Diversity – The Dangerous 9-Letter Umbrella

Diversity: The Dangerous 9-Letter Umbrella


This word is constantly used among the groups working in our space.

Think about it. Calls for more diversity are everywhere. We need to increase diversity in the outdoors. We need more diverse staff in national parks. We need environmental groups to increase the diversity of their boards and senior leadership.

We want this word to mean so much – yet it actually means so little.

Unfortunately, diversity has become an umbrella word used to cover everyone who might not feel welcome or have access to the outdoors. Yes, we want to make sure everyone is included and it would be nice to have a catch-all term that can portray that sentiment.  But how can we pack everyone who has ever been excluded by the systems and institutions that are currently in place and oppressed by the hierarchy that is very much the fabric of our country under one 9-letter umbrella?

The very use of the word means we aren’t really being authentic in our fight for equity and inclusion. We can’t achieve our goals using generic, faceless jargon. As a word, diversity has become a dangerous “generalization” that takes the power and emotional connection out of the work that we are doing.

Don’t get me wrong. The work being done under the diversity label is powerful and exciting. We just can’t let how we talk about that work limit and hinder our progress.

I often encourage others working in this space to think about diversity as less of a descriptive word and more of a lens that guides everything they do. Instead of using diversity as a buzz-word, try to be more explicit.

What do you really mean?

Do you mean engaging a community that is majority Black?

Do mean reaching out to folks on the gender spectrum?

Do you mean working with differently able participants?

Let’s say what we mean and continue to work on building a movement that is authentically inclusive and creates room in nature for all people to feel welcome– no matter how they identify.