Reflection on Diversity: a blog post from Wyoming Conservation Corps

By Evan Townsend - Wyoming Conservation Corps
- Originally posted on the Wyoming Conservation Corps blog, April 28, 2015


When I first hear diversity, my first thought these days is not human, ethnic, or gender diversity but biological. This could be because much of what the WCC does is to help biological diversity seen in our work for habitat restoration, stream banks, beetle kill mitigation, wildlife fencing, and noxious weed removal.

Turns out biological diversity along with racial, linguistic, and cultural diversity need one another. They are symbiotic relationships tied to the success of one another. In a study 2012 study by L.J. Gorenflo et al., the research is there to prove that the areas labeled biological hotspots by UNESCO are the same areas with the most diversity in languages and culture. Click the map below to enlarge and see for yourself. Gorenflo et al.’s study is one of many proving this point.Linguistic_biological_diversitySo if biological diversity is ensured by cultural diversity, how could this translate to environmental organizations in the USA? Do I insulate myself from worrying about human diversity by working for an environmental organization? In a recent report headed by University of Michigan’s Dorceta Taylor, PhD titled State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations, the numbers are pretty clear that even environmental organizations dedicated to both people and the environment are dismally mono-cultured.

TRG-001_Web-Scroll_0727_10A mono-culture is never a sustainable template for biodiversity let alone business stability or social balance.

TRG-001_Web-Scroll_0727_08Not too long ago, I was tabling for the WCC at a job fair and watched a prospective worker a few tables down from us receive laughter in inquiring about an environmental biology positions for a environmental consultant firm dedicated to energy companies in Wyoming. She watched the male in front of her have an engaging 15 minute conversation with the potential employer. When it was her turn to step up after the young male, she found laughter in asking to hear about the same position. Working through the off putting laughter, she went into her rehearsed spiel about why she was interested in the position when she was interrupted after she said “I have a degree in environmental biology.” He interjected with a the snide question of “how is that workin’ out for yeah?” I wish I was making this up. While women are increasing in numbers and ratios for bigger and better jobs in the workforce, almost 77% of presidents in environmental organizations are male and 71% board members for these organizations are male too. After looking at the numbers given by the Taylor report, this conversation we are having now is not happening enough. Last night for our 4950 Leadership in Natural Resources class, our crew leaders had a fruitful discussion about race and gender both abstractly and as it relates to our positions as AmeriCorps, a conservation organization, and a youth program.

The WCC does a good job but like nearly all conservation corps, we have a long way to go. The WCC is almost 50/50 male to female but all Caucasian. We are not alone, most conservation corps function this way but this is changing. In a press release by the Corps Network highlighting a statement by Sally Jewel, former CEO of Recreation Equipment Incorporated (REI) now US secretary of the Interior, she mentions the pressing need to have our public lands be represented by the people who represent this country. In other words, the USA is a melting pot of cultures and races yet our public lands seem to boast little proof of this.

America’s conservation corps are a vital puzzle piece to incorporating more diversity in environmental organizations and the workforce in general.

Our conservation corps are beginning to be one of the agents of change in this regard. We are recruiting more men and women of various backgrounds fit for the various jobs we do as youth conservation organizations. Programs like the WCC and the many other conservation corps in the country are acknowledging the issues and working toward Sally Jewel’s dream of our public lands representing the USA of today. We have to, the sustainability of our planet and our societies depends on getting as many people as possible interested in solving issues centered around climate change, social justice, food distribution, and water scarcity. Without a connection to green spaces, both wilderness and municipal parks or even backyards, our coming generations might have less drive to make these critical decisions related to climate and food. Our world depends on it. The WCC and Wyoming in general does a great job of making outdoor landscapes accessible to our public but we need more people to be doing our work.

Thanks for listening.

[Video] Sally Jewell Talks about 21st Century Conservation Service Corps in Live Chat

Last week as part of of her livechat in conjunction with National Public Lands Day, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell spent several minutes responding to a question about the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. She noted how members of the The Corps Network and SCA would play a role, but also talked about how given modern constraints and circumstances, the program would not have the same scope as the original CCC in terms of numbers.

Later on (at the 27:25 minute mark), Secretary Jewell also talked about making the workforce of Interior agencies more diverse, and how youth hires would eventually play a big role in this change once budgets allowed for more growth in staff at national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. 

You can watch the video by clicking on the photo above or by clicking here.

Boiler Plate: 
Last week as part of of her livechat in conjunction with National Public Lands Day, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell spent several minutes responding to a question about the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

Diversity: California Conservation Corps members discuss the need to see more people of color experiencing nature

Terry Johnson and Leonard Patton, two Corpsmembers from the California Conservation Corps, sit down with John Griffith of Totem Magic: Going MAD to discuss Outdoor Afro - an organization that focuses on getting people of color more involved in outdoor recreation and conservation. Both Corpsmembers talk about the habitat restoration projects they've been involved with, and talk about how much they've learned about nature since joining the Corps. Leonard talks about how his experience with California Conservation Corps has introduced him to many new species and has allowed him to see a kind of untamed nature he never knew existed.

Click the image above or click here to watch the video of the interivew.