Standing in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter


Standing in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

A Statement from the Staff of the Energy & Environment Program, Aspen High Seas Initiative and
Aspen K12 Climate Action Commission

As the staff of programs committed to creating a sustainable planet that supports all communities, the Aspen Institute Energy and Environment Program, the Aspen High Seas Initiative, and the Aspen K12 Climate Action Commission are redoubling our efforts to work actively against the structural racism that is woven into the history, culture, and practice of how this nation manages our shared land, ocean, air, water, food, and other life-sustaining systems to which we all have equal rights. The responsibility to rectify generations of exclusion and inequity falls not only on governments and the private sector, but also on environmental science and conservation organizations whose values we expect to align with equity and justice, but who too often still fail to put those values into practice.

We are outraged by the horrific murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, as well as all the incidents of violence and police brutality happening across the nation now in response to protests protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These flashpoints of injustice stand against the backdrop of months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a public health crisis that has further revealed the ever-present inequity in our economic, health care[1], housing, criminal justice, food, water and education systems. We also recognize the centuries of white supremacy and systemic oppression that make our stand against this most recent display of racism long overdue and inadequate.

While we acknowledge that words can be easy, expressing the philosophical and historical underpinnings of the specific actions to which we commit is important. To that end, we will start by pledging ourselves to the work of dismantling and disentangling the structural racism upon which our nation, our institutions, and our work was built. The Aspen Institute is an organization that benefits from tremendous privilege and influence, and as such we bear a particular responsibility to serve as a model of best practices and commit to specific actions for which we must be held accountable.

People often approach climate change and environmental degradation without regard for their impact on people and communities—as technical issues that can be solved through policy and scientific advancement alone. They cannot. Our programs are committed to doing the hard work needed to uphold the values of justice and equity for all communities.

That is why we will commit to the following action items. We will:

  • Educate ourselves on how we can be allies, deepen our knowledge and awareness of the structural and institutional racism that Black Americans face, and offer support to organizations that address issues of racial justice.
  • Work with our supporters and develop new partners to further diversify the voices represented in our policy forums and roundtables, particularly those who have been excluded from such conversations historically.
  • Use our purchasing power to support businesses owned by people of color to support our events and convenings.
  • Further incorporate issues of climate and environmental justice into our existing programming and develop new work focused on the intersections of climate change with issues impacting vulnerable communities. This work must include broadening access to America’s public lands and waters to hike, paddle, or birdwatch, and ensuring all Americans have clean water to drink, healthy food to eat, and clean air to breathe. These are fundamental rights, not just luxury amenities only available to a privileged few.
  • Center equity in our work around transitioning to a clean energy economy, ensuring the environment including land, water, ocean, and air are available to all, and advancing sustainable schools, to prioritize the needs of historically underrepresented communities and voices in the transition.
  • Expand our efforts to collaborate with and employ a diverse array of leaders, including lifting up voices from under-served and marginalized communities, who will comprise and grow a fully realized, fully representative group of advocates for our natural world and the health of all human society.
  • Hold ourselves accountable and commit to securing a diverse pool of candidates for every position posted and work with our partners to create an internship pipeline that actively recruits students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Challenge our partners, sponsors, and organizational leadership to uphold these values.

In Dr. King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,”[2]  he talks about the call from others to wait – to wait for an Administration to act that has no intention of acting.  To wait for a better time.  To wait for justice.

But as Dr. King knew, we cannot wait. Not one more day – not one more moment – not one more Black life must be taken.  After 400 years, it is time that America recognizes  – BLACK LIVES MATTER.


Mike Conathan
Nikki DeVignes
Greg Gershuny
Anna Giorgi
Kate Harrison
Ingrid Irigoyen
Kate Jaffee
Kitty Pollack
Mykelle Richburg
Laura Schifter



Published Friday, June 5, 2020