Right now, the images people see when environmental causes rise to the top of the national agenda often have one thing in common: They’re white images.
Rising leaders such as Bill McKibben, the 350.org founder who was named one of Time’s “People Who Mattered” in 2011 — white. Eco-celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo and Daryl Hannah — white. Leaders of the big environmental organizations, such as Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune — also, for the most part, white. (On the other hand, Sierra Club President Allison Chin, who serves on the group’s board of directors, is the first person of color to hold the top post in the 120-year-old organization.)
Changing the way the movement speaks to communities of color about environmental issues might prove paramount to engaging people who wouldn’t normally characterize themselves as green voters, said Jorge Madrid, a policy fellow at the Environmental Defense Fund.
“[Traditionally] I think the environmental movement wasn’t telling the entire story,” Madrid said. “They were focusing on issues that I think were in the purview of more well-to-do wealthy folks who have time to worry about wetlands and oceans. Now there’s a bigger focus on the public health narrative. This is something that makes it very real for communities of color.”