OPINION: Urge City Council to Support Green Pathways Fellowship Program

by Lavanya Madhusudan

There is an acute lack of representation of people of color in the green sector. According to the thoroughly researched Green 2.0 report, the percentage of minorities on the boards or general staff of environmental organizations in the US does not exceed 16 percent. Once hired in environmental organizations, ethnic minorities are concentrated in the lower ranks. As a result, ethnic minorities occupy less than 12 percent of leadership positions in the green sector.

In Seattle and South King County, people of color are most impacted by environmental issues and are already disproportionately bearing the effects of climate change. People of color know best the challenges they are facing, yet are being shut out of the green sector. This is greatly limiting the effectiveness of programs and policies to protect the environment and wellbeing of all Seattle residents. Proper representation of people of color in the green sector is crucial to secure the future of Seattle as environmental threats continue to increase and impact a larger proportion of residents.

Young people of color are facing many barriers to entry to meaningful careers in the green sector in Seattle, despite the fact that the sector is a thriving part of the Seattle metro area economy. Got Green’s Young Leaders Committee and Rainier Valley Corps (RVC) have developed a Green Pathways Fellowship Program to ensure that young people of color are able to progress beyond short-term internships and low-wage entry level opportunities towards living wage, meaningful careers in the green movement, culminating in leadership positions. This green pathways fellowship program is modeled after RVC’s Emerging Leaders of Color Fellowship Program, which trains leaders of color and places them at grassroots organizations led by communities of color, building the next generation of nonprofit leaders while increasing resources going to grassroots organizations. The Green Pathways Fellowship will include leadership development during and beyond the duration of the fellowship to support fellows’ long-term career success in the green sector.

The Green Pathways Fellowship is:

  • A concrete investment in the next generation of environmental leaders in Seattle;
  • A strong strategy that aligns with and advances the City’s Equity and Environment Initiative goals; and
  • An opportunity for Seattle to “walk the walk” and live up to its reputation as a City that celebrates diversity and invests in equity.

For these reasons, we are urging the City Council to allocate $164,000 in the 2019 City budget for the launch of the Green Pathways Fellowship Program. This investment will pay dividends not only for the young people of color who will participate in the fellowship, but for our City as a whole. Got Green’s Young Leaders and our allies will be testifying at the October 23rd budget hearing at City Hall to urge support for this budget request.

  • As of this writing, City Council just released their Balancing Package and it contains funding for the Green pathways Fellowship at the level of $100,000 per year.  
  • Councilmembers O’Brien, Sawant, Herbold, Johnson, and Mosqueda have all expressed support for this fellowship.
  • Please contact your Council members to urge or confirm their support for the City’s investment in the Green Pathways Fellowship Program at the $164,000 per year level!

Featured Image: Lavanya Madhusudan is a member of Got Green Young Leaders in the Green Movement Committee. (Photo courtesy Got Green.)

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