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Whitney Tome: Transforming the environmental movement

Whitney Tome

March 08 2017

“The challenges we face, both politically and economically, are much too great to leave people off the table.”

With over a decade in the environmental industry in various leadership roles, Whitney Tome; Executive Director of Green 2.0 has a passion for transforming the look and feel of the environmental movement. Here, Whitney tells us why she “decided to leave the world of oceans and fish and join the National Parks Conservation Association as its Diversity and Inclusion Director” to pursue this mission.

Thomson Reuters Sustainability: Could you tell us a bit about your professional journey?

Whitney Tome: After college, law school, and a stint as a professional ballerina, I looked for a field that would combine my passion for conservation with my interest in politics. I ended up at the Environmental Defense Fund where I worked on dozens of campaigns on oceans and fisheries issues, including an educational partnership with Duke and Stanford to train fisheries managers. From there, I joined the Meridian Institute where I continued to work with fisheries and ocean conservationists a new role as a mediator.

After spending a decade in the environmental movement, it had become painfully clear that, over and over again, I was the only black woman in the room.

And, worse yet, it was clear that no progress had been made especially in executive leadership.

So I decided to leave the world of oceans and fish and join the National Parks Conservation Association as its Diversity and Inclusion Director.

It is vital work that has become my passion and has led me to where I now sit.

TRS: What does your current role as the Executive Director of Green 2.0 encompass?

WT: As Executive Director of Green 2.0, I run the daily operations of the only organization solely dedicated to increasing diversity in mainstream environmental NGO, foundations, and federal government agencies in the United States.

I manage our staff and oversee our campaigns, research initiatives, and fundraising. My major focus is to transform the look and feel of the environmental movement and ensure that environmental leaders look like the very people most affected by global warming and pollution–people of color.

The challenges we face, both politically and economically, are much too great to leave people off the table.

TRS: With a focus on Sustainable Development Goal 5, why does promoting gender equality help make the planet more sustainable?

WT: In the U.S., white women have made significant inroads in the environmental workforce in the U.S., but we have yet to see much progress for women of color or men of color. Internationally however, little progress has been made for women of any race. It is long past time for women to be given an opportunity to contribute and for the unique contributions and perspectives of women to be recognized and valued.

As a woman and a mother, I think about how we care for the next generation and about simple environmentally friendly practices around breastfeeding, cloth diapers, and organic cotton feminine hygiene products which are good for women and for the planet. Those are a few simple changes women can lead, which would make an impact at the global scale.

TRS: How can men in particular lead on the empowerment of women?


Men should audit their friends, colleagues, and the decision makers in their world. It can profoundly change their perspective to took around the decision making table and consider who has a seat, how much are they involved, if all perspectives are taken seriously.

Put simply-

men should consider if women they work with are being allowed to lead in an authentic way. In the environmental movement, it is time for men in power to make active, intentional choices that bring women into the decision making process. If they do not, our movement will continue to be handicapped.

TRS: What would you tell young people looking at the problems faced by our world?

WT: Get engaged. Now is the best time to identify the issues that matter to you–whether they affect you directly or not.

Find your passion and then donate your time, expertise and energy to advancing that cause.

It could be cleaning up a river, advocating for women’s rights, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. The important thing is to get in the game and never let anyone force you to the sidelines.

TRS: What gives you hope?

WT: The innovation and compassion of humanity makes me hopeful. In challenging circumstances, there are always those who are willing to fight and sacrifice for their fellow humans. No matter their background, so many people are willing to take action on behalf of those who are threatened or disadvantaged. I am often humbled by that humanity and awed by it.

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