Heritage Conservation and Nature Environmental Movements Must Diversify Or Die
Green 2.0

My title of this article plays off an article title by Brentin Mock, the justice editor for Grist.com. He offers some really thought provoking commentaries on a variety of issues around the natural and cultural environment. Mock has written several enlightening articles this year on the lack of diversity in the various mainstream Green movements, and on the work by different African Americans and other overlooked and marginalized Americans working in the field.

From Mock I learned about a report particularly worth reading for anyone interested in outdoor activities and the Green movements, that included a discussion on diversity in these industry’s employment practices called “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations”. The report was produced by the group called Green 2.0, led by one of the leaders in environmental and race issues discussion, Dorceta Taylor.

Green 2.0

Green 2.0: Accelerating Diversity in the Mainstream Environmental Movement (click to link)

Mock’s articles and Carolyn Finney’s new book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimaging the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors  discussing environmental justice issues are inspiring me in my own work as a public historian and heritage conservation consultant.

The state of heritage conservation/historic preservation could also use more diversity in the representation of American expressions of cultural identity and pride. The spring 2014 issue of the Forum Journal, a National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) publication, looks at how some of the current American preservation practices could be improved to tell a broader range of American stories.

Tanya Bowers, director for diversity at the NTHP, said in “Becoming A More Inclusive Preservation Organization”, an online article accompanying the spring 2014 Forum issue, “Most preservation organizations have taken steps to embrace the idea of diversity.” She also asserted these groups need to focus on the needs of a broader group of stakeholders if they want to stay afloat.

Forum Journal: Imagining a More Inclusive Preservation Program, spring 2014 (click here)

Forum Journal: Imagining a More Inclusive Preservation Program, Spring 2014 (click for article)

I also wrote “Challenges to the Conservation of California’s African American Heritage”, a web companion article to the spring 2014  Forum issue about my successes and challenges to reinsert the California’s African American heritage into existing regional and national history and historic preservation discourses. Some of the issues discussed in the work of the three authors highlighted here, Mock, Finney and Bowers, are illustrated by real world examples I give in my above mentioned article about heritage conservation and engaging broader audiences with more inclusive American stories.

Both the nature environmental and heritage conservation movements have work to do in creating more inclusive atmospheres for the conservation of America’s spaces and places that reflect national identity, environmental values, and American history. What Brentin Mock said in his most recent Grist.com article, “Green must diversify or die“, is applicable to both environmental and heritage conservation/historic preservation organizations – if these groups are serious about diversity, “then put your money where your mouth is or suffer the consequences later.”

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