I have had the privilege of being involved in ecology, environmental science, and conservation work for over 10 years. In this time, I’ve been able to work with many esteemed researchers across some of the most prestigious institutions in the country. My experience as a Black man in this field, is that most people within the scientific and environmental communities are NOT actively or openly racist. While this is a refreshing departure from some other fields within the United States, there is still much work to be done to fully address the legacy of inequity and institutional racism that permeates all aspects of our lives. It is not enough for the environmental community to just be non-racist; to truly attain the goals of protecting the planet’s resources, ensuring that all people have access to a sustainable lifestyle, and producing relevant and innovative science on a global scale, the field of environmental science and conservation must adopt the ideals of anti-racism.
Here, anti-racism means actively identifying and opposing racism in all its forms. Not just individual acts of racism and prejudice, but also institutional, structural, and environmental racism. Due to the all-encompassing effects of racism, anti-racism can look different across various settings and situations. Within academic settings, institutional racism can be addressed in the recruitment and training of students and acknowledging racist origins in many theories when teaching science history. At the level of environmental non-profits and research institutions, issues with hiring and retaining minority employees need significant improvement. To combat environmental racism at the structural level, there needs to be collaboration between researchers, policy makers, and governments to address major inequities at the local and international scale. Additionally, increased focus on anti-racism can increase awareness of other social issues within the field, such as misogyny and homophobia.
There isn’t enough space within this blog post to truly address all the complexities and issues regarding racism and anti-racism in the field of environmental science, however, we must take every opportunity available to start the conversation. I’ve included several links to more detailed information on anti-racism work within science and other fields.
- “Being Anti-Racist” – National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Anti-Racism Resources: Racial Bias in Scientific Fields – Harvard University
- “Science has a racism problem” – Cell Journal Editorial
- “To attract more blacks and Hispanics to STEM, universities must address racial issues on campus” – The Hechinger Report
- “Is Science for Us? Black Students’ and Parents’ Views of Science and Science Careers” – Science Education
- “The ecological and evolutionary consequences of systemic racism in urban environments” – Science