The Committee on Racial Equity (CRE) was founded in 2016 to investigate racial and ethnic diversity within the section, assess the educational and professional climate for scholars of color, recommend changes in section policies and practices, and engage environmental sociologists in laying the foundation for a more inclusive scholarly community.
The Section on Environmental Sociology (SES) is a comparatively new section of the American Sociological Association (ASA). The section was officially formed in 1976 as an outgrowth of the U.S. environmental movement and the need to strengthen sociologists’ ability to contribute to environmental impact assessments, which had recently been mandated by national legislation (Caldwell 1988). Over the past four decades, membership in the SES has steadily grown. However, while there have been some gains in diversity in the discipline of sociology as a whole, these gains have not been achieved in the SES (Mascarenhas et al. 2017).
The Committee on Racial Equity began preparing for the Bridging the Gap mini-conference in the fall of 2016. Given our concerns about the limited diversity within the Section on Environmental Sociology, we saw the conference as an opportunity to bring diverse practitioners together to imagine a more diverse and inclusive environmental sociology. About one hundred demographically diverse scholars, students, activists, and regulatory scientists participated, making this event a truly watershed moment for Environmental Sociology.
For those of us working at the intersection of race and the environment, we knew this would be a challenging day. Airing one’s fears and frustrations in public is always a risky venture, particularly for those who have much at stake for speaking “out of turn,” or simply being too honest. And survival—both personal and political—the visionary black scholar Audre Lorde (2007) reminds us, is not an academic skill. Much more is always on the line.
The goal of this survey was to gauge members’ perspectives on racial diversity and equity in our section. During the allotted time period—June 11th to June 30th, 2017—139 of the 486 members responded to the survey, for a response rate of 27%.
As an initial effort of the ETS Committee on Racial Diversity, we put together this brief article to establish clarity around the state of diversity in our field. The following is a summary of available data regarding diversity in the American Sociological Association and the Environment and Technology section. The data in this summary draw on two sources. The first is an ASA Research Brief (2005), Race and Ethnicity in the Sociology Pipeline. Although dated, this report provides important information regarding points of equality and points of disproportionate “leakage” throughout the academic careers of scholars of color, especially African American scholars, in sociology. The second set of data focuses on diversity in the Environment and Technology section from 2005 to 2016. It comes directly from ASA membership database and was compiled by ASA Research Department.