I thought it was particularly interesting that Emily Enderle (2007) identifies how fundamental diversity is to the strength and success of any environmental community, and yet many environmentalists appear to be reluctant to apply these basic principles of ecology to their own organizations (228). To me this suggests that for many environmentalists, the humanist divide between humans and the environment extends to imposing one set of standards for strength on the environment, and another on human communities. By failing to see human organizations as no different to ecological communities, these environmentalists are risking the success of environmental endeavours.
It is equally interesting the way in which Richard Brewer (2003) extends this observation to other aspects of human life and culture as well. In identifying the inattention paid to, for example, diversity in human habitats and diet (269), Brewer reinscribes human culture as an ecosystem like any other, and suggests that the overall health and survival of our species at a biological and evolutionary level may be compromised by a lack of diversity.
A key question raised by these two texts, however, is how the cultural biases that stand in the way of diversity might be overcome. As Brewer (2003) identifies in his discussion of the diversity in local land trusts, diversity stems in part from environments, but also in part from cultural and social aspects. In my opinion, commercialization, commodification and globalization all play a key role in making people resistant to cultural and social changes, including those that might support greater diversity. In the example given by Brewer (2003) of interstate fast-food outlets, for instance, it would be necessary to overcome complex webs of supply and demand in order to diversify the food products offered. Standardized food is simply cheaper and more profitable to produce, and it makes consumer expectation easier to manage. Unfortunately, standardization permeates society to such an extent that environmental initiatives often attempt a similar one-size-fits all approach which, as Brewer (2003) discusses, is rarely the ideal solution for any ecosystem.
A further question raised by these texts is how the language used in environmental studies might inadvertently contribute to the idea that humans are not a part of ecological communities, but instead are something different. Just as Enderle (2007) explicitly uses the language of ecology to discuss human diversity, many beginner scientific texts in contrast actually reinforce the idea of a separation of humans from nature, discussing nature as something external, separate, and observable. It is therefore important to ask whether diversity can ever be achieved without first addressing the way in which language seeks to divide, categorize, and separate humans.
One final question raised by these readings is whether humans beings are in fact capable of a comprehensive effort to protect the environment when the human population is itself lacking in an overall commitment to this project. The focus on diversity in both of these readings suggests that environmentalism might be the project only of a select elite within human communities, and that the competing concerns and interests of other groups within human communities are a key hindrance to the success of environmental projects. Diversity, therefore, would add not only the range of perspectives discussed by Enderle (2007), but also an overall reduction of resistance to the environmental movement by including more interests within the environmental cause.
Both readings, therefore, raised a number of interesting ideas about environmental studies and diversity. Further research would be valuable into the role of language in the environmental movement, the cultural constraints on human diversity, and the standardization of environmental projects other than land trusts. Such further research would provide greater insight into the issue of diversity in environmental movements.
- Brewer, Richard. 2003. Conservancy: The Land Trust Movement in America. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England.
- Enderle, Emily. 2007. “Action: The Next Step Toward Achieving Diversity and Inclusivity in the U.S. Environmental Movement.” In Diversity and the Future of the U.S. Environmental Movement, edited by Emily Enderle, 227-244. New Haven, CT: Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.