The intersection of race and the environment is the focus this week of two community conversations taking place in Seattle. The public meetups are a first for members of the mainstream Washington Environmental Council and its partner, Washington Conservation Voters.
Taking a hard look at racial equity and the environment has been an internal focus for the staff of both organizations for the past year. Washington Environmental Council President Becky Kelley says both groups are adopting five-year plans that include a new focus on the connection between racial and environmental justice.
“And, in fact, historically that means some folks and some communities have not benefited as much from our advocacy and we’re trying to bring environmental protection benefits, make sure that those are being spread more broadly,” Kelley said.
That means recognizing that more people of color live in places where they’re exposed to polluted water or air, for example, and setting priorities accordingly. Kelley admits, it’s a tough conversation for an organization that has been largely made up of white members and staff. But she says they know they have to broaden their focus and relinquish some control if they are to succeed in their mission of protecting the environment.
The next step in the process, Kelly says, is face-to-face dialog about these issues with their members. Two meetups are scheduled in the Seattle area. More around the Puget Sound and across Washington are expected.