The Potential of an Inclusive Environmental Movement

What would the environmental field look like if it included more diverse perspectives? We would like to find out.

by Rupu GuptaJohn Voiklis
Aug 25, 2020

If more people with different backgrounds and perspectives in the environmental movement were prominent voices in the environmental field, how would the health of ecological systems improve? How would the organizations and communities that take care of these systems be affected? What would be the social, economic, health, and environmental impacts of this change on society?

It’s a fascinating thought exercise to envision how the environmental field would be transformed if it included more diverse voices from the broader environmental movement. Our idea is to use statistical tools to simulate an inclusive reality for the environmental field to study the processes and strategies that needed to create a society that thrives in concert with the biosphere. We would use public data from foundations, government, and other sources to create the simulation. Such a study would help with decision-making in various sectors relevant to the environmental movement, including formal and informal education, policy, and business. For example, this research could identify strategies used in K-12 settings that are most helpful for creating a racially, ethnically diverse group of environmental stewards. We could even highlight the various approaches and activities used by a racially and ethnically diverse workforce to improve social and ecological systems.

As a start, we can chart out the relationships between the various groups of people involved: professionals and unpaid workers in the environmental field, and public audiences. We can also chart relationships between people and outcomes at the individual level (e.g., skills, capacities, knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, emotions), and how they can result in societal-level impacts (e.g., equitable economic and health indicators), and environmental impacts (e.g., improved air quality, greater forestation, climate resilience). Since involvement in the environmental community is a lifelong endeavor from childhood to adulthood, we would look at some of the characteristics of who learns and how, starting with K-16 students (e.g., demographics, educational outcomes, graduation rates), then professionals (e.g., demographics, disciplinary foci, role), and then the public (related to perspectives and actions tied to the environment).

We would simulate this vision for a period of time (to be determined) and observe how the environmental field changes. In this simulation, we would address current evident inequalities in demographic representations of race, ethnicity, gender, and age, and map the changes to human and environmental systems along a hypothesized chain of events. One of the most exciting parts of this research is that we could ask “what if” questions about the kind, scope/magnitude, and timing of inclusive practices in the environmental movement. We would also assess how and to what extent these practices impact outcomes for ecological systems and the organizations and communities that care for them.

Please tell us what you think in the Comments section. We’d love to hear your thoughts! Want to collaborate on this idea? Get in touch with us at

Photo by Nate Johnston on Unsplash

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