Monday, January 14, 2008

Black Faces, White Spaces - Blacks and the Environment

Dr. Carolyn Finney of UC-Berkeley studies African-American participation in environmentalism and outdoor recreation. She has documented what many in the science, conservation, and environmentalism fields have noted for quite some time. African-Americans barely participatory in these activities - as students, as a career option, or even as recreationists. She posits that the environment, conservation, the idea of nature and the movement to protect it are viewed by most in the Black Community is mostly a White dominion. I have also commented on this because I receive similar feedback from many African-Americans (from different socio-economic levels). This may have to do with what she calls “racialization” of space, and can result in a narrowing of black identity and discourage African American engagement with the environment, whether as visitors to national parks and forests or as employees and activists in environmental organizations. Read more here: Black, White, and Shades of Green.

There is a need to engage more Blacks, particularly those that live in cities. I worked a nature center and supervise interns, if you will, from the inner-city. Man, it's challenging. They are the typical non-visitor who had their minds made up that state parks and natural areas wouldn't be interesting to Black people. Though I struggle to get them to behave and interact with others more professionally, I am proud to say that they no longer hold those views. They come up with interesting ways to try to get their friends and neighbors out to visit the nature center. The biggest issue for my folks is transportation. So, financial ability is a factor for some Black people... But what about middle-class, financially capable Black folk? Our work is still cut out for us.

Dr. Finney has some very interesting findings and recommendations for involving more Blacks in nature (as activist, recreationist, or as a career option). I'm studying it over. I hope to learn a lot it and I hope to improve my efforts to get more African-Americans outside and involved. Read her full report here.

Go Green!

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