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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Bringing diversity to nature: Politicizing gender, race and class in environmental organizations?

Arora-Jonsson, Seema; Ågren, Mia

Abstract

Environmental organizations play an important role in mainstream debates on nature and in shaping our environments. At a time when environmental NGOs are turning to questions of gender-equality and ethnic diversity, we analyze their possibilities to do so. We argue that attempts at ethnic and cultural diversity in environmental organizations cannot be understood without insight into the conceptualizations of nature and the environment that underpin thinking within the organization. Serious attempts at diversity entail confronting some of the core values on nature-cultures driving the organization as well as understanding the dimensions of power such as class, gender, and race that structure its practices. We study what nature means for one such organization, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, and the ways in which thinking about nature dictates organizational practice and sets the boundaries of their work with diversity in their projects on outdoor recreation. We base our analysis on official documents and interviews, analyze how ‘‘diversity’’ and ‘‘gender-equality’’ are represented in the material and reflect on the interconnections as well as the different trajectories taken by the two issues. Our study shows that the organization’s understanding of nature is a central and yet undiscussed determinant of their work with diversity that closes down as much as it opens up the space for greater inclusion of minorities. We argue that for environmental organizations wanting to diversity membership, a discussion of what nature means for people and their relationships to each other and nature is vital to any such efforts.

Keywords

diversity; gender; class; environmental organizations; whiteness; environmental justice

Published in

Environment and planning E: nature and space
2019, volume: 2, number: 4, pages: 874-898

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG5 Gender equality

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848619866381

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/103292