In times of pain, many people turn to nature to find solace. Listening to the wind rustling in the trees, being mesmerized by ocean waves, or smiling at the wonder of birds singing, evokes a calm we crave, especially when faced with adversity. But the privilege of access to nature is not universal, and as recent events have again illuminated, neither is the privilege of safety in neighborhoods or equal treatment under the law. Sadly, many of us find ourselves protesting in city streets rather than enjoying the natural world around us right now.
The stunning unrest sweeping the country this week is in direct response to the systemic racism that persists in the United States. When people of color cannot walk, drive, jog, or birdwatch freely in the communities – where we all live – how can our natural spaces ever deliver benefits equally for all? In the wake of the senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many others in a continued pattern of violence toward people of color, Defenders of Wildlife will not be silent.
For almost 75 years, we have been unwavering defenders of wildlife and wild places. We fight for the vulnerable, the threatened and endangered. We’re in the courts, on Capitol Hill, in the field and alongside partners to drive positive change for nature. But acts of racism and violence put people’s lives at risk, including our staff, and threaten our mission of creating a place where wildlife and people coexist and thrive.
This week, some have asked us why a wildlife conservation organization is getting involved. Our answer is simple. When injustice prevails — whether it is police brutality or confrontations in a city park — it threatens the public interest and everyone who works to advance it. If civil society isn’t safe, functional, fair, and accessible to everybody, it won’t work for anybody. Without justice, there will not be peace, and without peace, there will not be progress. We will do our part to advocate for the positive change we want to see in the world and we urge every person and every organization in the country to do the same. Now more than ever, we are in this together.
We have much work to do to combat racism. At Defenders, we know that showing solidarity with marginalized communities is not nearly enough. We are listening. We are learning every day. We are committed to active anti-racist practices and doing what we can to ensure a safe and healthy future for all of us. We vigorously condemn all forms of discrimination, violence, bigotry and hatred in our society. Injustice that affects any one of us affects all of us.