NEEL Blog Spring 2021: Visions of diversity in UK environmentalism
Welcome to the inaugural series of the NEEL blog. This spring series addresses themes around representation, inclusion and diversity in environmental engagement. It was conceived to run alongside our ENGAGE project to encourage broader public conversations around these key issues.
It’s no secret that the UK environment sector is lacking in diversity. Not only are those professionally employed in the sector overwhelmingly White, but this spills over into the composition of organisations campaigning on environmental issues within communities across the UK. As a result, ethnic minority voices tend to be largely erased from public discourse on environmental issues; public policies are unresponsive to the plight of ethnic minority communities facing disproportionate risks from environmental problems like air pollution and climate change; and race and ethnicity remain barriers to enjoying the physical and mental health benefits of accessing the natural environment. The list goes on.
Following the murder of George Floyd, and in the wake of the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, the environment sector has begun reckoning with this historical failure to adequately include and represent ethnic minorities. Commitments have been made to tackling systemic and environmental racism; opportunities created for ethnic minority employment in environmental organisations, and avenues are emerging for ethnic minorities to speak out on how environmental issues affect their communities. Progress is being made, but there is still a lot of work left to do.
In many respects, the vision for what an ethnically diverse and inclusive environment sector should look like remains unclear. How do we ensure ethnic minorities have sufficient agency and power to play an active and meaningful role in shaping its agenda? How do we ensure that this current drive for diversity and inclusion does not co-opt ethnic minorities into institutions serving predominantly White middle-class interests? What would a just response to environmental problems look like? One that recognises the legacies of colonialism, slavery and other historical and ongoing forms of exploitation of people of colour - and how do we achieve this vision? These are some of the questions we put to our guests in our Spring 2021 blog series.
Our line-up of guests includes activists, academics, professionals and young leaders – people of an ethnic minority background who are at the frontline with regard to challenging environmental organisations to be more inclusive and anti-racist. This series will comprise a total of 8 interviews published fortnightly until August 2021. We hope you will enjoy reading it as much as we have enjoyed putting it together. We welcome your comments and feedback. You can catch us on Twitter, Instagram or ping us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org