Equity is Not Somebody Else's Problem

The violent events of the past week (and frankly the past months) have left our country reeling. This suffering and senseless violence against the backdrop of the growing wave of hate speech, divisiveness and bigotry that has become commonplace, is even more disturbing. Despite this, I refuse to be disheartened.

Our hearts ache for the families, friends and communities of those who lost their lives. We mourn the victims of excessive and senseless police violence, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile; the police officers who lost their lives protecting others, Brent Thompson, Lorne Ahrens, Michael J. Smith, Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa; the dozens who died in Orlando.

Prior to entering the environmental movement over 15 years ago, I was a public defender. I saw the deep flaws of our criminal justice system first hand. I met police officers who cared deeply for the communities they policed, and those who could have done much better. In the end, it was clear that we have a lot of work to do. As an attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council, it was soon clear to me that even where our environment is concerned, injustice and inequality--persists. Just about anywhere we look--despite decades of tireless work by so many, our struggles with inequality and discrimination are far too present.

I have spent decades working to promote diversity in the environmental movement  ( a movement that still has a way to go towards reflecting the diverse demographics of our country), and I don't intend to stop. Because while it may seem challenging to achieve diversity and justice on a larger scale, we cannot be deterred. Because as in our ecosystems, in our society, diversity is our strength.

The discrimination and racial injustice that has sparked our outrage is an urgent call to action for us all. The black community has seen far too much suffering based on race. Discrimination against Latinos continues to grow. Hate is hurled left and right towards the LGBTQ community, Muslims, Native Americans, Asians, women, all with the goal of creating separation, to make those in the minority feel less than and somehow a threat dividing our already great country and spreading anger and fear.

But this is not somebody else's problem. We must all do our share and play our role in solving this problem. Only by acting with respect and understanding for our fellow men and women -- regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, gender or sexual orientation -- can we shift this tide. If we can't respect each other, how will we respect our planet, our resources?

Let's take to the streets, let's march and demand change but let's not forget that It's on all of us to be the change we want to see starting with our words, in our homes, in our hearts.