Thursday, May 1, 2014

#SSEC14 Day 2: What Will It Take to ‘Save’ the Salish Sea?

“Shared responsibility,” “science informing policy,” “an educated public,” “citizen science”.... Clearly there isn’t going to be one silver bullet that will take us into a future where the Salish Sea is restored and protected. One reason to have a conference like the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference  is to identify what’s working, what’s not, and where gaps in strategy and tactics are.

Western Washington University and conference organizers have done a great job this year. I’ve sat through plenary speeches and presentations but have been haunted by Western’s president’s Bruce Shepard’s bold words coming back to me. Shepard said, “" ... if in decades ahead, we are as white as we are today, we will have failed as a university."

Ignore for awhile the yahoo responses to his well-considered admonishment and think about how what he said applies to conferences like this in the quest to ‘Save’ the Salish Sea.

The men and women, scientists, students, activists and government staff here are talented, smart and enthusiastic. But where is the racial diversity that reflects the changing demographic of the Salish Sea?

The lack of diversity in the environmental movement is something that, over the years, we talk about, wring our hands about and in most cases throw up our hands in frustration.

The issue, of course, is that the future complexion of the region will be changing and unless the complexion of the people who are working to “Save” the Salish Sea changes to reflect those changes, we will have failed.

We can’t wait and expect the ‘people of color’ to come and join us. President Shepard understands that. Smart companies have their eyes out for budding engineers; successful sport teams are on the lookout for star prospects. It’s called recruitment and nurturing the future talent. It’s what President Shepard is talking about.

Maybe it’s like being the skunk at this fine party but I’ll raise the issue for the planners of the next conference. How about some presentation tracks and candid discussion that address straight on the issue of diversity in our ‘shared responsibility’ to ‘save’ the Salish Sea?

--Mike Sato

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