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Shades of Green


A new report finds the environmental movement is lacking in ethnic diversity.

Topics surrounding environmental justice disproportionally affect minority communities; for instance, counties in the U.S. with the worst pollution had statistically significant larger numbers of African-Americans. And a new report shows that similar imbalances are apparent in the environmental movement itself. “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations” surveyed mainstream environmental groups to gain insight in their employee demographics and found that “the dominant culture of the organizations is alienating to ethnic minorities, the poor, the LGBTQ community, and others outside the mainstream.” Considering the minority population in the U.S. is 37 percent, the sizable gap the study discovered means that areas and issues may be missed or underrepresented, and that opportunities for coalition-building with different groups may be overlooked.

While inroads have been made, (in 1972 a study of environmental volunteers showed just 2 percent minority involvement), the numbers are still lagging. Employees of color at foundations make up 12 percent of the staff while at government agencies, the number sits slightly higher at 15.5 percent. Minorities are also less likely to occupy leadership roles. The working group that undertook the report is called Green 2.0 and was led by Professor Dorceta Taylor of the University of Michigan. Taylor commented that, “a constant is the disconnect between the leadership at highest levels of these organizations who are saying, ‘Yes we want diversity,’ and what they have actually done.” She also points out that there exists a prejudicial perception that people of color don’t care about the environment which is historically untrue. Further evidence shows that a majority of minorities want to see action on problems like climate change.

On a more positive note, the study found that progress has been made in terms of gender equality with women being newly hired at a rate of 60 percent as compared to males at conservation organizations and also making strides in leadership positions.

The report recommends developing diversity assessment plans, implementing more diversity initiatives, making sure job postings are published in a variety of places, and carefully tracking the results to try and improve the sector’s inclusiveness.  

Photo by Calinago, licensed under Creative Commons.