomy that seriously threatens any chance of pulling the planet out of its current ecological tailspin. Some people think this country is on the precipice of a societal shift that will make environmental stewardship an integral part of our collective moral code. But that is not going to happen as long as we as a nation continue to think and act as if “green” automatically means “white.”

Assumptions about who is amenable to conservation values cost the environmental movement numbers and dollars. Religion, capitalism, and even militarism learned ages ago to reach actively across the racial spectrum. In terms of winning over minorities, they have left environmentalism in the dust. Not until I joined an environmental-journalism organization was my mailbox flooded with information about serious environmental issues — even though I have been volunteering in organic gardens, hiking, and camping for years. I had received solicitations for credit cards and political parties, fast food coupons, and a few Books of Mormon — but I had to seek out environmental groups.

Minorities make up one-third of the population, and we are growing as an economic and financial force as our numbers increase. We are a key to maintaining the energy that environmentalism has gained as a result of intense mainstream attention. That momentum will peter out without more people to act on the present sense of urgency. Imagine the power of 100 million Asians, African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans invested in sustainable living, joining green organizations, voting for politicians and laws that protect the environment.

Nobody benefits from the perception that enjoying and caring for the environment is an exclusively white lifestyle. The truth is that brown, yellow, red, and black people like to go backpacking, too. Those of us with the means are buying organic, local, and hybrid. If environmentalism continues to appear mostly white and well-off, it will continue to be mostly white and well-off, even as racial and economic demographics change. The environmental movement will continue to overlook the nuances, found in diversity of experience, that reveal multiple facets of environmental problems — and their solutions.

Sooner or later, even global warming will be pushed off magazine covers, television screens, and the Congressional floor. Before that time, we need to have in place something even more impressive: a racially diverse, numerically astounding mass of environmentalists ready to pick up the ball and run with it.

Jennifer Oladipo is a writer in Greenville, South Carolina. She has published numerous articles in such publications as Orion and Upstate Business Journal. Other projects she has worked on include Society of Environmental Journalists Diversity Guidebook, Bluegrass Diversity Roundtable, and Africa in April. Her writing honors include an Artist Enrichment Grant from Kentucky Foundation for Women, and awards from the South Carolina Press Association and Louisville Society of Professional Journalists.

Comments

  1. Jennifer,

    This is a very good article. I enjoyed it and please, keep up the great work.

    Terry

  2. Great article! I also noticed a lot more white people than other colors when working in the nonprofit environmental sector. I really think the environment is something that should bring ALL of us together to peacefully solve this huge problem the world faces.

    AlienFarmer
    http://www.SolarCoupons.com

  3. As director of the Jefferson County Public Schools Center for Environmental Education in Louisville Kentucky, I share Jennifer Oladipo’s concern about the whiteness of the environmental movement. Certainly the environmental movement and the environmental education have not been inclusive nor focused on outreach to all of the citizens who live in the communities that they work in. I do believe that that the environmental education field is beginning to recognize this and are working to become more representative. Three examples: An online newsletter published by the JCPS Center for Environmental Education and the JCPS Multicultural Education called Global Connections: staying in touch with culture and the environment, http://www.jcpsky.net/ee/globalconnections. Then just last month, our offices sponsored an environmental justice tour of for all 90 elementary principals in our district that explored environmental impacts that affect our students. Nationally the North American Association for Environmental Education has created a diversity committee http://www.naaee.org/programs-and-initiatives/diversity that is trying to address the issues that Ms. Oladipo raises. They are of significant concern and she is right on the money.

  4. This article is simplistic nonsense. Of course minorities are under-represented in the environmental movement; anyone can see that. But to write this off to being a matter of not enough newsletters and press releases being directed toward minorities is a cop-out. There are complex socio-economic, cultural and historical factors at play in limiting the numbers of African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans that are active environmentalists(just as there are complex factors that limit the number of rural white environmentalists). To pretend otherwise does nothing to ameliorate the problem.

    Of course the environmental movement needs minorities. Of course these issues concern us all. Of course many of our institutions are inherently racist. We all know this. We can either stand around patting ourselves on the back for being among the just, or we can try and foster constructive dialog to begin to move forward. This author does nothing to encourage such dialog (as evidenced by the two trite comments above). I expect better from Orion.

  5. I would agree with Kevin that there’s complex reasons for the lack of minority participation i the environmental movement. But is it really “simplistic nonsense” to think that a environmental organization should market themselves to more diverse audiences, if they want their support and participation? In America, if you want to expand market share, that’s whay you do: put your product, or cause, in front of people to whom it maight appeal. True, sending news releases and newsletter to minority media outlets and potential members is a small start. Environmental organizations need to more broadly look at how they serve minority populations, interests, and community. They need to look beyond their usual networks and partner with African American churches and community centers, for example, in urban neighborhoods. But for starters, why not reach out to invite members of the broader community — and not just affluent whites — to the next nature hike or family program? Again, as part of a larger strategy, trying to get your communications materials in the hands of a more diverse audience is a good place to start.

  6. Maybe this divide in the “marketing of environmentalism” isn’t white vs. black. Maybe it has to do with education, or geography, or income, or career, or what hand you write with, or what’s your favorite flavor of jello. Like so many “problems” it’s easy to jump to race as the explanation.

    I suppose anyone armed with a little data and fresh paper cuts from turning the pages of Freakonomics could make all kinds of claims about the inequalities of the new trendy environmental movement. “Data shows that ex-convicts are 68% less likely to donate to environmental movements.” (I just made that up.) Or, “Left handed women who are on their second marriage, and have recently taken SCUBA diving lessons are 36.7% more likely to buy TerraPasses.” (I just made that up too.) Anyway, figuring these correlations might be fun and interesting, but not many people are going to A) even think about it, and B) care. It’s just easier to make it into white vs. black.

    And the real assumption behind nearly all of those types of comparisons is AFLUENT (white) vs. POOR (black). Which leaves out even more than just the “1/3 of the population”. There are poor whites and affluent blacks too. It’s not fair that they don’t get turned into statistics as much.

  7. I probably shouldn’t comment on this as I live in a small, mostly white, rural town in Maine and before this most of my activism was in a slightly more diverse (though not much) small town in Vermont. The constituency missing both here and in Vermont, as I see it anyway, is lower income people and families with small children (often one and the same). I have often felt that class is a great divider of the environmental community, though that is not often addressed. There’s a certain arrogance and self-righteousness that seems directed at the poor and I’m not even sure the environmental community is totally aware of it.

    There are organizations offering workshops and information on issues of race but very few (are there any?) addressing how to bring poor people into the action.

    Regardless, I don’t support more direct mail no matter who it’s aimed at. Press releases, sure, but we don’t need more crap to recycle (or worse, throw away). Organizations get their names from many sources, usually beginning at one point with someone giving money or buying something. So if you haven’t donated to an environmental organization or purchased something from one then your name won’t be on all those lists. If you have, then your name could be sold or traded and your mail box will fill with solicitations.

    It seems to me that the best way to reach unrepresented constituencies of any sort would be to find ways of addressing issues that specifically concern them in the context of the organization’s mission. And to do it in an open and friendly manner that invites participation and that treats people as equals. This is harder to do than it is to talk about because when you’re raised with a certain amount of wealth and priviledge that’s the lens through which you view the world. So it’s unconscious. But folks on the receiving end of an arrogant attitude, however unintended it may be, don’t appreciate it and will be more likely to respond with indifference, hostility, and defensiveness.

    I consider myself an environmentalist because I love the Earth and care deeply about the future of the whole community of life. But I grew up in a low income family, with less material “wealth” than most of my friends. The difference is my father who shared his love of the woods and mountains with me as soon as I could toddle in them. And his anti-development attitude was communicated to me over and over throughout my growing up years. After a bit of normal teen rebellion, I came around to his point of view by the time I graduated from high school. But Daddy had no use for environmentalists who he felt were a bit shrill and book-learned but otherwise ignorant. I’ll bet people in communities of color feel the same way.

  8. I’ve been active in the environmental movement in Louisville for, well, going on four decades now. I’m white, as are nearly all the other active environmentalists in town. Ms. Olidipo’s concern regularly arises in meetings. The groups that I’ve been involved in have tried various approaches to diversify our ranks over the years, but with little success. I’ve often asked myself why. My conclusions, to date, which must be generalizations in this limited-space context:

    1. There’s no one reason for the movement’s homogeneity.

    2. Most active environmentalists grew up going on family hikes, fishing or camping trips or doing some other sort of outdoor recreation or education, instilling an innate affinity in us for nature.

    3. Most of us are in a *relatively* privileged socio-economic place that has allowed us experiences that left us seeing ourselves as empowered to make change in our communities and allows us to take the time and money to try to make changes. We more likely to be already acquainted with whomever we need to call, how to ask for what we want, etc. We’re more likely to know how to play the game called “politics.”

    4. Minority groups have fewer members with the sense of empowerment and the time and money to act on it. Minorities that do, however, are more likely to choose to work on “more pressing” issues, such as housing, food, homelessness, etc.

    5. Comparatively, at least as far as I can tell, black folks are more likely to invest a bigger chunk of their disposable time and money into their churches, and environmentalists, less likely so. We all have only so much free time and disposable income.

    6. That minority-oriented media outlets rarely respond to the releases that we send them, I assume that they have concluded that environmental issues are of less interest to their audiences than other concerns. Maybe it’s that they think their audiences are less interested in what white, middle-class people have to say about the issue. Either way, fixing this one will take time.

    7. My personal experience with local efforts to reduce toxic air pollution was alienating. The encouragement that I felt when a significant number of minorities got involved was quickly tempered with ambivalence. They wanted to define the problem as one that harms strictly (mostly minority) residents in one end of town, tied their health problems to air pollution only, denied the existence of any lifestyle factors, such as smoking, and portrayed to problem as the product of racism.

    In fact, the data say that the problem is worst there, but certainly a problem throughout the community. That end of town was mainly white when those industries were built. We couldn’t agree on the need to keep the vehicle emissions test, so that the significant contributions to our air toxics problem from tailpipe could be reduced, too. Besides that I think we can’t solve inaccurately defined problems, I think it’s a strategic error to (in effect) tell most of the community that the problem isn’t their problem, too. My efforts to try to engage with them on more accurate (and I believe, more effective) terms were met with resentment and what I felt was a need to own “victimhood.” We ended up largely working side-by-side, rather than as a collaborative team. :-(

    I expect that things will slowly get better, as we close the education and economic gaps, get more minority kids outdoors via school, scouts, etc. I know that I won’t be the only white environmental activist that will keep trying.

  9. What would a marketing scheme designed to “reach out” to the untapped constituency look like?

    Enviro-friendly 22″ rims/spinners?

    LEED certified trailer homes?

    Carbon offsets sold at Wal-Mart?

    School uniforms made from hemp?

  10. Amoz,

    Now that may be sarcasm but it comes across as downright bigotry, there are lots of good models for out reach and education around environmental issues to ‘the untapped constituency,’ most of them involve issues of local concern, often urban air quality etc. but also rural livability issues. Environmental degradation affects the marginalized and disadvantaged disproportionally, in America and gloabally. There are lots of opportunities, the work that Van Jones in doing in Oakland for example around ‘green collar’ jobs, the school gardens movement, participatory action research with inner city youth around mapping environmental degredation in their neighborhoods, a lot of good work has been featured in these very pages.

    I do want to point out that the author’s commentary is very nature-center focused. The opportunities for direct engagement for all of us, go well beyond getting out on the trail.

    travis

  11. Quote from Van Jones in Grist Magazine:

    “We need to send hundreds of millions of dollars down to our public high schools, vocational colleges, and community colleges to begin training people in the green-collar work of the future — things like solar-panel installation, retrofitting buildings that are leaking energy, wastewater reclamation, organic food, materials reuse and recycling.

    All the big ideas for getting us onto a lower carbon trajectory involve a lot of people doing a lot of work, and that’s been missing from the conversation. This is a great time to go to the next step and ask, well, who’s going to do the work? Who’s going to invest in the new technologies? What are ways to get communities wealth, improved health, and expanded job opportunities out of this improved transition?”

    That sounds like a perfect model to perpetuate the traditional lopsided corporate American model: Affluent people (investors) exploiting the minority (workers).

  12. I’m afraid you’ve switched the argument, Amoz. If we want to talk about how to subvert the capilist system, which can be considered the ultimate cause of our environmental crisis, we are talking about mostly a different thing than outreach to traditional underrepresented groups. We cannot optimize for all three E’s (ecology, equity, economics) at the same time, it is mathematically impossible.

    travis

  13. Interesting concept. How do you turn ecology, equity, and economics into a mathematical equation?

    Isn’t is all really economics – people making choices based on incentives?

  14. I think one of the most “pressing” issues over which we can engage lower-income people in environmental action is FOOD.

    Everyone eats, and the ongoing nutritional and ecological evils of industrial agribusiness are increasingly coming to the attention of people everywhere. I regret that “green” and “organic” are entering the mainstream as something trendy rather than just common sense, but at least it’s on people’s minds.

    It is up to us to confront people with the facts and the alternatives they have. And despite what Whole Foods may lead us to believe, local, healthful food is no longer only for the rich. That local farmers have established farmer’s markets and CSAs in Smoketown and Portland is an encouraging testament to this movement (in Louisville, at least).

    We need to get young people of all races and classes out to these farms, or establish community garden plots in vacant lots. Kids need to get their hands in the dirt, squash potato beetles, watch their plants grow, and eat the food they harvest. They will re-establish a connection to the land that has been severed by the supermarket and the suburb, and they will care about environmental issues without being “marketed to” with glossy newsletters and scare tactics.

    Certainly the issue of race in environmentalism is more complex than Ms Oladipo’s brief essay had space to explore. But she has done well to bring our attention to the problem. I’m very excited to be getting involved here in Louisville, and I’m glad to know people like her are already working on it.

  15. I know exactly what you mean… as an environmental activist and yoga instructor I almost never run into other women (or men) of colour when I travel to the States for courses or events. The sad thing is that on my home island in the Caribbean, there is also the perception that conservation is a ‘white people thing’ which is further exacerbated by the whole eco-tourism push and the language of well meaning expatriates who are constantly harping on how they do things in their country so homegrown efforts can sometimes be undermined by accusations of pandering to foreign ideals. I agree that the focus of e-ngos and e-media is partly to blame but I also feel that the inherited post-colonial disconnect from the land must be acknowledged and that until that is really, consistently addressed concerns about the environment will unfortunately continue to be seen by our own people as a luxury of the privileged few. This ‘disconnect’ may be best addressed from ‘within the ranks’ and this can be as simple as organizing nature talks or walks for a church group or as complex as creating a scholarship fund for children of colour to participate in some of the many internship and eco/sea camp type opportunities now available in the US. As a child I was privileged to be offered this chance to spend one summer at a camp in the US, which was by far the whitest experience of my childhood. However, this brief experience, more than any other single event, still transformed both the way I viewed my role in the natural world and the way I articulated the role of the natural world in my life. Summer camp type initiatives here, while still in their infancy, are very encouraging as forums for encouraging (and hopefully eventually recruiting) new, fresh, earth aware minds from all strata of our society. I feel very lucky that my own children may one day be able to have this kind of experience in their own country and wish that more minority children in the US could have a chance to participate in the truly mind boggling array of intensive and residential youth focussed eco-activities that exist in there own country.

  16. Well, well said. Nazi Germany had an impressive enviromental movement in its “ouvre class” attitude. Not until human beings recognize the one species they are, take care of the herd, grow strong as individuals…will we live amongst other species in the wonderful evolution of Life…the true Gift.

  17. Gratitude

    Why do they rebel,
    When the oppressors preach gospel?
    White man has problems in his eyes,
    Yet he still tells The Story.
    We do not accept the native view of divinity,
    What really gets taught within us,
    But preach the ministry
    Without dancing to the rhythms of our own souls.

    Can we drink
    When we are truly thirsty?
    Can we know
    Without concepts?

    Walking across the marsh
    Looking back through centuries
    I humbly
    Give thanks.

  18. For anyone interested in how environmental and social ‘justice’ go hand in hand, here is a highly inspirational video of a project in South Bronx. I loved it!

  19. This was a valuable article and I hope I see more of this type because this has vexed me for a long while now but still does nonetheless. I’ve been involved in enviro orgs in the SW USA and time again, and just last month, we look at our membership see a lack of diversity (if you go by names) but don’t know how to address it! Our city is pretty mixed, everyone goes everywhere, but what appeals? There aren’t too many coffeeshops with bulletin boards in some heavily Hispanic areas we find but most all people see the ones in general areas, yet our radio ads, notices, newspaper, campus flyers don’t get a reach back to us. Why? Then I researched a bit lately and besides this article find mentions that environmentalists are considered “white elitists” by some leaders and this pic is a general cultural norm!
    I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to address stupid prejudices especially when I know many enviros just scraping by! So we’re going to see our planet dwindle and the opportunities to reverse this because of misunderstandings?

    I grew up in a military family that split and then was poor myself. I somehow found the concern for the environment within me despite that and not at my parent’s direction nor their wallet. We didn’t go camping, hiking, or to national parks on vacations but we did travel by car when we moved. I saw alot of the east coast and loved the ocean, but still nothing special, many people of all races, ethnicities and such experience this. I depend on this to be true.

    So assuming I keep trying, how does one ensure one is non-elitistly inspiring interest in nature in others’ lives that will engender concern and action– not merely for their own survival, but beyond, that results in a reassurance that we are all just people and we need to work together to protect the planet and its inhabitants of all kind????
    Maybe one key for younger peoeple is fun yet serious science education. If we’ve been failing at this it’s clear we are going to end up with an ignorant populace that can’t understand the issues much less do anything about them. Now despite that, I work with PhD’s from around the world and trying to get some of them to walk 2 ft to recycle a bottle or turn a machine off at the end of the day is always a challenge so there is never a guarantee, but we can all do something!

    Efforts like Inner City Outings and No Child Left Inside can do alot to help our kids learn and love the outdoors as well.

    Meantime though, what about adults? People of all races, making decisions today that will steer our course for the shorterm? From my area I clearly see though that
    Hispanic adults are the largest minority and will be the majority of voters in many areas soon. Many don’t seem disinterested in other causes or uninvolved. How do we reach out to them & get them involved? How do they form their own organizations and reach to others? A very jaded woman from an org. in Mexico City once suggested though, there was little interest in environmentalism, and the view that nature is an external luxury.
    Is that so true here? What will this bode for national parks, wilderness areas, saving endangered species, keeping drilling out of the ANWR, spending for open space, recycling programs, etc. that might be considered taking from human problems, despite the fact they are our problems!!
    I don’t think we can ignore the subject no matter how uncomfortable one feels putting it into words.
    I want to work with everyone and I don’t want to see climate change or any other issue facing this planet start a class, color, or ethnic kind of battle but rather pull us together. So how do we begin tho?

  20. I wonder if sometime minorities feel subtle racist attitudes in white-dominated activist groups, not only environmentalist, but other kinds of groups.

    As a part Asian and part rural-white American woman, I grew up in a family that loved the outdoors, hiked, stargazed, grew organic gardens, learned about edible wild plants, read “Foxfire’ books, and engaged with and supported nature in numerous ways.

    However, in the urban environment I now live in, I have felt unspoken negative sentiments, and overheard negative spoken comments that left me feel unwelcome in afffluent white “peace” activist groups and environmentalist groups in my area, despite the fact that I am well-educated, affluent, and partly white. I can’t imagine how a non-white who is not affluent or who did not attend a prestigious university would feel, if I felt that way.

    Some of the comments about this article are very objectifying and actually subtly, if not overtly, racist in my view. Members of minorities are diverse, unique, and whole human beings. They are not all poor and powerless.

    I have never experienced any complex socio-economic, cultural or historical factors that prevented my joining the Sierra Club, contributing to the WWF, and many other environmentalist organizations.

    I have experienced one-on-one attitudes that turned me off, though, and I see some of them here.

    I wonder what Japanese Canadian David Suzuki would say about this?

    I think the article was an important article, and exposed a serious issue, and that some of the comments also reflected the kind of subtly toxic, racist, objectifying perceptions and attitudes that make members of minorities feel unwelcome in some environmentalist movements.

    Using a term “simplistic nonsense” and “trite” to discount another’s viewpoint, and then to say we need “dialogue’ to address this issue is incongruous. Dialogue can only happen with respect and courtesy, as well as openness.

    Tom Springer makes some good suggestions. Reaching out to minority members simply because they’re minority members is objectifying.

    And not all of them are uneducated, powerless, poor. It’s very presumptious and annoying when white people profile minorities in this way. And those who are less educated and affluent are certainly not powerless or less intelligent.

    I don’t know if I will return to Orion’s website after reading these series of messages. It’s a turn-off if these sentiments are representative of the Orion community.

  21. Re Ria Baeck: Check out Majora Carter is a visionary voice in city planning who views urban renewal through an environmental lens. The South Bronx native draws a direct connection between ecological, economic and social degradation. Hence her motto: “Green the ghetto!” http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/08/video_majora_ca.php

    Also, in rural areas of American South where I have lived and visited, plenty of African Americans and rural whites I have known have been organic and nature lovers. Instead of joining environmental groups, they lived their ethos passed down through generations, and fought and still fight local battles, against developers and encroachment by Wal-mart, usually losing the ones I have witnessed, but winning a few.

    Now that the dominant white society in the U.S. is waking up to a more holistic and ecological way of seeing the world, perhaps the traditional worldviews of Celtic Southern white, African Americans, Latino Americans — which embrace the rhythms and textures of the natural world in so many ways — will strengthen and overlap or even merge with the dominant urban white movements.

  22. Thank you, Eric.

    I liked your poem v. much, and I appreciate Orion’s holism and excellence v. much, so am not going away. I was also uplifted by many of the humane and open-minded comments on this thread. I realized what bothered me about some of the remarks — the tone and content reminded me of the “white man’s burden” — a presumption that people of color are less aware, and need to be brought into a white-dominated environmentalist fold. I apologize for the frustrated tone of my response.

    With some more thought, I realized that much of the activism of traditional people, no matter what color, seems to be naturally holistic, as is Orion’s worldview. Wangari Maathai is a great example in Africa, and we see many similar activists in the Indigenous world, in Asia, including Vandana Shiva. http://www.navdanya.org/about/founder-message.htm

    I think that most Americans, no matter what color, are now just beginning to return to a more holistic way of perceiving the world. I find the emergence of environmental concerns among evangelical Christians fascinating, and an indication that a more holistic way of perceiving the world is finally returning to the mainstream. This was the worldview of Europeans in the Middle Ages, and traditional peoples worldwide. People at Orion, Maathai, and Shiva (and millions of others) are the beginning of a new wave of social change in which we see people integrating concepts of modernity from the Enlightenment period that are still useful (i.e., science and democracy) with the holistic worldview,

    I am reminded by the great article by Paul Hawken I first read by Orion — there are hundreds of thousands of grassroots activist organizations unseen and unheard by the mainstream. Some are so small and informal, that they don’t have websites.

    Some rural and minority environmentalists & orgs: appalachian-center, lowbagger.org/mountainjustice, dogwoodalliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, Shudahai Network, Amazon Alliance.
    Jerome Ringo, David Suzuki, Satish Kumar at Resurgence, Winona LaDuke

  23. This is a perceptive article and touches on a puzzling (and yet not so puzzling) circumstance that some people in the environmental preservation/conservation movement have noticed and commented on and wondered how to correct (the National Park Service, for example). In the past decade scholars, too, have noticed and begun to explore the reasons for the absence of minorities, particularly African Americans, from the mainstream environmental movement. For a very insightful analysis of the many and varied social, political and economic reasons underlying why African Americans in particular might participate in the environmental justice movement more than the mainstream environmental movement–and for a discussion of why their voices are largely absent from the canon of American environmental writing–I’d recommend reading Kimberly K. Smith’s _African American Environmental Thought: Foundations_ (University Press of Kansas, 2007). For a earlier and shorter introduction to the ideas Smith analyzes, check out the African American novelist Jamaica Kincaid’s 2001 _New Yorker_ essay “Sowers and Reapers.” Both writers suggest the African American experience in America has by and large alienated the population from the land. Smith in particular suggests that the result is a legacy in which African American environmental concerns are more often viewed from the perspective of a struggle for equality (that is, environmental justice) rather than from the perspective of a need to preservate/conserve distant (and often inaccessible) lands for public enjoyment and recreation. This is not to say that the latter wasn’t an concern, just that it was not a priority. The continued absence of African Americans and other minorities from the mainstream environmental movement, is not unsurprising–the land just doesn’t mean the same thing to all people–because mainstream environmental organizations, as Smith might argue, have too narrow a conception of environmental thought–a conception that excludes the perspectives and values of African Americans and other minorities. Rather than wait for mainstream environmental organizations to change, I’d suggest creating the means (for example, a nonprofit) that gives African Americans and other minorities an environmental voice and visible representation that can stand as an equal and partner to mainstream environmental organizations.

  24. Brilliant article. As some other readers have mentioned, there is more to diversity issues in the environmental movement then what was written. Yes, I would agree. Yet if there was an easy fix, we would have done it already.

    The resource that does the best job of addressing the issue in a comprehensive way is a book recently published, called “Diversity and the Future of the U.S. Environmental Movement.” You can download and read it for free at http://environment.yale.edu/5175/diversity_and_the_future_of_the_us/.
    In the book, over 15 environmental leaders representing various disciplines share their thoughts about why diversity and inclusivity is important to the movement. Many of the authors agree that if we want a sustainable and flourishing environmental movement for generations to come then we have to successfully address the lack of diversity in the movement. If you want to dive into the details of this issue, then you must read this book.

    Another excellent resource is the Center for Diversity & the Environment website (www.environmentaldiversity.org), which provides information about organizations, efforts, research, and people that are diversifying the movement. There are a lot of good people doing a lot of really inspirational work out there. In order for the movement to make headway, the rest of us need to follow suit and start taking action. This issue has been talked about for decades, ever since the first Earth Day, yet we have nothing to show for it. We need to start moving from dialogue (although important) to action, and we need to move quickly.

  25. Thank you for bringing to light an issue that’s staring us in the face but too few of us see it. Whether attributed to racism, class differences or whatever, it’s important to speak out to raise awareness when we feel injustices and/or inequities exist in our society.

  26. I’ve enjoyed reading so many comments on a relatively short piece. It’s interesting to see how it elicits discussion about how class and even geography play a role. I’ve even been copied on e-mails among EPA employees discussing what role, if any, their department should play in diversifying the environmental movement. I wouldn’t have expected the piece to strike a chord as it has, but that seems to me a good thing.

    More importantly, people have posted some interesting suggestions about how to address the issue, and resources for who is already doing so. While my example about mailings was simply for illustrative purposes, I was glad to see it caused people to talk about practical and impracticle ways of reaching out. I’m enjoying the discussion.

  27. HEAR! HEAR! I agree that minorities, in particular African American children, are overwhelmingly not addressed by environmental organizations. I can say with pride, though, that I work in an Birmingham, AL arts-in-education program [affiliated with Children’s Dance Foundation] that teaches inner city minority kids about the ecology of a local river and uses dance to bring that scientific knowledge alive. I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that quite a few hands go up when I ask how many of the children have gone camping or had an outing to a local river or creek! That tells me that at least some of the African American parents care enough to take their children out into nature. Why indeed don’t environmental organizations cultivate and build upon this interest?

    There is at least one other organization in town that seeks to ‘naturalize’ urban – often minority – kids: Jones Valley Urban Farm.

  28. thank you for your article. I see Orion as basically an in club the articles are all written by the same people and say the same things. I am not planning to renew unless Orion makes major changes to that in the next year. I have just returned from Bhutan where the environment was well respected. Mary Anne Joyce

  29. I agree with you, Mary Ann.

    After reading more of these comments, many of which are racist and disrespectful towards minorities:

    “I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that quite a few hands go up when I ask how many of the children have gone camping or had an outing to a local river or creek! That tells me that at least some of the African American parents care enough to take their children out into nature. ”

    , I have decided to leave behind Orion and other mainstream mostly white suburban environmentalist groups, except for Greenpeace, whose members are more cosmopolitan and educated, as are most European, African, Asian and Latino environmentalists I meet.

    And I plan to inquire seriously into Native American and Indigenous environmentalist organizations. These people are on the frontlines and forefront of ecological issues because of decades of suffering from environmental racism.

    This discussion made me aware of the limits of mainstream consciousness.

  30. Over the past year I have taught a field experience course for a zoo that reaches every* 4th grade student in an economically and ethnically diverse county in Florida. The focus? The local estuary ecosystem.

    What I’ve enjoyed most about this program is that, since we cast such a wide net in attempting to reach a whole cohort (grade level) of students, we are able to get students from affluent and less-affluent areas and from a wide range of racial backgrounds into the program. A key element of this success was likely two-fold: aligning with the county’s school district to assure participation and funding the program through the district instead of requiring fees from individual students.

    As a side note, I’m an enviro-educator of mixed heritage – Asian and White. It would be interesting to find out if my appearance actually helps engage students of Asian heritage in learning environmental topics. Likewise, since my appearance is a little inscrutable, it would be really informative to know if my appearance alters the learning of students of Native American and Latino/Hispanic heritage.

  31. Thank you Jennifer for your article.
    I do agree. The educational and transformative challenge ahead of us is huge, important and potentially exciting. Pulling together, individually and collectively is what is required. Inspire, challenge and support one another regardless of resources and talent and it goes without saying regardless of racial or ethnic background. Outreach, outreach,
    Outreach, walk your talk, be creative and genuine

    There is so much to loose and so much to gain and so little time.
    All are needed and all are welcome.

  32. I have done some research, as an academic, on African Americans and their literary involvements in environmentalism. Alice Walker and her biographer Evelyn White are good sources of information about environmental activism in the Black community, especially from an Ecofeminist perspective.

  33. To William Slaymaker,

    Thank you for your insights. Do you see segregation in environmentalist organizations? Are there many Black environmentalist groups?

    I have been very drawn to the Black Association of Psychologists because they have a very holistic, spiritual, ecological and humanistic orientation, but felt as if I could not join, although an African-American friend urged me to do so, because I was “not black.”

    Now, I think I was narrow-minded, short-sighted, and subtly racist, thinking I would not fit in. I should have followed through on my natural urge to move towards those with whom I felt a psychological connection, despite color. And I am going to do so in the future, and stop feeling shy about crossing ostensible ethnic and color lines.

    Through this dialogue, I have experienced an “a-ha” about how I have limited myself to participation in white-dominated groups. I see that I have been unconsciously subtly racist in doing so, by self-segregating myself into white groups.

    I know that Alice Walker partnered with a Korean eco-feminist, to sold-out speaking engagements in Korea. I am wondering why we don’t see more of this kind of partnership with the white environmentalist community.

    I also think that white-dominated environmentalist organizations need a top-down approach if they really want to outreach to ethnic minorities. They need to integrate their boards, management, and staff. I’ve been taking a closer look, and I’m not seeing much diversity, including at Orion, which I will continue to read, all the same.

    I’ve realized I naturally belong to this group that includes well-intentioned but subtly racist readers myself. What I have found annoying in other comments actually mirror my own self-imposed limited “white” patterns of perception. At the same time, I am definitely crossing colorlines to join minority-dominated environmentalist groups, such as Native American organizations. I am going to outreach myself. I found that Vassar College recently invited Winona LaDuke, of White Earth Land Recovery Project, http://www.welrp.org/, to speak about environmental justice from a Native American perspective. http://collegerelations.vassar.edu/2007/2477/

  34. A resource I found

    http://aeoe.org/resources/diversity/multicultural_ee_ideas.html

    Some thoughts I carry:

    Cultural diversity is of utmost importance if we are to truly walk the walk that we talk. Cultural diversity implies that we HIRE diversely into the organizations in which we work. While this is not the final answer, it will provide an unspoken message to people of color that racial diversity is of importance to that organization. I believe as well that with each hire as such, the individuals hired while not representing ALL of their cultural background in their own bodies, they can lend perspective that may add insight of appropriate ways to reach out and make connections.

    And, in making cultural diversity a priority within an organization, you stand to truly broaden perspectives. You have to be ready for people to interpret/approach problems from a different angle than you. You have to be prepared to make room for that. Both have to be accepting of the fact that you have entered into dialogue and that sometimes with diversity, comes diverse viewpoints. You may not always agree. You have to have some structures in place for having honest conversations. We as “white people” or more specifically – people of cultural ancestry where our skin color is lighter than others – cannot talk down to people whose skin color is a different shade than ours. Latino, African American, Asian, and all the varied and beautiful layers. We have to realize that we all know what is up on an intrinsic level. The point is to tap that knowledge and acknowledge it to others so that we can begin to work together. Finally, at a panel I heard at a conference a few years ago on multicultural issues I remember one speaker (african-american) saying this:
    As environmental educators we need to realize that people of color are already busy. If we want to diversify our org participation etc. the best way to start out is to listen and go to where folks are already meeting – churches, dinners etc. Make real connections. Recognize that people are busy. Make your presentations there to begin with before expecting them to show up at your events. Tag your educational message on to event that is already being organized by/for people of color. This is a way to effectively reach out.

  35. Congrats on a fine essay, Jennifer! Great to see so many Louisvillians on here!

  36. Yes, a terrific essay with all of the important topics addressed. It made it very clear that blacks are missing out on a big range of things to do that are independent of their jobs, and many of them are fun things to do. I enjoyed it very much and hope it has the desired effect. Thanks for writing it, and please encourage others to do what you have done.

  37. I ran a neighborhood group in Camp Springs, Maryland for several years. The subdivision was predomimantly black (I am white). Our house bordered on a park and an undeveloped stream bottomland — a beautiful little sliver of nature that took you away from the conjestion, noise, etc of the urban/suburan surroundings. I was able to organize a group of volunteers from the neighborhood to do periodic clean-up of the wooded areas around us — mostly at the end of cul-de-sacs where trash would collect. It was dirty work, and it was almost exclusively the *adults* in the ‘hood who helped out. Moreover, it was the *homeowners* — people who had a stake in the community. I would often walk the park trails along the stream — and found it quite refreshing. What perfect place to live, is what I thought at the time — close enough to the big city (10 miles from D.C.) to make a living, yet with this connection to the woodlands right at your doorstep.

    But — almost no-one else would walk down into that park on their own. Few residents even thought about birds, nature, wildlife, trees, water, fish, critters, etc. The section of the park where the ball field and courts were located … that was used — mainly by teens who went there to chill, play ball and get high — but I never saw anyone down on the narrow, soft nature trails that followed the stream. IN fact, some folks would say it was dangerous to go in there — afraid of getting mugged. Of course, they were completely wrong — it was far more risky to venture out to the local 7-Eleven, where the druggies would hang, over even to the supermarket parking lot, where you could easily have your purse stolen, and maybe at gunpoint to boot.

    So — it had little to do with race, in my opinion — whether people were even interested in the environment. Rather, it’s fear, lack of education, the pressure to make money and “succeed” in this materially dominated society — a society that has brought us up to appreciate a shopping mall more than an old-growth forest. It takes a lot of coaxing and stroking to get people to come out of their bunkers and venture to the “wilds” of the nearby woods, even for a birdwalk. Still — I think it can be done, if there is someone energetic enough, and interested enough in a neighborhood to take the lead. You have to demonstrate that you, yourself are committed to the area, and hope there are enough others who will appreciate what you’re doing.

    Alexander Gabis
    Fairfield, Iowa

  38. I feel there is implicit other-ism (whether class, race, age, religion, gender, whatever) in the “why don’t they come join us?” plaint repeated in some of the dialog, here and elsewhere. I feel resentment at the assumption of me being an “other” – I don’t always see others that look like me, but why act as if somehow I’m not one of you?

    I appreciate those that hold the assumption that we’re ALL in this together – afterall, it’s GLOBAL warming happening to all of us (flora and fauna). I believe that we can all work towards the solutions, but it doesn’t mean we all need to take the same path. Nor would it make sense for all of us to do the same thing at the same time.

    I live my part by taking city youth into the woods, into the hills, to the coast, and letting them not only see and hear (all there is to experience from internet/tv/movies) but also smell, feel, touch, move through, brush against, be surrounded by nature. I am grateful to witness their processes and it helps me keep hope alive.

    I live my work by sharing my love of nature – and I see the youth go from wanting to kill all bugs, to carefully looking for them and guarding them while calling me over so we can admire them together.

    I live my path by writing and calling for change in policy, in direction, in legislation, in marketing.

    I live my way by trying to vote with my dollars, to balance feeling stressed of being short on time and money with a little mindfulness about how my money “walks”.

    I talk to others, one-on-one, with the guy who asks me why I bother to read the origin labels in the produce section, the woman in my class who asks what happens when I go backpacking with youth, invite a co-worker contemplating vegetarianism over to cook together.

    I do some of what I can. I have more I would like to do. I realize I cannot do everything. I may not do what you do, may not look like you, may not work on the exact issues you work on, but I hope you understand – I am more like than unlike you. If you feel like there are “others” where you live and work, how about joining “them”? It’s a challenge to keep my heart and mind and ears and eyes open to really see and hear and feel, to expect each person to be an individual, a part of various communities of multi-faceted human beings. But that’s what we all are. I hope we keep this dialog open.

  39. I found some trenchant remarks on racism within dominant American environmental circles at a “Satya” interview with African American theologian James Cone, who emphasized again how white Americans are unable to see beyond their own sense of their innocence, historically, in an interview with Bill Moyers recently:

    http://www.satyamag.com/mar04/cone.html

    One of the reasons you said that environmentalists don’t really “get” it with regard to racism is:

    Answer: What is absent from much of the talk about the environment in First World countries is a truly radical critique of the culture most responsible for the ecological crisis.

    Do you think that’s still the case? Do you think that the anti-globalization movement, for example, may have made some headway there?

    Answer: Oh I think the anti-globalization movement has made headway there. See, I’m talking about the dominant emphasis, not about every last environmentalist in the movement. There are always [significant] small groups who do have a larger vision. The anti-globalization movement is one of the best examples of people who see [that] what’s happening with the environment in America affects what happens to the environment in the Third World. And I am very impressed with the fight for global justice, from the perspective of the environment, that you see in the anti-globalization movement. So I would say they would be an exception. But I wouldn’t put the Sierra Club in that group.

    Would you say that the anti-globalization movement is also working towards getting rid of racism?

    Answer: I would say, indirectly. It is not as explicit in its anti-racism focus as it is in anti-globalization in general. I think racism, white supremacy is there, but I don’t think it is [addressed specifically].

    One of the ways you can find out what a culture is doing is to ask: What resources do the people use in order to critique the exploitation of the world? They’ll use Martin King because he is highly visible, but they don’t use Malcolm X much; and I would say they don’t use the culture of the poor for insight into how to fight oppression of the poor. I think you have to use resources from every cultural context. I think that people who come from dominant cultures tend to only use resources from within their own culture, and to dominate even the resistance movement in terms of how you think about resistance. You can see that in the abolitionist movement in the 19th century against slavery; whites dominated the thinking even though they were not the victims—black people knew much more about how to resist slavery than those who had never experienced it. I see that also in the civil rights movement, when whites came in they wanted to dominate the movement.

    If you really want to resist the oppressor, you have to step outside and use resources from other cultures that are victimized by the dominant culture. You know, my people have survived white supremacy for 400 years! We might have some resources useful for resisting it.

  40. To Eris, Alexander, and Laura

    I appreciate and thank you for all your insights.

    This article and dialogue awakened my consciousness to how I have self-segregated myself from minority-originated and minority-run organizations — environmentalist and others organizations.

    I have ordered Winona LaDuke’s book, Recovering the Sacred, and am seeking out minority and indigenous views regarding environmentalism, not just within an American framework, but within the global framework that James Cone sees so clearly.

    Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva has a new book out also. And I’m going to take an even longer look at Wangari Maathai’s brilliant (now global) Greenbelt Movement.

    I am going to go outside my white-dominated, upper-middle socio-economic, highly educated (PhD) circles and into the world. And I am going to do more of what you reminded me this is all about Eris, spend time in the natural world, and look for more opportunities to do so with other people.

    I have even stayed away from white environmentalist and other activist groups because of a sense of elitism that is “cultural” not ethnic or socio-economic in origin. I think this kind of elitism is common in academia. I suddenly find this kind of attitude divisive, separating me from the whole of humanity, especially after reading Eris’ remarks.

    I find most of popular culture jarring, but I’m not going to let this prevent me from opening myself one-to-one with others in our world who may be different from me on the surface anymore.

    Thank you Jennifer for your article, and others for a life-changing interaction.

  41. In some ways, to me, this conversation is funny and in other ways serious. It is funny because many of those puzzled my the problem of ethnic diversity in the environmental movement and in environmental careers fail to do a good job parsing out the differences between social movements, career development, science education and identity development which must be solidly understood, first, before attempting to discuss where their is confluence around environmental issues. Further much of the conversation and consternation sadly fails to recognize that there is scholarship in this area. Dorceta Taloyr at the U of Michigan, Paul Mohai, Me at the American Museum of Natural History, Cassandra Johnson (U of Illinois UC, Diversity Research Lab), Nina Roberts (Assistant Professor, Recreation & Leisure Studies
    Project Director, Pacific Leadership Institute, San Francisco SU). You don’t have to guess. WE (read historically underrepresented group members (HUGS)) are doing the work. As we always have. The majority (read affluent or white, or powerful etc.) need to follow our lead. They traditionally don’t. What happens is the HUGS do the foot work. Devise strategy and agenda’s. The majority discovers they are behind the eight-ball and decide that they need to invite us to their table. No. Come to our dining room feast and listen to our wisdom. Get behind our understanding structural designs of the movement. Deny yourself white/male/economic privilege. Then we are partners.

    All problems are multilayered in and complex and the solutions are often so too. Common sense and intuition are not very accurate tools for decision-making. Get some data quantitatively and qualitatively. Ask, reframe, and ask again. And then do the hardest job- LISTEN.

  42. REPOST MINUS MISSPELLING ETC…..
    In some ways, to me, this conversation is funny and in other ways serious. It is funny because many of those puzzled by the problem of ethnic diversity in the environmental movement and in environmental careers fail to do a good job parsing out the differences between analysis of social movements, career development, science education and student identity development which must be solidly understood, first, before attempting to discuss where their is confluence around environmental issues. The conversation is serious in that much of the conversation and consternation sadly fails to recognize that there is scholarship in this area. Dorceta Taylor at the U of Michigan, Paul Mohai at same, me at the American Museum of Natural History, Cassandra Johnson (U of Illinois UC, Diversity Research Lab), Nina Roberts (Assistant Professor, Recreation & Leisure Studies Project Director, Pacific Leadership Institute, San Francisco SU). You don’t have to guess at how to approach this problem. WE (read historically underrepresented group members (HUGS)[remember minorities in total are the majority so we are really talking about underrepresented because this gets at including class, gender, sexual orientation etc.]) are doing the work and providing insight as well as solutions. This is not new. We always have. The majority (read affluent or white, or powerful etc.) need to follow our lead. They traditionally don’t. What happens when the issue of race and social problems arises is that HUGS do the foot work. We devise strategy and agenda’s, develop theories, have discourse on identity, and reestablish our humanity under oppression. The majority discovers they are behind the eight-ball and decides that they need to invite us to their table. No. Come to our dining room and feast and listen to our wisdom. Get behind our understanding of the structural designs of the movement its impact on our varied communities. Realize they color is not our glue. Being underrepresented means that oppression is the real cohesive. Deny yourself white/male/economic privilege. Then we are partners.

    All problems are multilayered and complex and the solutions are often so too. Uninformed common sense and intuition are not very accurate tools for decision-making. (Much of the conversation has been just that. Your life experience though valuable is not a good arbiter to develop national or global action around minority involvement in the environment.) Get some data quantitatively and qualitatively. Ask, reframe, and ask again. And then do the hardest job- LISTEN.

  43. This is, as far as I can tell, a good example of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

    My grandmother was 1/2 Sioux and the amount of dysfunction this imposed on her offspring is beyond description. People fighting this B.S. have no time or need for nature or green. It’s impossible for a person of fortune to imagine what life is like without guidance, a social support system, financial backing, and so on. Being involved in charity work, volunteerism, and non-profit work is an alien concept to someone whose life is falling apart around them. Not all of us have mini-vans, cell phones, iMacs and HDTV in our homes. Lots of people have strangers, drunks, mayhem, abuse, violence and poverty in their place.
    Great article.

  44. You’ve certainly called attention to an issue, which I daresay, is true…that selective ‘greening’ is colouring our world a whiter shade of pale. Excellent article.

  45. I find this article and discussion extremely interesting as someone who studied Sociology and particularly race relations in college and then moved onto working at a small environmental non-profit in Tacoma WA.

    I don’t know how much any of you know about Tacoma, but it is home to one of the largest ports in the US; it is the end of the transcontinental railroad; and of course as part of WA state it has plenty of natural resources including lumber and salmon. All of these factors led to the creation of a huge industrial city built on the sweat of minority workers and the natural waterways of the Puget Sound. And not surprisingly, Tacoma’s Commencement Bay was one of the first waterways to be listed on our nation’s Superfund list – all 70 some chemicals on the list at the time were found in itswaters.

    Long story, I know, but what I found extremely interesting in all of this, was that while the Bay was polluted beyond belief, all of the minority housing was concentrated in that area. But now that the City is spending millions on cleaning up the Bay, they are also spending millions on “cleaning up” the City. Expensive housing is moving into downtown and kicking out all affordable housing in the area. Meaning, once the Bay is actually returned to its natural beauty and habitat, those who can’t afford a $300,000 condo downtown or car won’t be able to appreciate it as easily as the wealthy youth who grow up, literally, on its waters.

    While I was working for that non profit, I also attended a huge state wide meeting that sought to get citizen input on how we could improve our protection of Washington’s natural beauty. It’s ironic to me that none of the 120 people in the room brought up race or money as an issue. The fact is, the 120 white and wealthy (in comparison to the rest of the world) people sitting in the room (including myself) grew up in nature. We had the huge backyards, the cars to drive us to all of the national and state parks, the tents and RVs to go camping, the gear to try climbing or backpacking as a hobby, and/or the boats to go fishing, sailing, water skiing etc. You simply cannot ignore the fact that the more contact you have with nature the more you will care about it and seek it out.

    We also did a educational program for 4-5 graders from 4 different elementary schools while I was in Tacoma. I admit, I wasn’t surprised that while many of the students from the weathier (and white) school district, had already been out on Commencement Bay and knew some things about its habitat; very few if any of the students from the poorer (and black/hispanic) school district even knew what the waterway was called much less had been out on the water before.

    I also saw this similar trend working for the national park system out in Washington for the past few summers as well. Of the hundreds of visitors I came in contact with this summer – I think I met only two black couples.

    Whether this problem is due to wealth or race – I think there is definitely a correlation. It would be ignorant to say they are not related. Minority has often meant lower income and wealth in this country, and lower wealth means a decrease in access and opportunity – not only in education and careers but in regards to the environment as well.

    This phenomenon is not rare, and I applaud the author for bringing this to our attention.

  46. To Elly Boerke (and others):

    You should read Gary Paul Nabhan’s book “Cultures of Habitat.” In that book, I think he debunks some of what you speak of through his own personal narrative (call it qualitative ethnographic narrative data if you like- a nod to Michael Foster’s comment.)

  47. As an ex-subscriber to Orion who got fed-up with the “in club” feel mentioned in a previous post and the drift away from “people and nature” (esp. post 9/11), I was pleased to return to the website (after months … years?) and find this article.

    Great article sparking interesting discussion (including examples of attitudes that will keep the enviro. crowd perceived as self-involved white) and resource sharing.

    Off to peruse other articles and see if I should consider re-subscribing …

  48. Yeah I think its class, not race. Environmentalism is primarily based on consumerism now. So those with the most spending power will dominate. I am white but can’t afford a hybrid car, or “green house”. Its only natural that lower income people of all races will be put off by many of the inconsistencies they see. The recent stories about celebrities buying “carbon credits” is just one example.

  49. I agree. I went to many “Green Events” where the participants are of different races, but the vendors & charities are mostly represented by White people.

  50. Caspare,

    Don’t be mistaken. Race is a factor. peer-reviewed studies consistently demonstrate that undesirable land uses i.e. toxic dump sites are sited in communities of color holding among other things class and income constant. Start reading. Anything by Robert D. Bullard, the Ware Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University is a good start.

  51. Laura,

    Great point! I’m actually reading Nabham’s book write now after just finishing his “Coming Home to Eat”…coincidence?

  52. Audrey and Frank Peterman, Majora Carter, Van Jones, greenforall.org
    the ways to protect and enjoy the environment are as diverse as the people who are doing it.
    keep up what you are doing and JOIN us please!

  53. I bet even though you have never seen another face like yours do what you do, there are still those that secretly wish that they could help the way you have and wish that they could contribute. Donnt worry about it. Hold your head high wnd keep on keepin’ on.
    P.s. Love the article

  54. The sad truth is that minorities moe often then not have more to worry about then climate change, like getting and keep a job, making enough to feed their family and keeping the raid off of their heads. Of this is not true in every case but I am very sensitive to who pays attention to climate change. Please take a look at what I am doing. To be honest, I am trying to find a way to get all of Africa to embrace the EARTH-SHIP program and thereby make it theirs. After all, human life began in Africa. It makes good sense that we should look to Africa to put our planet on a more sustainable path. You can contact me through this web site. I hope to hear from you.

  55. This artical breaks my heart. There are so many things that people are blind to and maybe don’t mean to to be. I work at a national park and get pretty excited when African American people visit the park because I hope they will pass the word to other folks. I will try harder to spread the word.

  56. Not seeing faces such as yours or mine most likely speaks to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, wouldn’t you think?

    If you are spending all of your time trying to eke out a sub-standard existence, when or where would minorities living in or near poverty demographics find the time or the desire to take a nature hike?

  57. Hi Global Warming

    Your comment was Short and sweet if everyone did their part however short and however sweet we will ALL win in the end!

  58. I currently live in a community in San Francisco where there are 325 toxic emmission sites. I was told that some are under the EPA standards, but the simple fact that there are 325 negates anything a few companies are doing right. The community is predominately ethnic, so to some degree I have to assume some of the Colorblindness is intentional.

  59. When organic food and environmentally friendly products become affordable for those with very limited means, then the environmental movement will be able to spread to minorities. The fact of the matter is that minorities in this country generally have less money than whites, and sustainable products are generally pricier. It’s an issue of economics.

  60. Reading this article made me come to realize this; if we want more people to be involved, more people need to be informed. I don’t understand how a non-profit nature center sent information to a more white and well-off population if the community. That makes me wonder if they are looking for donations from those people and tend to send information to them for this reason. It is true that all people of all different races should receive this kind of information. They could send this information to different areas every year, on some sort if information rotation system. Minorities should not be left out of this environmentalism equation. They are just as likely to get involved in nature as any other person. It is true that global warming is not colorblind, so why is it that information about stopping or slowing global warming is? I am sure that some of those minority radio stations and newspapers would have donated a space to a good cause, successfully getting the word out, if they would have been asked. We need not look over such a fast growing part of our economy, when their involvement would help make the change we need to make.

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