When we picture people enjoying the natural world, for example, by surfing, hiking, rock climbing, or even biking along trails, what kind of person comes to mind?
More often than not, in advertising and the media, the image we see is of someone who is super athletic, muscular, tanned — and most likely young, male, and white.
With this image floating around in everyone’s subconsciousness, it’s not hard to see why environmentalists have a tough time getting people engaged. With a stagnant economy and rising food prices, people ask why they should even care whether their vegetables have been sprayed with chemicals.
But the green movement isn’t really about the trees and mountains. It’s ultimately about people. The two Pioneers in Social Entrepreneurship featured in this issue, Yale Wong and Kelly Ogilvie, can attest to that. Both men are working hard to change the way we use fuel and where we get our fuel. Greener fuel sources are not just good for the natural world, but as both pointed out, they reduce our dependency on foreign oil. Self-sufficiency will, eventually, affect our pocketbooks for the better. Here, environmentalism is tied to the economy.
Dr. Ngozi Oleru said something really powerful during the recent Women of Color Empowered Luncheon. She made the connection between humans and the environment by saying that she can tell how healthy a person is, how long they will live, and how long their children will live, based solely on their zip code.
Low-income populations that live in the outlying industrial areas of Seattle suffer most from their environment, for example, and these communities are made up primarily of people of color. Therefore, the environment is also intimately linked to ethnicity, race, and social status.
These connections might seem like a bit of a stretch to some who still see the green movement as being about inanimate objects, but that’s why it’s important for us to keep educating and informing people.
Undoubtedly, when Blue Marble and General Biodiesel were just burgeoning ideas in the heads of Ogilvie and Wong, a lot of people told Ogilvie and Wong that they were completely crazy. How can a car possibly run on vegetable oil or algae?
It’s taken a little bit of time and some urging, but now, with their success so apparent, it’s hard to call these guys crazy. We need to create that same pioneering spirit in ourselves.
As Amanda Bruner pointed out at the luncheon, when we picture an environmentalist, we tend to see a white, tie-dyed tree-hugger in Birkenstocks.
But this is a stereotype. Environmentalists come in all shapes and sizes, so to speak. They are of different ethnicities, and many are quite fashionable, as evidenced by our Women of Color honorees. All of us can be environmentalists, and we all should be, because what happens to our surroundings ultimately affects our friends, our family, and ourselves. (end)