Diversifying Mainstream Environmental Groups Is Not Enough

by Robert D. Bullard and Robert García
NRPA (National Recreation & Parks Association) Parks & Recreation Magazine
Social Equity 2015 – 07 – 01

Transformational change is necessary to attain the world we seek and to modernize the environmental, climate and health movement. People of color and low-income people support environmental protection at a higher rate than non-Hispanic whites, but they are disproportionately harmed by environmental, climate and health impacts. Mainstream environmental nonprofits, foundations and government officials are not adequately engaging these communities and the groups that represent them. The most important thing grant makers can do is to provide unrestricted, long-term support to grassroots organizing groups that are pushing for racial and ethnic justice. The most important thing mainstream nonprofits can do is to comply with civil rights and environmental justice laws. We agree with Green 2.0, an initiative dedicated to increasing racial diversity across mainstream environmental NGOs, foundations and government agencies, on the need to diversify the boards and staffs of mainstream organizations. However, diversifying the mainstream groups is not enough.

According to Green 2.0, people of color make up 36 percent of the U.S. population, but they have not broken the 16 percent “green ceiling” in mainstream environmental organizations. The numbers are much lower on boards and in leadership positions, despite decades of calls for diversity.

Strategic foundation support has enabled the success of the environmental justice movement. Yet, the movement is still underfunded after three decades of proven victories. Constrained funding has made it difficult to build organizational infrastructure, community organizing, leadership development and effective participation in the policy and legal arena. Reliable, predictable and flexible multiyear core support for environmental justice, health and racial equity organizations is necessary for them to carry out their mission, respond to new challenges and opportunities, and serve the community.

There are structural obstacles to funding environmental justice and civil rights compliance. Studies show that the more committed a foundation is to the environment, the less likely it is to fund social justice. Foundations should invest at least 25 percent of their funds with communities of color and low-income communities, building on the civil rights movement to advance social justice through advocacy and organizing for structural change.

Recent articles conclude that mainstream organizations exacerbate, rather than alleviate, disparities in green access and funding in Southern California. Public and nonprofit expenditures are most strongly associated with race and ethnicity after controlling for population size. This reproduces disparities in health and park access, and makes it harder for organizations that work with underserved communities to get the job done.

Some mainstream environmental nonprofits commonly receive federal funding. Those that do must comply with civil rights and environmental justice laws and principles that prohibit intentional discrimination and unjustified discriminatory impacts, regardless of intent. Funding agencies should ensure compliance plans are developed, implemented and monitored to distribute equitably the benefits and burdens of environmental, climate and health policies and programs, and to guard against intentional discrimination and unjustified discriminatory impacts. Avenues for compliance include planning, data collection and analyses, review of funding applications, contractual assurances of compliance by recipients, self-evaluations and reviews, and termination or deferral of funding. Civil rights laws include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Affordable Care Act section 1557, the President’s Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice and health, and parallel state laws.

Environmental justice groups have been vital to the greening of Southern California during the past 15 years, for example. But, mainstream environmentalists receive vastly more funding, and many more are in a gold rush to open offices here to get funding from greening the Los Angeles River, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and other projects. The risk is they will snatch up money and staff, take the credit, and drive out grassroots groups that make change possible. This is like the South after desegregation beginning in the late 1960s. When people were free to shop at white-owned or black-owned businesses, they generally shopped at white-owned stores and drove black-owned establishments out of business because of years of “internalized oppression” and the idea that “the white man’s ice is colder.” We do not want to repeat this sorry history with a diversity strategy focused solely on “integrating” people of color into white groups.

The civil rights revolution is based on multiple strategies to promote human dignity, equal access to public resources and just democracy, and to overcome discrimination. The civil rights revolution includes advocates in and out of court, decisions by courageous courts, grassroots organizing, legislation, action by the president, implementation by administrative agencies and people providing a mandate for civil rights through the right to vote.

We look forward to working with Green 2.0 to diversify mainstream organizations, diversify funding and ensure compliance with civil rights laws and principles. Working together, we can ensure that all shades of green are included in our environmental movement going forward.

Robert D. Bullard is the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston. Robert García is the Founding Director and Counsel of The City Project, a nonprofit environmental justice and civil rights organization based in Los Angeles.

This column is available online or as an eZine and in the hard copy edition of NRPA’s Parks & Recreation Magazine (July 2015).


Robert García and Ariel Collins, Celebrate The Civil Rights Revolution: The Struggle Continues (The City Project Policy Report 2014)

Robert García and Ariel Collins, Climate Is a Civil Rights Issue as well as a Health, Economic, and Environmental Issue (The City Project Policy Brief 2014)

Michael Rodriguez, MD, MPH; Marc Brenman; Marianne Engelman Lado, JD; and Robert García, JD, Using Civil Rights Tools to Address Health Disparities (The City Project Policy Report 2014)

Sarah Hansen, Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders (National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy 2012)

Theda Skopcol, Naming the Problem: What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight against Global Warming, Prepared for the Symposium on the Politics of America’s Fight Against Global Warming (Jan. 2013)

P. Joassart-Marcelli et al., “Building the Healthy City: The Role of Non-profits in Creating Active Urban Parks,” 32 Urban Geography 682 (2011)

P. Joassart-Marcelli, “Leveling the Playing Field? Urban disparities in funding for local parks and recreation in the Los Angeles region” 42(5) 1174 Environment and Planning (2010)

Gavin Wright, Sharing the Prize: The Economics of the Civil Rights Revolution in the American South (2013)

See the statement by a diverse and growing alliance of environmental justice leaders, including Theresa Baker, African American National Parks Event; Anahuak Youth Sports Association; Dr. Robert D. Bullard; Robert García and The City Project; Randy Jurado Ertll,  CLEAN (California Latino Environmental Advocacy Network), Audrey Peterman, Earthwise Productions; Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; Rue Mapp, Outdoor Afro; Marc Brenman, Social Justice Consultancy.


Incentives Of Up To $12,000 In California To Get Low-Income People To Upgrade To Fuel-Efficient Cars From Gas Hogs

June 18th, 2015 by

Those living in certain parts of the state of California who qualify as low-income residents and have an old gas hog that pollutes heavily will now have the option of receiving up to $12,000 in subsidies to replace their old vehicle and purchase a cleaner, fuel-efficient vehicle, according to recent reports.

In cooperation with the California Air Resources Board, officials will be providing locals in the Greater Los Angeles and San Joaquin Valley areas with the sliding-scale retire-and-replace initiative. As one can no doubt guess considering the words “sliding-scale,” higher incentives are available to lower-income people/families than to higher-income ones.


While purchases of new fuel-efficient gas-powered cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), and battery-electric vehicles (EVs) are all supported, the highest incentives will be provided to those who go fully electric.

Also worth noting here is that those who wish to get rid of their old car and use public transportation instead can receive several thousand dollars worth of incentives as well.

Here’s a brief overview of what’s on offer (via Green Car Congress):

  • Low Income (≤ 225% of the federal poverty level, FPL) — Buyers in this income level who replace a scrapped car with a conventional hybrid car (eg Toyota Prius) that is less than 8 years old that gets 20 mpg or greater, are eligible for $6,500 in incentives. If the replacement car gets 35 mpg or greater (Toyota Prius or Honda Insight), that goes up to $7,000. A plug-in hybrid (eg Chevy Volt), or an electric car (eg Nissan Leaf) receives $9,500. Lower-income consumers who would like to replace their dirty cars with more fuel efficient conventional cars would still qualify to receive up to $4,500.
  • In addition, up to $2,000 for a charging unit at a single residence or multi-unit dwelling is available for the purchase of battery electric cars. In the case of either a brand new plug-in hybrid or electric car, buyers receive an additional $1,500 and $2,500, respectively, from a separate program, known as the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project.
  • Moderate Income (226% – 300% of FPL) — Buyers who replace a scrapped car with a conventional hybrid model that gets 35 mpg or greater receive $5,000, rising to $7,500 for a plug-in hybrid or electric car. (In addition, buyers can receive up to $2,000 for a charging unit for battery electric cars, and if those are brand new cars, an additional $1,500 or $2,500, respectively.)
  • Above Moderate Income (301% – 400% of federal poverty level) — Buyers who replace a scrapped car with a plug-in hybrid or electric car receive $5,500—which includes an additional incentive of up to $2,000 for the charging unit for battery electric cars, and an additional $1,500 or $2,500, respectively, if they are brand new.

Further incentives for the purchase of hybrids, PHEVs, and EVs are also on offer for low-income recipients who live in a “disadvantaged census tract.”

Go To Original Article HERE


June 22, 2015 5:10 pm Leave a Comment


Image from Richard Masoner: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/3270467253/in/photostream/

Americans have been driving less every year since 2007. This shift has been accompanied by regional and local planning efforts that are increasingly focused on giving residents transportation options that go beyond the automobile. There has been lots of positive momentum around transit expansion, planning for complete streets, and adopting initiatives aimed at making streets safer for people who ride bikes and walk. As planners, advocates, and their allies continue to make major multi-modal policy wins, groups are now focusing on the next big challenge. How do we translate successful experiments and policies at the local level to scalable interventions with adequate, sustainable funding? And how do we ensure that these interventions are implemented in a manner that reduces the systemic inequalities that characterize our existing transportation network?

At the local level, we’ve seen a number of plans and initiatives that have pursued multi-modal and active transportation investments. In California alone, local revenues accounted for “nearly half of the $20 billion spent on transportation” during the 2005-06 fiscal year. Following Sweden and New York’s lead, San Francisco was an early adopter of the Vision Zero campaign. The initiative envisions zero fatalities or injuries related to traffic accidents through improved street design, increased education, and enhanced enforcement of safety laws. San Jose recently adopted a similar plan and Los Angeles is considering committing to Vision Zero as part of the city’s multi-modal Mobility Plan 2035. In addition, cities across the state are adopting plans that aim to increase the share of cyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets. In LA, the city’s Sustainable City Plan aims to have these trips represent 35 percent of all trips by 2025.

So there’s a lot of momentum and planning afoot, with much of the innovation bubbling up from the local level. What seems to be missing from the equation, however, is a consistent pool of adequate funding to implement these multi-modal projects. Although 20 percent of California trips are made on foot or by bicycle, the state’s preeminent source to finance active transportation projects, the aptly named Active Transportation Program, represents just one percent of the Caltrans’ annual budget. The fund provides $300 million biannually, but due to its popularity, more than $800 million worth of projects were left unfunded during the last round. And, although local taxpayers are willing to pitch in to expand transit, the federal investments in transit continues to make up just 20 percent of total spending on surface transportation, even as people are driving less and in spite of steadily increasing transit ridership.

While the prospect of significantly increasing funding at the federal level isbleak, California’s cap-and-trade program represents a sustainable (and growing) revenue source to fund transit operations as well as capital projects. And even though the Active Transportation Program’s funding isn’t being augmented, Caltrans has pledged to adopt “new transportation funding programs to strengthen leadership in multimodal transportation.” (Perhaps the 2014 report that criticized the state agency as “out of step” with best practices has forced the organization to undergo some bureaucratic soul-searching.)

Finally, as we continue to implement projects and enact policies, let’s ensure that multi-modal transportation investments reduce inequities rather than perpetuate them. Policies like Vision Zero rely on enforcement to ensure that all road users are safe. But selective enforcement and efforts to place the onus of safety on the most vulnerable road users only serve to discourage active transportation and foster resentment between law enforcement and the communities they’re supposed to protect. Likewise, we need to critically examine who benefits most from new public transit investments. The sales taxes used to finance these methods tend to affect low-income taxpayers more acutely, but the benefits created by many new transit projects disproportionately accrue to more affluent individuals.

As we move toward a more multi-modal future, it’s encouraging to see that policies and programs are gaining traction. And, at least at the state level, there’s positive momentum to identify and secure sustainable funding sources to advance these types of projects. Let’s be sure that as we implement these projects we add value by ensuring that the benefits of a more robust transportation network accrue to the communities that need it most.