In the conservation movement, we fight for land, wildlife, air and water, both for their intrinsic value and so that all people may safely and responsibly use and enjoy these things. Yet, all people are not engaged in the fight or in the experience of enjoying natural wonders we fight to protect. As the diversity of the American population is increasing, engagement of people of color in our movement is not keeping pace. Over 48.4% of Americans engaged in some outdoor recreation in 2015, yet 74% of those participants were white. If by 2042 more people of color aren’t engaged in the love and exploration of nature, we will miss the opportunity to do our best work and to have the impact and reach we desperately need.
While getting participation numbers up is part of the battle and key to our success as a movement, the major hurdles are the readiness of organizations to include people of color and appropriately address the emotional risk that they face in exploring the wilderness. The wilderness is as eye opening an experience for people of color as for anyone else, but they are too often alone in navigating the dominant culture and perception of them as outsiders. This keynote will unpack the complexities of these emotional risks, and how people and organizations can prepare and address them going forward.
Whitney Tome, Executive Director of Green 2.0, leads a campaign to increase the racial diversity of the mainstream environmental movement. Whitney was the director of diversity and inclusion at the National Parks Conservation Association, and a program manager and mediator at the Meridian Institute. At Environmental Defense Fund, Whitney served as a strategist in dozens of state and federal political campaigns and launched the Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum. Whitney earned a B.A. from Middlebury College and a J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law