Green groups confront their whiteness

Green groups confront their whiteness

Just after Hurricane Katrina hit, Burt Edwards recalls how co-workers at his Washington, D.C., environmental nonprofit thought it was a great opportunity to send out messages about climate change.

As the only person of color in the room, he had to disagree.

“At that point, people were still on their roofs (after the flooding), waiting for help,” says Edwards, who is African-American. “This was the wrong time to be talking about it. If we pushed this out, this to me would reinforce a lot of the worst stereotypes of the environmental community.”

His co-workers held off. “It just didn’t occur to them,” says Edwards, who moved to Oregon two months ago to become communications director for Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

The staffs of environmental nonprofits still aren’t very diverse, and not just in Portland.