Sempervirens Fund, California’s oldest land trust, strongly opposes the grievous acts of violence perpetrated against George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many other people of color. Black lives matter and these deaths are unacceptable. They are cause for deep reflection on this country’s centuries-long history of racial injustice and systemic oppression. That reflection must be followed by decisive, positive, and persistent action.
As an organization that has our own century-long history, we know that the conservation movement has been part of the problem. But we also know change is possible. Our founders were primarily white men of extreme privilege. These were people who had the time, political connections, and financial resources to protect our region’s magnificent redwood trees. Native Americans, at the time, were viewed as a threat to be driven from these lands.
Today, our board, staff, and supporters include people from diverse backgrounds, with diverse perspectives, who share a vision in which our region’s superlative redwood forests survive, thrive, and can be enjoyed by the public. Today, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band are among our closest partners in protecting and restoring these forests.
These examples are small, hopeful signs, but they fall far short of the lasting change that is long overdue. Sweeping, enduring, societal change is necessary to overcome historic and current racism. It requires action and commitment from all of us.
For Sempervirens Fund, that means ensuring the parks and open spaces that we have worked to create are inclusive, welcoming, and safe for all people. That includes advocating for public policies that promote equitable access to parks and other natural areas. It also means continuing to expand the diversity of people who make up our board, staff, and supporters to truly reflect the incredible diversity of California’s populace. And, it means Sempervirens Fund will deepen our relations with environmental justice organizations to listen, learn, and inform our work.
Sempervirens is the Latin name for the remarkable redwood trees we protect. It means “always flourishing” or “always green.” It is time our organization expand our interpretation of that title to include “always just” and “always inclusive.”
June 4, 2020