Diverse Environmental Leaders Bring Hope For A Paradigm Shift

"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences."             -- Audre Lorde


Greater wildlife and plant biodiversity in the natural world creates stronger and more resilient responses to stresses in an ecosystem. Humans are a part of the natural world; with more diverse people involved in environmental work comes more creative responses to ecosystem needs.

I’ve written before about my hope for exponentially more diverse advocates for the natural world, inspired especially by Dr. J. Drew Lanham. Lanham is a terrific ambassador to connect more people to the natural world while also recognizing the empowerment shared by people with similar cultural experiences. Reflecting this hope, Angelou Ezeilo has written a new book with strategies to move diversity forward in environmental work. Her book is titled Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders, opens a new window. Angelou Ezeilo shares expertise as the Founder and CEO of Greening Youth Foundation (GYF). GYF has connected more than 25,000 diverse children and young adults in environmental curriculum and career paths, from 3rd grade elementary students to college internships in national parks and outdoor retailers, since they began in 2008.

The optimism and practical knowledge Angelou Ezeilo presents in this book is insightful and necessary. She shares personal and professional stories of connecting and advocating for the natural world and dispels society's mythology that people of color are not connected or concerned with our environment. Ezeilo also reveals wisdom such as effective mentoring with youth of color requires culturally relevant curriculum as well as role models of color to help kids to visualize themselves doing similar work when they grow up. The wealth of resources in appendixes of the book includes environmental organizations led by people of color, historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities. Haskell Indian Nations University is included in an appendix with different American Indian tribal colleges and universities.

Thanks to the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund, I’m grateful to announce Angelou Ezeilo will speak in Lawrence! I hope you will join us to welcome and learn more from this trailblazer in environmental advocacy. Find out more about Angelou Ezeilo’s presentation on February 20th via this link, opens a new window.


Books by Angelou Ezeilo, J. Drew Lanham and more authors of color who write about a sense of place and intersections of environmental and social justice are linked in this reading list, opens a new window.

If you missed J. Drew Lanham’s Lawrence visit in May 2018, use this link to view his charismatic and provocative talk, opens a new window. Dr. Lanham is an ornithologist and lyrical poet who uses wise wit to connect land ethics with social justice to move the work of both causes forward. His first book is The Home Place: Memoirs of A Colored Man's Love Affair With Nature.

Another note regarding environmental justice, recommended assistance for survivors of recent climate-related disasters may be found at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, disasterphilanthropy.org, opens a new window.


My gratitude to Angelou Ezeilo and New Society Publishers for providing a pre-press proof of the book Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders.

Link to the Greening Youth Foundation Facebook page here, opens a new window.

Cover image photo courtesy of Greening Youth Foundation.

Kudos to everyone at the Raven Book Store for super friendly assistance!

-Shirley Braunlich is a Readers’ Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.