The Importance of Inclusion
Guest Post by: Taylor Ganis, host and founder of the Hopeful Environmentalist Podcast
The climate movement has grown tremendously over the years, but we must ensure that no one gets left behind and that the movement is accessible to everyone. Inclusion in this space is crucial in guaranteeing that there are opportunities for everyone and that the solutions to the global problems our world faces are equitable.
In December 2022, I attended COP15, which is the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, in Montreal, Canada. I was there as both a media representative and an event speaker. Speaking at the Youth Pavilion at this global conference was an experience that I will forever be grateful for, as it gave me a platform to present on a topic that is very important to me. I spoke on the importance of including people with chronic conditions and disabilities in wildlife conservation and the climate movement. As someone with a rare chronic condition, joining both the wildlife conservation and environmental movement have had challenges. Feeling left out of certain spaces or not seeing some of my dream jobs have accessible opportunities is tiring. Experiencing periods of inaction due to health can be both draining and frustrating. But I believe that through opportunities to share our stories and present at international conferences, we are able to create the spaces that we all deserve.
A report from the World Health Organization states that over 1 billion people have a disability and one in three adults have at least one chronic condition. To exclude, or create barriers for this many people is absurd. That is why we must continue to educate others about how we can make these movements more accessible to all. To make the world more accessible, we sometimes need to have conversations that make us uncomfortable. We grow and learn the most when we are uncomfortable. The discomfort that we may feel having these conversations allows us to look closely at our own internal biases and change the way we think.
Internal biases are oftentimes what leads to barriers for people with chronic conditions and disabilities to enter the wildlife and environmental field. This can be by judging someone’s ability based off of their health condition(s) without actually learning about who they are and what they can do. Some of the barriers that people with chronic conditions and disabilities face in these spaces are discrimination, accessibility (physical, educational, mental and financial), lack of representation, and lack of opportunities.
- Discrimination usually appears in the form of internal biases that sometimes cloud our judgment (as mentioned above). Ways we can correct discriminatory practices are by understanding that we as individuals should not judge someone’s capabilities due to their health. An example of this is if someone has the qualifications for a job, one can assume that they are a qualified candidate. This is also true when discussing invisible conditions. Just because you do not see someone’s health condition or disability, does not make it any less valid or real. Disability and conditions are not, and should not be a determining factor for not hiring someone.
- Inaccessibility often comes in the form of not having physically accessible buildings and not having ADA accessible trails. There is also a lack of accessibility in educational institutions. This can be in the form of not offering accessibility services (or the services are not very good/diverse for all students) and certain educational institutions not offering enough financial aid.
- Representation often comes down to how people with disabilities and chronic conditions are represented in careers and things like media (including social media).
- The last one is lack of opportunities. The three barriers listed above often times are what leads to the lack of opportunities and inclusion of those with disabilities and health conditions in the environmental and wildlife field. Barriers like education and physical inaccessibility, often lead to a lack of opportunities for entrance into specific careers and jobs. Discrimination and internal biases sometimes lead to people judging others’ capabilities without even seeing what they can do, which leads to a lack of opportunities. Jobs that have the ability to be accommodating and accessible, but they are made to not be, leads to a lack of opportunities.
As the world becomes more aware of the barriers that it has put in place for specific groups, people and communities, we must begin to move towards a more equitable and inclusive world. I have seen stories of parks creating all-wheel terrain wheelchairs to make their land more accessible. Jobs have begun to create accommodations that allow for people who have been historically left out of these roles to apply. We are getting to a more inclusive world, and we must continue to move in this direction, and with speed. Biodiversity loss and climate change are here, and we must not leave anyone behind.