Friday, December 28, 2007

Political Environment & Green Movement in America...comment

Specific to AAEA's point that Blacks are more involved in the political movement than the environmental movement, you're absolutely right.

There's more history and momentum in the polical ring. It's familiar. Since the Civil Rights Movement, there have been a number of organizations that rally people around these issues. Why? Because people know EXACTLY how political and economic matters directly and immediately impact them.

That's not quite the case for einvironmental issues. And that goes for the general public but it is especially true for African-American and economically disadvataged groups. And who or what organizations are the trusted authorities on matters related to the environment for these groups? No one. I imagine you want AAEA to be that authority. Maybe one day it will, but not today.

For one, your organization is primarily focused on environmental justice issues. That's why I think the political comparison matters so much to you. EJ is important, but before advocacy comes awareness. Quality and widespread Environmental Education is key to getting people more involved in the green movement. People just don't know or understand or care to understand how environmental issues impact their lives.

And if Black people don't know the basics, then how on earth do you make the great leap that there should be more Black people in high positions in popular Environmental organizations?

The truth of the entire matter is that there are relatively few Blacks in the application pool to select from. The lack of diversity in these organizations has little (perhaps nothing) to do with discrimination and everything to do with lack of interest in the discipline by Black college students. This is a PIPELINE issue. First, most black students aren't terribly interested in majoring science in college. Of those that do, many switch majors or drop out for various reasons, not the least of which is poor academic and social preparation for the demands of college science. Of that small number MOST declare an interest in health related science (pre-med, nursing, get the picture). Within communities of color, interest in nature, ecology, environmental science, makes you an oddball. Careers or interests in natural resources are unconventional. Let's not forget that. And as an African-American scientist, I know all too well that the pipeline trickles at the grad school and higher level. I imagine the contributors to the AAEA blog know that too.

However, it has been my personal experience that participants of the GREEN movement are actually very liberal and egalitarian. They want more diversity (ethnic and socio-economic).
And as a member of the Green movement and several scientific professional societies I know it to be true. Almost all have a diversity initiative that they work hard for.

And to absolutely frank, I find the remarks made on the blog and the linked article Environmental Groups Ignore Diversity Survey inflammatory and anatagonistic. Maybe those other organizations didn't complete the survey because of your organization's obvious bias. You attack the organizations that don't participate and those that do participate you accuse them of being discriminating. Can't win for losing. This might be hard to accept, but maybe AAEA should do a survey to access its professional reputation and/or credibility within the environmental movement. I don't know. I've never heard anything ill, but I've known about AAEA for a while now and I decided not the become a member and my mind still hasn't changed. Why? I thin the organization is more an EJ organization and I'm an Environmental Educator. The organization just doesn't fit my interests. And though those other organizations are politically involved, EJ isn't their primary focus either. Those other organizations are primarily focused on Conservation, Preservation, and Education. Again, a fit issue.

But, I want it to be known that there are several initiatives designed to increase the number of young people from under-represented groups to pursue careers in the environment and natural resources. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think you get the picture.

Minorty Environmental Leadership Development Initiative
The American Institute of Biological Sciences posts a Diversity Outreach Directory
Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences
The Wildlife Society has a Minorities in Natural Resources Committee


Norris McDonald said...

We address much more than environmental justice issues. You simply did not look very far. In fact, we address a very broad range of environmental and energy issues all over the world.

George Jackson said...

I responded to your post on my site:

George Jackson said...

Urban Scientist,

I just read your comments about AAEA's blog post Political Environment & Green Movement In America. Just a few words in response.

In my experience as an African American involved in the environmental movement, I can say that I have felt welcomed by the various organizations and groups that I have come to know and be associated with. The point that AAEA is making is that the movement has not yet come to the point where minorities are seen in LEADERSHIP positions. As I am still at a very early stage in my career, I can’t say that I’ve personally experienced being passed up or ignored for key leadership positions. But, I hope to someday advance into executive level position within an advocacy, government, or policy organization.

I can say that for years I have felt like an oddball among the African American community because of my interests, education and career choices. It seems to me that blacks who do aspire to higher education to pursue finance, business, law and now, technology fields. All fine, honorable occupations and careers. My gripe with people who advise young minorities in career choices is that they push, pressure, and present these as the only acceptable career choices. As a result, most educated blacks today have a lot of difficulty thinking outside the box when it comes to the world we live in. This is ironic because the point of a college education is to train you to be able to reason, question things and broaden your horizons.

I don’t find I find the remarks made on the blog and the linked article Environmental Groups Ignore Diversity Survey inflammatory and antagonistic at all. Using strong or controversial language to get a point across has always been a part of drawing attention to any worthwhile cause or movement. Don’t be too hard on AAEA and EJ groups. I can understand your position of being a scientist and an educator. But one of the things that I think you miss is that people and societies rarely fit into neat equations where 2+2=4. When it comes to Americans, sometimes 2+2 = something completely different to each of us.

The Urban Scientist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Urban Scientist said...

Mr. McDonald, I recognize that you do much more than EJ. But please note I said primarily. And your accusation that I did not look very far - an assumption, and in my opinion antagonistic. But sometimes words on a screen can make the writere seem more brusque than he/she may have intended.

Mr. McDonald and Mr Jackson, you are both right, the point has yet to be reached where there are many blacks in leadership positions in the organizations. But simply noting the lack of something does not make it appropriate to conclude that it is because of racial discrimination. And that's why I think AAEA's tone in the article in antagonistic. I mean, the article calls the 20 organizations that failed to respond arrogant. And referring stating that those organizations "don't even hire blacks" infers that they refuse or overlook blacks. Like I said, a failure to find something doesn't mean it's because it was deliberately eliminated. Maybe it never was there.

Before accusing the organizations of 'not hiring blacks in leadership or entery-level positions" you must first establish that there were black applicants for them to choose from. If there are qualified black applicants and they were not offered jobs, then they are guilty of "not hiring blacks".
But what if there were relatively few or no qualified black applicants? I think the latter to be more likely.

Finally, I'm a supporter of EJ, and the many other platforms of AAEA (don't assume I don't know because I didn't mention them all). But none of that information means anything to the average Black citizen. Not because it's not important, but because they don't have a frame work for most of that policy info. There is no foundation - the undestanding that people are apart of a system of interdependence of other living things and the abiotic world and that it is a fragile balance.

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