Diversity & Inclusion in a Green DC
By Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network
REPORT: DCEN Forum on Sustainable DC, Latino Community and the Connections Between Environmentalism, Diversity and Inclusion.
On August 8th over 50 individuals decided to take an important step towards shaking up the status quo and thinking a bit about whether or not we are all doing what we can to promote inclusion into our lives and work. People representing numerous environmental organizations and District government pondered the relationship between sustainability, environmentalism, diversity and inclusion.
As a starting point we decided to focus on the District’s booming and diverse Latino community which makes up over 75,000 District residents who constitute the most diverse group of Latino’s in an urban setting inside of the entire United States.
We seemed to have a diverse crowd with a critical mass of all the many components (ethnic, NGO & governmental) that would be necessary to have a serious and meaningful discussion. It was clear right from the beginning that the District’s environmental community was looking for opportunities to explore how inclusion could be better integrated into local environmental programming.
Participating Organizations & Others (partial):
Alice Ferguson Foundation, Anacostia Watershed Society, Beltway Biodiesel, Clean Water Action, DC Office of Planning, DC Sustainable Energy Utility, District Department of the Environment, Earth Africa Media Services, Earthjustice, Global Green USA, Just Economics, LLC, Office of Latino Affairs, National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, Opening Creativity, Respect DC, Rock Creek Conservancy, Sierra Club DC, The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, U.S. Green Building Council, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Washington Parks & People.
Our four panelists included Latino environmental leaders as well as representatives from the District Office of Latino Affairs (OLA) and District Department of the Environment (DDOE). You can watch their full presentations:
- Christophe Tulou, Director, District Department of the Environment (DDOE) – Christophe connected the ideas of sustainability and inclusion and how they might relate to Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC Initiative. WATCH VIDEO!
- Roxana Olivas, Director, District Office of Latino Affairs (OLA) – Roxana shared important demographic information and stressed the importance of getting to know the Latino community. She also gave participants an idea as to what is OLA’s mission. WATCH VIDEO!
- Jorge Bogantes Montero, Conservation Biologist, Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) – Jorge shared his personal experiences that led to his becoming an environmental leader in the Washington Metro region. WATCH VIDEO!
- Jennifer Chavez, Lawyer, Earthjustice (EJ) – In addition her own personal experiences Jennifer was able to share what happened when Earthjustice decided to explore connecting their environmental work with the values and vision reflected in diversity and inclusion. WATCH VIDEO!
- Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network (DCEN) (Organizer & Moderator) – Chris introduced our panelists and gave an overview of potential preliminary goals for increasing diversity and inclusion in the District and region. SEE POWERPOINT!
All participants were then able to ask questions, make statements and explore possible directions we might all take increase inclusion in our work and lives. Our open discussion lasted over an hour. WATCH VIDEO of OUR OPEN DISCUSSION HERE!
“To ensure that District Latinos are integral partners in prioritizing and solving environmental problems and achieving a sustainability in the District, it seems that the existing environmental community will need two things. First, a long-haul commitment to this goal both collectively and through individual organizations, including funders. Second, help from experts in diversity and inclusion who can help the environmental community systematically identify appropriate goals and an action plan.” - Jennifer Chavez, Lawyer, Earthjustice
- Increased coordination between OLA & DDOE to promote Sustainable DC Initiative
ACTUAL OUTCOME: Progress has already been made. DCEN forum participants reported that DDOE and the Office of Latino Affairs have scheduled a meeting together to talk about ways to improve communications with the Latino community and parties are in the process of scheduling meetings with the other outreach offices—African Affairs, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Religious Affairs.
ACTUAL OUTCOME: Numerous organizations have made commitments to convene regularly and come up with short term and long term goals for increasing inclusion.
- Identifying leadership and formation of DCEN working group to develop outreach plan.
ACTUAL OUTCOME: Numerous individuals and organizations have offered to participate in a working group. We will convene our first working group to select a chairperson and develop some short term outreach opportunities in September. The working group will be staffed by the DC Environmental Network.
- Continue engaging and learning about the connections between environmentalism, diversity and inclusion.
ACTUAL OUTCOME: DCEN is already planning a series of opportunities, including trainings and forums, to continue this important discussion.
“The values and vision of environmentalism, diversity, and inclusion are inextricably linked. In the 21st century, the ability of environmental organizations to catalyze a positive common future for all people, beings, and places will depend on the commitment of leaders and organizations to make these explicit, intentional connections in every facet of their work. Diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence need to become major priorities at the organizational level if environmental and social change movements are to marshal the innovation, creativity, and expansive reach necessary to handle the complexity and scope of environmental challenges. Organizational and movement-wide impacts are at risk if diversity is not seen as mission critical.”
- Angela Park, Founder and Director, Diversity Matters, “Mission Critical: A New Frame for Diversity and Environmental Progress
More to come!