EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson called on minorities to be a bigger part of environmentalism in a speech to the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council on Tuesday. Sierra Club showed their appreciation for the EPA’s remarks and highlighted their own commitment to diversity on the same day. “We applaud Administrator Jackson’s call for the environmental movement to better reflect the diversity of all Americans, and we are proud that Sierra Club has such successful diversity programs already established,” said Sierra Club President Allison Chin.
Sierra Club went on to highlight its own diversity related programs, also pointing out that Allison Chin is the first Asian-American president of the organization.
The environmental movement has traditionally been seen as a white, priveleged, upper-middle class movement. Sierra Club echoed the EPA in saying that “the environmental movement must better reflect the overall population.”
Interestingly, despite the stereotypical characterization of the environmental movement, it is a completely different demographic who has suffered the most from environmental degradation. Jackson addressed this in her speech and in a similar manner Leslie Fields, Director of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program, says: “All too often people face disproportionate risks of harm because of their demographic characteristics or economic condition, and we applaud Administrator Jackson for her sincere leadership in supporting more diversity in the environmental movement so all people can have a voice.”
In Sierra Club’s press release, they highlight the programs they think serve as models of diversity outreach.
*The Environmental Justice & Community Partnerships program, which empowers low-income communities and people of color in Central Appalachia, Detroit, Flagstaff, New Orleans, El Paso, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Puerto Rico, Washington, DC. When invited in, homegrown Sierra Club community organizers work with community members to help them achieve their goals and improve quality of life.
*The Building Bridges to the Outdoors program, in which Sierra Club offers at-risk youth their first wilderness experiences. Urban high school students from Los Angeles who have never seen the stars before escape the smog of the city and get back to nature, where they can breathe clean air and learn about their environment.
*The youth-run Sierra Student Coalition trains, empowers and organizes young people to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement. With more than 250 groups nationwide, the Coalition develops environmental leaders through an award-winning grassroots training programs and works to make sure students have a voice in the environmental movement.
*The Sierra Club Inner City Outings program introduces approximately 12,000 young people each year to the wonders of nature through nearly 800 outings and service projects — from kayaking in Florida, to backpacking in California, to tree-planting in Pennsylvania. Many participants credit the program with helping them to succeed in school and fulfill their dreams.
As mentioned previously, a key to sustainability theory is finding a proper balance between environmental, social equity, and economic concerns. In the past, these were seen as conflicting issues, but as we move forward we can see that addressing one of these issues often helps to address the others. Jackson mentioned this in her speech as well. It seems that sustainability theory is not only a far-off concept today. It is a reality coming true.
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