by Teresa Baker
I am often engaged in conversations about why I am striving to create more diversity in outdoor spaces. Often my response is “because I want to see faces that look like mine when I’m out in our national parks and forests.” That response comes easily for me, but it’s much more personal than that. I care about this planet and seeing the constant news reports about floods taking place regularly, fires breaking out uncontrollably, earthquakes happening in parts of the world where they have never happened before and leaving insurmountable devastation, it shakes me to my core.
When I look at the discussions taking place on global warming and its lasting effects and I see no faces of color in those discussions, it angers me. It angers me because this planet is the only one we have and if we are not all involved in discussions about how to stop the damage we have collectively created, then we are all doomed – black , white, brown, everyone. We cannot survive on a planet that has begun to force feed us back the shame that we have fed it for decades.
So for every agency and outdoor organization that continues to do business as usual, I suggest you change your way of thinking. If you defend your stance by saying “all are welcome,” yet when I walk into outdoor spaces that you manage and I don’t see faces of color, you’ve lied, and diversity isn’t of concern to you. If I look at your budgets and I don’t see a line item set aside for the work of diversity and inclusion, you’ve lied. If I sit in on one of your board meeting and I’m the only face of color there, again you’ve lied.
Diversity and inclusion is not a difficult reality to achieve. Be as intentional in your actions to hire people of color as you have been in hiring your current workforce, which is 80 to 90% white. You must be brave enough to move beyond the status quo of hiring.
If you care about the planet, as well you should, you should care that people of color are missing from the work it will take to slow the progression of global warming. We talk about leaving a better planet for those who come after us. In order to do that, we must begin to engage audiences of color. We have all had a hand in disturbing the natural evolution of this planet. It is only fitting that we all lend a hand in healing it.
I am a firm believer that once you begin to engage people in nature, they will begin to form a connection and naturally want to protect it. You cannot stand in the shadow of a giant Sequoia and not fall in love with the beauty of its vastness. You cannot walk the valley of Yosemite and not be in awe of its beauty. That’s the sanctity of nature, it doesn’t discriminate; it casts its beauty upon all who venture to embrace it. I challenge all to be as brave and as welcoming as nature.