Green, But Mostly White: The Lack Of Diversity In The Environmental Movement, Part 5 of 5—Future 500

Posted by on August 27, 2014 in Measure Impact, World

NickJGuest Blog By Nick Sorrentino, Future 500

I must admit that I usually loath discussing issues in terms of race, gender, class, etc.  But in this case I will make an exception because I often experience firsthand the lack of political diversity in the work I do with Future 500 on environmental issues. I am rabidly free market. I believe that the government that governs least, governs best.  I am also for reducing the size and roll of the state. I am also an environmentalist. You should know that my political disposition places me in a very small camp within the environmental community, as I’m also a libertarian.

I love hiking, trees, wild spaces, clean air, and clean water. I think the clear-cutting of rainforests is a tragedy and the plastic mess in the Northern Pacific Gyre disgusts me. I abhor waste. I am all for recycling and for fuel efficiency. I just approach these issues differently than the traditional environmental groups.  For example, I am for indigenous people’s efforts to gain stewardship over land, but I believe that property rights are the best way to address it.

These views can place me at odds with some within the environmental community. That’s OK. I like this position and I find that far more often than not people are pretty open to hearing my critique.  Still, although they are open, I often notice that I am still a minority voice in the room, and that is a shame.

Despite what many of our environmental brethren think, there are plenty of market- oriented people who care about the environment. These freemarketeers might not like some of the methods held near and dear to the longstanding environmental community, but they too want a cleaner more “sustainable” planet. Sometimes these free market outsiders even have really great ideas, but right now, for the most part, their ideas are seldom heard.  In order to expand the environmental community and allow other political opinions to flourish within the movement, this void needs to change.

One of the reasons I engage in the environmental political space is because I believe that if environmentalism is relegated solely to what we call the “Left” in this country, we will have a huge problem on our hands when power inevitably shifts. If there is no one on the “Right” to voice environmental concerns when the “Right” is in power, if there is no free market environmental constituency to answer to, we will all be worse off.

Diversity of opinion, of experience, of yes ethnicity, of geographic origination, of communication styles, of on occasion even political disposition, can be of immense value to solve any problem. So long as there is a shared spirit and goal, “real” diversity is a huge asset.  Indeed it may be what sets successful movements apart from the less successful ones as the world becomes increasingly dynamic. In the end, diversity can therefore help everyone cope better with this dynamism and with our changing world.

Conclusion — Future 500 Staff

As we face ever more pressing challenges related to climate change, it’s imperative, not optional, that humanity unite to solve the problem.  Social isolation, whether via political affiliation, race, gender, or class, is simply a waste of time and, ultimately, gets us nowhere. By instead recognizing that we all share a common goal within the environmental community – that of improving and protecting the planet for generations to come – we can recognize the need to hear the various voices that, collectively, make for a much stronger, and more inclusive, environmental movement.

Nick Sorrentino is Director of Political Outreach, Future 500

Read Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4

Future 500 is a global nonprofit specializing in stakeholder engagement and building bridges between parties at odds—often corporations and NGOs, the political right and left, and others—to advance systemic solutions to urgent sustainability challenges. The organization unites corporate and NGOs to address social and environmental issues with market-based solutions. Recently, members of the Future 500 staff held a roundtable discussion about diversity—rather, the lack of it—in their industry. Participants were Shilpi Chhotray, Danna Pfahl, Marvin Smith, Nick Sorrentino and Brendon Steele. Part 5 of a five-part series features comments by Nick Sorrentino, Director of Political Outreach —The Editor.

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