1. The gas prices conversation we should be having
  2. Reclaiming Black land is challenging but not impossible
  3. Black clergy: Churches can sway views on climate crisis
  4. Can old Philadelphia refineries be cleaned up and restored?
  5. Here’s how Black Philadelphia can help in the environmental justice battle
  6. City Launches Environmental Justice Advisory Commission
  7. FIXING THE STRUGGLE SPACE
  8. SOLAR POLICIES ARE FALLING BEHIND – SO, HOW DO WE CATCH UP?
  9. IS PHILLY’S “TAP” WATER PROGRAM WORKING?
  10. Ian Harris
  11. Melissa Ostroff
  12. THE WATER BILLS ARE WAY TOO HIGH
  13. THE KEY TO APPROACHING FRONTLINE COMMUNITIES ON ALL THINGS GREEN
  14. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  15. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  16. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  17. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  18. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  19. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  20. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  21. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  22. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  23. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  24. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  25. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  26. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  27. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  28. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  29. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  30. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  31. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  32. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  33. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  34. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  35. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  36. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  37. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  38. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  39. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  40. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  41. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  42. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  43. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  44. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  45. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  46. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  47. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  48. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  49. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  50. THE NATURE GAP
  51. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  52. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  53. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  54. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  55. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  56. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  57. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  58. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  59. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  60. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  61. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  62. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  63. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  64. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  65. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  66. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  67. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  68. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  69. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  70. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  71. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  72. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  73. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  74. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  75. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  76. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  77. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  78. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  79. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  80. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  81. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  82. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  83. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  84. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  85. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  86. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  87. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  88. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  89. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  90. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  91. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  92. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  93. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  94. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  95. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  96. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  97. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  98. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  99. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  100. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  101. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  102. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  103. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  104. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  105. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  106. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  107. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  108. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  109. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  110. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  111. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  112. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  113. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  114. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  115. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  116. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  117. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  118. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  119. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  120. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  121. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  122. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  123. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  124. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  125. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  126. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  127. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  128. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  129. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  130. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  131. Are You Going to Drink That?
  132. The Origins of ecoWURD
  133. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  134. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  135. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  136. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess
Friday, May 27, 2022
  1. The gas prices conversation we should be having
  2. Reclaiming Black land is challenging but not impossible
  3. Black clergy: Churches can sway views on climate crisis
  4. Can old Philadelphia refineries be cleaned up and restored?
  5. Here’s how Black Philadelphia can help in the environmental justice battle
  6. City Launches Environmental Justice Advisory Commission
  7. FIXING THE STRUGGLE SPACE
  8. SOLAR POLICIES ARE FALLING BEHIND – SO, HOW DO WE CATCH UP?
  9. IS PHILLY’S “TAP” WATER PROGRAM WORKING?
  10. Ian Harris
  11. Melissa Ostroff
  12. THE WATER BILLS ARE WAY TOO HIGH
  13. THE KEY TO APPROACHING FRONTLINE COMMUNITIES ON ALL THINGS GREEN
  14. ICYMI: Watch highlights, panels at ecoWURD’s 2021 Environmental Justice Summit
  15. BLACK MOTHERS NEED CLEANER & SAFER ENVIRONMENTS – IT’S A PUBLIC HEALTH IMPERATIVE
  16. USING DANCE TO SAVE A RIVER
  17. TRACKING PHILADELPHIA’S AIR QUALITY
  18. GETTING RELIGIOUS ON CLIMATE CRISIS
  19. WE NEED MORE BLACK PEOPLE IN AGRICULTURE
  20. WHEN THERE’S NO CLEAN ENVIRONMENT, WE HAVE NOTHING
  21. A PREMATURE END TO EVICTION MORATORIUMS
  22. THE LACK OF BELIEF IN CLIMATE CRISIS IS JUST AS MUCH A THREAT
  23. YOU CAN’T HAVE RACIAL JUSTICE WITHOUT FAIR HOUSING
  24. RUN OVER THE SYSTEMS: THE FUTURE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
  25. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  26. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  27. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  28. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  29. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  30. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  31. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  32. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  33. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  34. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  35. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  36. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  37. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  38. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  39. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  40. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  41. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  42. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  43. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  44. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  45. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  46. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  47. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  48. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  49. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  50. THE NATURE GAP
  51. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  52. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  53. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  54. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  55. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  56. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  57. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  58. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  59. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  60. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  61. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  62. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  63. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  64. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  65. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  66. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  67. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  68. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  69. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  70. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  71. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  72. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  73. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  74. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  75. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  76. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  77. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  78. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  79. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  80. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  81. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  82. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  83. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  84. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  85. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  86. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  87. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  88. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  89. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  90. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  91. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  92. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  93. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  94. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  95. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  96. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  97. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  98. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  99. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  100. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  101. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  102. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  103. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  104. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  105. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  106. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  107. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  108. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  109. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  110. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  111. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  112. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  113. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  114. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  115. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  116. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  117. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  118. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  119. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  120. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  121. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  122. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  123. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  124. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  125. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  126. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  127. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  128. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  129. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  130. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  131. Are You Going to Drink That?
  132. The Origins of ecoWURD
  133. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  134. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  135. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  136. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess

The racism we’ve seen in the mainstream environmental movement has shaped our global conversation about conservation.

Prakash Kashwan | The Conversation

The United States is having a long-overdue national reckoning with racism. From criminal justice to pro sports to pop culture, Americans increasingly are recognizing how racist ideas have influenced virtually every sphere of life in this country.

 

This includes the environmental movement. Recently the Sierra Club – one of the oldest and largest U.S. conservation organizations – acknowledged racist views held by its founder, author and conservationist John Muir. In some of his writing, Muir described Native Americans and Black people as dirty, lazy and uncivilized. In an essay collection published in 1901 to promote national parks, he assured prospective tourists that “As to Indians, most of them are dead or civilized into useless innocence.”

 

Acknowledging this record, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune wrote in July 2020: “As defenders of Black life pull down Confederate monuments across the country, we must…reexamine our past and our substantial role in perpetuating white supremacy.”

 

This is a salutary gesture. However, I know from my research on conservation policy in places like India, Tanzania and Mexico that the problem isn’t just the Sierra Club.

 

American environmentalism’s racist roots have influenced global conservation practices. Most notably, they are embedded in longstanding prejudices against local communities and a focus on protecting pristine wildernesses. This dominant narrative pays little thought to indigenous and other poor people who rely on these lands – even when they are its most effective stewards.

 

Racist legacies of nature conservation

 

Muir was not the first or last American conservationist to hold racist views. Decades before Muir set foot in California’s Sierra Nevada. John James Audubon published his “Birds of America” engravings between 1827 and 1838. Audubon was a skilled naturalist and illustrator – and a slaveholder.

 

Audubon’s research benefited from information and specimens collected by enslaved Black men and Indigenous people. Instead of recognizing their contributions, Audubon referred to them as “hands” traveling along with white men. The National Audubon Society has removed Audubon’s biography from its site, referring to Audubon’s involvement in the slave trade as “the challenging parts of his identity and actions.” The group also condemned “the role John James Audubon played in enslaving Black people and perpetuating white supremacist culture.”

 

Theodore Roosevelt, who is widely revered as the first environmental president, was an enthusiastic hunter who led the Smithsonian–Roosevelt African Expedition to Kenya in 1909-1910. During this “shooting trip,” Roosevelt and his party killed more than 11,000 animals, including elephants, hippopotamuses and white rhinos.

 

The predominant view is that Roosevelt’s love of hunting was good for nature because it fueled his passion for conservation. But this paradigm underpins what I see as a modern racist myth: the view that trophy hunting – wealthy hunters buying government licenses to shoot big game and keep whatever animal parts they choose – pays for wildlife conservation in Africa. In my assessment, there is little evidence to support such claims about trophy hunting, which reinforce exploitative models of conservation by removing local communities from lands set aside as hunting reserves.

 

Ecologist Aldo Leopold, who is viewed as the father of wildlife management and the U.S. wilderness system, was an early proponent of the argument that overpopulation is the root cause of environmental problems. This view implies that economically less-developed nations with large populations are the biggest threats to conservation.

 

Contemporary advocates of wildlife conservation, such as Britain’s Prince William, continue to rely on the trope that “Africa’s rapidly growing human population” threatens the continent’s wildlife. Famed primatologist Jane Goodall also blamed our current environmental challenges in part on overpopulation.

 

However, the argument that population growth alone is responsible for environmental damage is problematic. Many studies have concluded that conspicuous consumption and the energy-intensive lifestyles of wealthy people in advanced economies have a much larger impact on the environment than actions by poor people. For example, the richest 10% of the world’s population produces almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as the bottom 90% combined.

 

Local communities are often written out of popular narratives on nature conservation. Many documentaries, such as the 2020 film “Wild Karnataka,” narrated by David Attenborough, entirely ignore local Indigenous people, who have nurtured the natural heritages of the places where they live. Some of the most celebrated footage in wildlife documentaries made by filmmakers like Attenborough is not even shot in the wild. By relying on fictional visuals, they reproduce racialized structures that render local people invisible.

Fortress conservation

 

The wilderness movement founded by Anglo-American conservationists is institutionalized in the form of national parks. Writer and historian Wallace Stegner famously called national parks “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

 

But many national parks and other lands set aside for wilderness conservation are also the ancestral homelands of Native peoples. These communities were forced off their lands during European colonization of North America.

 

Similar injustices continued to unfold even after independence in other parts of the world. When I analyzed a data set of 137 countries, I found that the largest areas of national parks were set aside in countries with high levels of economic inequality and poor or nonexistent democratic institutions. The poorest countries – including the Republic of the Congo, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia – had each set aside more than 30% of national territories exclusively for wildlife and biodiversity conservation.

 

This happens because corrupt government officials and commercial tourism and safari operators can benefit from it. So do hunters, researchers and documentary filmmakers from the Global North, even as local communities are forbidden from hunting bush meat for family consumption.

 

Critics call this strategy “fortress conservation.” According to some estimates, Indigenous and rural communities protect up to 80% of global biodiversity, but receive little benefit in return.

Better models

 

Correcting this legacy can happen only by radically transforming its exclusionary approach. Better and scientifically robust strategies recognize that low-intensity human interventions in nature practiced by Indigenous peoples can conserve landscapes more effectively than walling them off from use.

 

For example, I have studied forested regions of central India that are home to Indigenous Baiga communities. Baigas practice subsistence farming that involves few or no chemical fertilizers and controlled use of fire. This form of agriculture creates open grasslands that support endangered native herbivores like deer and antelopes. These grasslands are the main habitat for India’s world-renowned Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve.

 

Ecologists have shown that natural landscapes interspersed with low-intensity subsistence agriculture can be most effective for biodiversity conservation. These multiple-use landscapes provide social, economic and cultural support for Indigenous and rural communities.

 

My research shows that when governments enact socially just nature conservation policies, such as community forestry in Mexico, they are better able to handle conflicts over use of these resources. Socially just nature conservation is possible under two main conditions: Indigenous and rural communities have concrete stakes in protecting those resources and can participate in policy decisions.

 

Nonetheless, conservation institutions and policies continue to exclude and discriminate against Indigenous and rural communities. In the long run, it is clear to me that conservation will succeed only if it can support the goal of a dignified life for all humans and nonhuman species.

PRAKASH KASHWAN is Co-Director at the Research Program on Economic and Social Rights for the Human Rights Institute and Associate Professor, Department of Political Science at the University of Connecticut.