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Polluted Water

Timeline: The environmental movement and diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice


This groundbreaking study provides some of the earliest data showing that race is correlated with exposure to environmental hazards. In particular, the study finds race to be the most significant variable associated with the location of commercial hazardous waste facilities, surpassing even socio-economic status.


The SouthWest Organizing Project delivers the letter to the “Group of 10.” The letter calls out the 10 largest environmental organizations on their inequitable practices and failure to be accountable to communities of color and low-income communities.

The letter criticizes the organizations for prioritizing environmental conservation over environmental and economic justice for people. It derides the organizations' lack of diversity among staff and boards. SWOP also makes specific demands of the Group of 10, including asking them to cease operating in communities of color until the organizations have hired leaders from those communities to consist of 35-40% of their staff.


The United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries releases Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty. This report updates and reflects on the original analysis on hazardous waste siting and race that was conducted in 1987.

The study analyzes 2000 Census data and employs new methodologies to find  “the conclusions are very much the same as they were in 1987.” Race continues to be highly correlated with hazardous waste siting, to an even greater degree than found previously. The report authors recommend NGOs take action to further environmental justice, including:

  • To increase foundation funding for environmental, economic, and climate justice.

  • To fund training for people of color to assume leadership roles in environmental fields. 

  • To adopt and work on the worst environmental justice test cases in the country.

  • To significantly increase diversity among staff and board. 

  • To engage in multiracial, multiethnic, cross-sector coalitions bringing together environmental justice groups with mainstream environmental groups, organized labor, faith based groups, and the scientific community. 


Green 2.0, self-described “watchdogs for inequality in the environmental sector,” launches with the report The State of Diversity in Environmental  Organizations.

The report examines demographic data from 191 conservation and preservation organizations, 74 government environmental agencies, and 28 environmental grantmaking foundations and finds: (1) organizations have made progress in gender diversity but men still occupy the highest positions of leadership and it is mostly white women who have gained power; and (2) racial minorities make up less than 16% of general staff and board across all organizations and less than 12% of leadership positions. There is still much work to be done.


PLOS Medicine publishes the study Carbon trading, co-pollutants, and environmental equity: Evidence from California’s cap-and-trade program (2011–2015), examining the impacts of California's pollution trading scheme.

The study finds that facilities emitting high quantities of greenhouse gasses and co-pollutants are more likely to be located in communities of color and low-income communities. Some facilities have increased emissions under the program and these facilities are located in already disadvantaged communities. Mainstream environmental organizations nonetheless continue to advocate for pollution trading schemes.


Green 2.0 releases the report Leaking Talent, How People of Color are Pushed Out of Environmental Organizations, which discusses factors affecting retention of BIPOC staff at environmental organizations.

The report highlights that BIPOC staff have lower levels of perceived fairness around development, evaluation, and promotion practices and, therefore, lower intent to stay than Whites. It provides recommendations for non-profits to increase retention.


A letter from a Black staffer who has resigned from Union of Concerned Scientists is widely circulated.

The letter describes the oppressive culture of the organization and how it failed to support and lift up Black employees.


It finds that racial minorities in the United States are exposed to disproportionately high levels of ambient fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) and that racial disparities persist across all income levels.


The Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Environmental Philanthropy (InDEEP) initiative publishes a report on the funding disparities between mainstream environmental and environmental justice organizations.

The report finds there is a $2.7 billion funding gap between White-led and BIPOC-led environmental and conservation organizations.


Politico publishes an article exposing the toxic culture that is all too common at Big Greens.

The article details the inner turmoil at Defenders of Wildlife where employees are silenced and threatened for speaking out about the lack of inclusivity and psychological safety.

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