Getting More Minorities Involved In Environmental Programs

Oct 17, 2018

Using gill nets on the Kalamazoo River for a sturgeon restocking program that involves Native Americans
Credit WMUK-FM

The Kalamazoo Nature Center is pushing to diversify its programs. That effort including a public presentation by a Michigan professor who’s studied the involvement of minorities in environmental issues and programs.


Dorceta Taylor says people of color are underrepresented in environmental programs and teaching about the environment. Taylor, who grew up in Jamaica, says she’s been interested in environmental studies her whole life. Taylor says she was surprised to see how few nature centers and other outdoor activities market themselves to people of color.

Professor Dorceta Taylor, speaking at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Kalamazoo in October 2018
Credit William Edgerton / WMUK-FM

“Nobody bothers to tell children in the Caribbean, or in Africa, or in Asia, or Latin America that because they’re not white they shouldn’t do environment.”

Taylor says if environmental programs taught people about historical figures like Phillis Wheatley, an African-American poet who wrote about the environment, more minorities would become involved. Taylor says teaching people about the various groups that created or lived in places like national parks would help too.

“We tend to take people out of these spaces. So we understand the birds, we understand the wildlife, we understand the trees, we understand the nutrient cycle. What we don’t understand very well is how those things are related to our culture.”

Taylor says interest in the environment among minorities is already there, “All of us can work together to really protect air, water, trees, land, and natural spaces. That we can have these things as we move forward.”

Taylor is an environmental sociologist. She is the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability.

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