Why We Need More Diversity to Keep the Climate Movement Going

more diversity in the climate movementIn a previous post, we discussed why it’s important for businesses and governments to engage mainstream Americans in climate solutions. A recent article in the Guardian takes that idea even further. For the climate movement to succeed, it needs to truly represent modern America in all its diversity. As the article’s author, Arizona Congressman Raúl M Grijalva, points out, Asians and Latinos are the country’s fastest growing populations, but they aren’t always included in the climate conversation.
 
People of color are disproportionately affected by climate change, and they are also more concerned about climate impacts and supportive of climate policies than other groups. So in order to keep our momentum going forward, the needs and opinions of these populations must be considered, and they must be fully engaged as partners in the movement. As Congressman Grijalva says, “If lawmakers think you’re only speaking for a small, unrepresentative minority, they won’t let you shape policy.” More diversity in the climate change fight isn’t just equitable, it’s a necessity.
 

The Climate Change Fight Cannot Be Won With White Liberal America Alone

Raúl M Grijalva, contributor to the Guardian
 
Environmental advocacy must start representing the country we live in – a country where Asian and Latino families are the fastest growing populations
 
The biggest issue in conservation – bigger than any mining project, power plant or climate plan – is diversity. The environmental movement needs to start looking like modern America. To continue our proud American legacy of protecting our environment, we need to adapt.
 
A recent report released by Green 2.0 highlights the environmental movement’s disconcerting lack of diversity. Unconscious bias, inadequate recruitment and poor retention all stand in the way of a more diverse environmental movement. People of color make up 36% of the US population and comprise 29% of the science and engineering workforce, but the report found that only about 12% of staff at the mainstream environmental advocacy groups and foundations that fund them are people of color. A separate report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found that while environmental funders spent $10bn between 2000 and 2009, just 15% of those dollars benefited poor and under-served communities.
 
The problem is just as serious at the top levels of environmental organizations. While 22.5% of interns at environmental organizations are people of color, only 12% of leadership positions and 4.6% of board positions are held by people of color. With some notable exceptions – such as Aaron Mair’s recent appointment as The Sierra Club’s first African-American national president – you see less diversity the further up the organizational chart you go. This failure comes despite the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on communities of color and the fact that people of color support executive action on climate change more strongly than white Americans.
 
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Image credit: Andy Katz/Andy Katz/Demotix/Corbis

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