Our goal is to ensure inclusive and safe spaces for all who choose to participate in outdoor activities.
Our organization unequivocally condemns racist behavior and we promise:
- We will not tolerate or work with organizations that practice discrimination on any level.
- We will fight for an outdoors that is inclusive, accessible, and safe for everyone.
- We will work to change the cultural landscape of outdoor recreation & environmental education that has primarily benefited white, cisgender, and able-bodied people.
- We will push beyond including ‘underserved populations’ and strive to dismantle the systems of injustice that cause these inequalities.
- We will acknowledge indigenous land rights & values, and fight for reconciliation
- We will ensure our white volunteers & leaders check their privilege, speak out, and take action when they witness any form of injustice.
- We will continue to listen, acknowledge mistakes, learn, and do better.
Black Lives Matter.
We feel and see your grief, anger, and pain. We are collectively witnessing the continuation of hundreds of years of systemic racism and violence towards people of color at the hands of white colonization. Police violence remains unchecked and disproportionately affects black individuals and communities, in private and public spaces. Because of this, many of our outdoor places or environmental programs are unsafe for marginalized communities. Gathering the thoughts and words to speak to this is difficult; we also know that words can’t sufficiently capture the pain and loss that so many are feeling. For almost 50 years, AAEE has been striving to “engage our communities ecologically, socially, and civically” in the outdoors. We will continue working until all people are free of unwarranted suspicion, confrontation, and violence in the outdoors and in our communities.
Our Environmental Education goals are dependent upon the inseparable pursuit of social AND environmental justice; one cannot be accomplished without the other. Yet, here in Arizona, social injustices are a daily reality. Friends, colleagues, and allies–this is not a political issue, this is a human rights issue.
“I am outdoors. I can’t remain inside and in silence, waiting for people to make nature an inclusive environment. Myself and other people of color deserve to feel comfortable in nature and see ourselves represented in this field. I am not speaking on behalf of every person of color, but we can’t ignore that these experiences in nature are happening to most of us every day, whether we’re in nature or not.”
– Diona Williams, AAEE Board Member
As an organization devoted to supporting educators, we know the necessity of education to enact social change. As educators we must use this power to push for education and a future that is anti-racist, respects & celebrates the diverse ways people engage with outdoors, and ensures that everyone has equal access to nature. We must, and will, do better.
As you head outdoors, we encourage you to think deeply about how you are enjoying the space and how others are not afforded the same opportunity because of systemic racism. If we dream of a future where ALL feel welcome in the outdoors and the environmental movement, then we must start acknowledging and addressing these injustices today.
What are we doing right now?
- We are listening to our colleagues and our communities. We are doing our homework.
- We are supporting cultural affinity groups and donating to their organizations.
- We are amplifying the voices of people of color in our organization and our broader community. We will host another panel discussion at the 2021 conference and share the work that our colleagues from marginalized communities are doing.
- We are partnering with Arizona Master Naturalists and the USA National Phenology Network to conduct research projects to ensure that education, stewardship, and citizen science programs and spaces we occupy in Arizona are safe and welcoming for ALL people.
- We seek volunteers to assist us with this project. We have formalized the working group as an AAEE-sponsored equity and inclusion group to which our partners are invited.
What are we doing after that?
- Continuing to learn.
- Developing a justice resource page on our website.
- Creating a forum space for these conversations to continue.
- Forging partnerships with cultural affinity groups and supporting their organizations.
- Featuring the voices and stories of BIPOC in our blogs and on our podcast.
- Reworking our strategic plan to include equity and inclusion in all of our work.
- Creating and supporting a fundraising program to support the establishing a fellowship program for environmental educators from marginalized and BIPOC Communities.
- Continuing to respond to the needs of our community as we learn more.
A Land Acknowledgment, presented on a website, at the beginning of a class, public event, or gathering. It is a simple, powerful way of showing respect and ONE step toward correcting the stories and practices that erase Indigenous people’s history and culture and toward inviting and honoring the truth.
We acknowledge and honor the original homelands of all Indigenous people upon which our many communities in Arizona have been established. We recognize they have stewarded this land in since time immemorial. We remember their connection to this region and give thanks for the opportunity to live, work, learn and gather on their traditional homeland. We actively seek to build relationships with Indigenous communities to learn more about this place. To find out which native or Indigenous land you are on, please visit this website to learn more: https://native-land.ca/. Remember, acknowledging Indigenous communities is only the first step in building meaningful relationships. We must work to recognize the damage done by colonialism and ensure we do not uphold harmful practice.