Friday, July 19, 2024

Environmental Groups Seek Diversity

With a new administration committed to environmental issues, many environmentalists are feeling the pressure to add diversity to the movement, in both membership and at higher levels of leadership. National environmental organizations have traditionally drawn memberships from the white and affluent and have faced criticism for focusing on protecting resources rather than addressing the issues faced by minority communities.

“Our groups are not as diverse as we’d like, but every one of the major groups has diversity as a top priority,” said Frances Beinecek, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “There’s a great commitment to making the environmental movement representative of what the country is.”

Roger Rivera, who served on President Obama’s transition team for the Interior Department and is president of the National Hispanic Environmental Council (NHEC), an advocacy group based in Washington, promotes environmental careers among Latino students. He said that for more than a year he attended meetings of the Green Group, a loose association of about three dozen environmental organizations, simply as “an observer”.  Only after the election of the first black president in January was NHEC formally invited to join.

Lisa P. Jackson, the newly appointed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, emphasized the importance of inclusion at a recent conference of environmental justice in New York City. Jackson said that she hopes to bring more diversity to the agency which has a staff of about 1,700, 68 percent of which is non-Hispanic white-“so we look like the people we serve.”

Obama’s current environmental team includes an Asian, Steven Chu as energy secretary, a Latino, Ken Salazar, as interior secretary, and a woman, Carol M. Browner, as the coordinator of energy and climate policy.

Environmental groups that focus on diversity could even be a great stepping stone for improving the economy and its green energy movement. Van Jones, whose organization, Green for All, a member of Green Group, said groups like his are interested in using green jobs to “lift urban youths and others out of poverty”.

New York Times