Green Groups Turning Ashen

From embarrassment.

Obama, it turns out, may not just herald a sunnier horizon for the environment, he may, as the subtext of this story suggests, be the last, best hope for mainstream environmental groups to diversify their memberships.

Among the many reasons why this has yet to happen, Carl Pope bizarrely focuses on “cultural barriers,” and offers this example:

If you go to a Sierra Club meeting, the people are mostly white, largely over 40, almost all college-educated, whose style is to argue with each other. That may not be a welcoming environment.

Hilarious. Carl, keep up the good work but here’s a news flash:  black and brown people don’t show up because of what white environmentalists mostly talk about at these meetings.

BTW, catchy slogans, such as “Connecting People with Nature“–which I’m intimately familar with–don’t seem to gain much traction with non-whites either, and probably won’t until all those new urban nature centers help provide inner-city residents with jobs and cleaner air.

Providing more than a token seat or two on the board wouldn’t hurt either.

4 Responses to “Green Groups Turning Ashen”

  1. Steve Bloom says:

    Actually it would hurt.  The top isn’t the place to start.  Importing people who want to be in charge of a different kind of organization can lead to problems when they try to make that happen over the objections of the members, as in the case of Mary Francis Berry and Pacifica a few years back.    

    The quote from Van at the end makes the key point, but the problem is that an organization that actually made that transition wouldn’t be an environmental group any longer.  Coalitions are the appropriate tool.

    The idea that people in primarily black and brown organizations don’t spend just as much time arguing with each other is pretty funny.         

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    I should have been more specific. How about diversifying the mid-level and senior staff that shapes programs and outreach?

    In terms of forming coalitions with grassroots environmental justice groups, are any of the top ten green groups actively doing this? I know the Sierra Club has dipped its toes in these waters, but have they really dived in? I honestly don’t know. Judging by Carl Pope’s quote in the Times article, it would seem not.

  3. Steve Bloom says:

    For the record, I would be the last to defend anything Carl says(well, OK, there’s a long line of people critcizing him, but I insist I’m nearer the front than the back).

    The trick with grassroots coalition-building is that it needs to proceed more or less organically at that level.  The national Club doesn’t like giving no-strings-attached funds to chapters and groups, and efforts to provide project-specific funding haven’t fared well precisely because of those strings.  (FYI Club chapters and groups have never been independent in the manner of Audubon chapters.)  The few locals that actually have the resources to do this stuff on their own have had a degree of success, but I see no trend toward more of that.

    Things like diversifying the mid-level and senior staff have been getting talked about for around twenty years, but I don’t think there’s been much progress.  The national Club is at heart a lobbying organization focused on non-urban environmental issues, and as a consequence it’s not a very appealing place for minorities to work.  Peeling the Club off that focus would be like peeling Audubon off bird-watching, bearing in mind that far and away the largest constituency of active Club members are hikers.        

    As you may gather I have a history here. 

  4. Eli Rabett says:

    The Sierra Club has not changed in like 2x forever where 1x forever is my age.  Remind me again what the point is.

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