Why Racism, Equity, & Justice Are Part of the Conservation Equation


These are unprecedented times. I know these have been some of the most uncomfortable and emotionally taxing weeks for many of us, myself included. 

There is a heightened collective consciousness that, for me, has been enlightening, and more than anything else – believe it or not – encouraging. There are communities from all walks of life, all around the globe uniting around a common cause: Equity. 

As the head of the Roots & Shoots USA program with tens of thousands of young people who look regularly to us to be a voice in the quest for compassionate leadership, I am so proud that it was the voice of our young people who spoke the loudest. I have been so personally humbled by the outpouring of desire for knowledge, compassion, and action primarily led by the will and passion of our Roots & Shoots network.

Like Jane, I am known to advocate that there is little hope for nature, conservation, oceans, chimpanzees, and other species, if people’s basic needs aren’t met. Why would anyone want to think about habitats and ecosystems in Tanzania, Brazil, or the United States if people are not safe in their own community, not able to get a quality education or clean water, not able to provide for their family in the same ways, not able to walk out their door and simply exist in the same ways? This is why racism, equality, equity, and justice are very much part of the conservation equation. It is why sustainable livelihoods and advocacy are core components of our approach and work globally. The systems (both structural and subconscious, macro and micro) that allow horrific events to happen in Missouri and Baltimore and Sanford and Louisville and St. Anthony and Brunswick and Cleveland and Flint and Central Park are similar in ways to the systems that allow horrific events to happen in communities and in environments around the globe.

Right now in the United States, and around the world, people are shining a spotlight on injustice and racism…while in the midst of a global pandemic. And there is a coalition of people across sectors speaking out, as they should be. Humanitarian issues are environmental issues. It is all interconnected. All of it.

The way I see it, this is a tremendous opportunity for growth and action. I am so proud of all of you and the work you are doing around these important issues at hand and others.

So, Roots & Shoots members, let’s do what we do best and continue to get to work for the sake of people, other animals, and the environment we all share.

About Author

Kamilah Martin is the U.S. Vice President of the Jane Goodall Institute’s international youth program, Roots & Shoots, where young people are empowered and supported to use the gift of their lives to make a positive difference in the world for people, animals, and the environment. Kamilah brings to this role 15 years of experience in program and organizational development, education, and philanthropy. She earned a Master’s in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management. Kamilah has spoken to audiences all over the world, from the United Nations in New York City to the Global Student Leaders Summit in Costa Rica to virtual seminars that reach Australia and Ghana. She is in her happiest place when she is experiencing the beauty and peace of nature or supporting people, especially young people, in reaching their fullest potential.