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BLOG: New Report Identifies ‘Green Ceiling’ as Diverse Environmental Leaders Launch

July 29, 2014

July 29, 2014

Green 2.0 Team

New Report Identifies ‘Green Ceiling’ as Diverse Environmental Leaders Launch

In a twist of fate that I identify as “Divine Timing,’ a new Report  released  Monday reveals a persistent ‘Green Ceiling’ for Americans of color, just as we’re preparing to launch the Diverse Environmental Leaders (DEL) National Speakers Bureau. Reaffirming my faith in an intelligent Cosmos that delivers our highest good providing we work toward it, the congruence of these two events indicate a potential powerful tipping point: The environmental sector can indeed become one, recognizing that only then can we hope to save ourselves.

DEL speaker Lizbeth Williams has been a lover of the great outdoors and an advocate for reconnecting her peers to nature. since age 16. The millennial leader uses her experience to ‘cultivate the next generation of environmental leaders.”


The concept of a divided environmental movement is so bizarre  it would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so dreadful. And if the people who keep it in place weren’t so absolutely certain that they hold the moral high ground.


Washington, DC – A new report finds that although people of color now account for more than a third of the U.S. population, they have not broken the 16 percent “green ceiling” in mainstream environmental organizations. These dismal numbers exist despite the fact that people of color support environmental protections at a higher rate than whites. ‘The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations: Mainstream NGOs, Foundations and Government Agencies’ also finds that the sector has done little to institute practices that would bridge the diversity gap even though most environmental organizations have indicated that they value diversity.


“Unconscious bias, discrimination, and insular recruiting practices were found to the three major challenges to hiring, retaining and promoting diverse talent in the mainstream organizations. Organizations either do not recognize or have been unwilling to act on initiatives that will make them more welcoming to people of color. They have also shown relatively little interest in partnering with and funding organizations that represent people of color. . .”


DEL speaker Captain Bill Pinkney circumnavigated the globe on a boat by himself via the Southern Route, and was only the fourth American to do so. Master Emeritus of the Freedom Schooner Amistad, his book detailing his adventures is used as text in schools across the country.


To have my personal experience and that of my colleagues confirmed empirically is empowering and I thank the cosmos and the research team and its sponsors for producing it at exactly this moment.  We’ve worked with members of the team over many years as the grassroots environmental movement has grown organically across the country. (Amazingly, researcher Dr. Dorceta Taylor and I grew up in districts 13 miles from each other in the Jamaican countryside. In our book ‘Legacy on the Land’ I describe how I leapt over chairs to get to her when we first met at a convention in Colorado.)


This is precisely the reason we conceptualized the speakers’ bureau, whose mission is “to provide knowledgeable, articulate and experienced experts of color to build broad community support for the protection of our public lands, environment and people through relevancy, diversity and inclusion.” Through DEL, the awesome speakers and trainers will be accessible for the first time through one trusted portal.

DEL speaker Gillian Bowser, PhD, leads interdisciplinary teams from multiple universities on large scale network analyses of underrepresented students and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. With a strong background in national parks policy, she is at this very moment conducting research in the mountain reaches of Peru.



DEL speaker baby boomer Stephen Shobe has stood on Top of the World on four continents, and challenged the pinnacle of Mount Denali. At age 57 he is striving to reach all Seven Summits and uses his skills and experience to teach young people from urban areas how to surmount apparent limitations. Outdooronline photo.


Marketing the bureau and its launch to the mainstream green sector as a way to connect with leaders of color in a harmonious setting, we anticipate supportive responses. Especially now that the challenge has been so starkly illustrated, the time is opportune to shatter that ‘green ceiling’ together. So far our support has come mostly from friends who appreciate the work Frank and I have been doing for close to 20 years and who want to help us accomplish our mutual goals Prominent leaders in the sector have told me flat out that they’re “not investing in that kind of thing.” Still, we are persistent and hopeful that the better nature will prevail, as the schism described in the report is Grand Canyon-sized. Unlike the Grand Canyon though, an elitist environmental movement is anemic and effete and cannot prevail. Where does it leave all our children?

If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, catch Dr. Carolyn Finney’s interview with  Tavis Smiley about her new book focused on African Americans’ relationship with the land. In the segment last Monday, Dr. Finney invoked the agency of people of color who eschew environmental activities because “it’s a white thing,” affirming that only we have the power to change that. Tavis cited the paucity of people involved with the national parks, and made the point that the environmental movement is failing to adequately reach out and engage communities of color. “I get in trouble every time I say that. . .,” he added.

So the narrative is out there. Fortuitously, DEL presents the other side of the picture as demonstrated by  the range, depth and breadth of our speakers.


The old maxim from organizations that say they want to become more diverse but are stymied because they “don’t know how to do it” or “where to find ‘them'” will be nullified come August 25. when we launch DEL at the National Press Club and unveil the web portal. When a small company such as ours, with annual revenues well under $100K can create something so much needed, it speaks to the power and innovation of the grassroots that must be engaged if we are to protect our environment and people. We’re one third of the way towards meeting our budget goal for a successful launch, so we invite and welcome you to be part of its success. All supporters will be recognized in DEL’s launch materials and on our website. Drop me a note!