Who We Are

Mission & Vision

The Center for Diversity & the Environment centers the power of racial and ethnic diversity to transform the US environmental movement by developing leaders, catalyzing change within institutions and building alliances. We envision a healthy, flourishing planet and society that sustainably and equitably meets the needs of all through an environmental movement that is diverse, inclusive, successful, vibrant and relevant, taking into account the needs, perspectives and voices of all.

Each year, racial diversity in the United States increases. By 2045, Indigenous, Black and People of Color will make up more than 50% of the U.S. population. In 2019, for the first time, more than half of the nation’s population under age 16 identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Despite these shifting demographics, the mainstream environmental movement continues to see representation of Indigenous, Black and People of Color languish, though trends moved upward since 2018. The U.S. environmental movement continues to center a Western, white-dominated worldview and approach toward nature and conservation, even while communities of color experience the worst environmental harms at alarmingly disproportionate rates.

A core part of CDE’s mission is to both diversify the movement as well as shift long-held cultures of practice to reflect the expertise and diverse backgrounds and methodologies of new leadership. While it takes concerted effort to change, we believe it can be done — and environmental, industry, and philanthropic leaders have a strong role to play in this transformation.

Our Roots

Center for Diversity & the Environment grew out of the belief that everyone has a place in the environmental movement. We build bridges between communities of color, long excluded from mainstream environmentalism, and the white-led environmental community that has traditionally acted as gatekeeper to policy tables and philanthropic institutions. Our aim is to foster a fundamental revolution of the environmental movement into an equitable, inclusive and diverse coalition of people at work on a wide array of intersecting environmental issues.

CDE formed in 2008 as a result of three community forums in Portland, Oregon that brought together Indigenous, Black and Communities of Color, social and environmental justice representatives, upstream public health advocates, and conservation and environmental groups to address the persistent lack of racial equity within the mainstream environmental movement. The forums identified a need for a lead entity to work with environmental and conservation organizations to prioritize equity and racial justice. CDE was born from this recommendation, with Marcelo Bonta and Queta González as the organization’s first co-leaders. Since then, we have worked across the environmental movement to support people of diverse backgrounds and identities to engage in coalition building. CDE was founded and continues to be led by Indigenous, Black and People of Color.