Diversity in the Environmental Movement
“Pueden contestar en Español” a burst of hands go up as suddenly, students who were too shy to participate, began to raise their hands in excitement. I felt so proud to see so many children that were enthusiastic about speaking Spanish. At the end of our program Lily and I handed out pamphlets about the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in both Spanish and English. So many of the students asked for the pamphlet in Spanish that we actually ran out!
Going to these classes and teaching in both languages really warmed my heart. Growing up, I had a hard time in school because I didn’t speak English very well. I felt a lot of pressure to assimilate, and began to be a little ashamed of my culture and heritage. It’s been a long process to shake that feeling and be proud of myself and all the hard work my parents went through to provide for our family. Therefore, I was so relieved and thankful that the teachers at Harvey Scott Elementary work with such diverse students and encourage understanding about different cultures.
I’ve also had the great fortune to meet members of EPOC (Environmental Professionals of Color.) It is important, across different movements, for people of color (POC) to have a space to meet and talk. When I was in Los Angeles, I was involved in a group called LAFemmesofColor that shared similar sentiments about needing a space that was just for them so that they can come together and talk about their unique experiences as femmes of color. Likewise, EPOC is a great space for POC to get together around the environment. It is so amazing to be able to meet other people who share your same interests, understand some of your struggles, and have a similar cultural background, to work on problems in our communities. Most importantly, it is necessary for us the people from our own community to be the ones that are being acknowledged for all the work that we do.
I’ll often read about the importance of having biological diversity as a necessity and indicator of environmental health; but I hardly hear about the how important having various voices is in the environmental movement, which is absolutely essential to address the very specific needs of different communities.
I’m immensely grateful to be a part of these conversations. Meeting everyone has inspired me to continue thinking about how all of the different aspects of ourselves intersect with, and affect our relationships in the environmental movement.