Emily Bacha, Vice President of Public Affairs, May 28, 2020
Columbus, Ohio — A video that went viral on Twitter shows the unfortunate reality that our most public of spaces are not actually accessible for all. The Ohio Environmental Council works to protect air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home. The incident that occurred in Central Park shows how much work the environmental movement, including organizations like the OEC, still has to do to ensure equitable access to nature for all people.
The following statement can be attributed to Heather Taylor-Miesle, Executive Director for the Ohio Environmental Council:
“No matter where we live or what we look like, everyone should be able to access nearby nature without threat of violence. Christian Cooper was in a public space trying to enjoy the simple pleasures of watching birds in the park. His story is yet another inexcusable example of the effect that systemic racism has on people of color. Too many people of color experience not only threats of, but also the dangerous impacts of suspicion, ostracization, even violence while going about their daily lives.
“Many of our public lands, including beloved community parks, were designed for and have been controlled by a white dominant culture. We must work harder to break down the very real barriers for people of color to enjoy our public spaces, and to feel safe when engaging in everyday activities in our society.
“Unfortunately, Christian Cooper’s story is not the only example we’ve seen this week of the overt and systemic racism plaguing our communities. We condemn the racist threats made against Christian Cooper; we condemn the Minneapolis police officers for their decision to kill George Floyd and demand these officers face criminal charges; we condemn the ongoing legacy of racism infused within our society. And we will work every day to change this reality.”
The following statement can be attributed to Miranda Leppla and Carol Davey, Co-Chairs of OEC’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee:
“Every one of us, regardless of where we live or what we look like, deserves safe and equitable access to high-quality natural spaces and the great outdoors. Christian Cooper’s experience in Central Park, however, highlights that black and brown communities have faced and continue to face discriminatory actions that prevent enjoyment of these vital community resources. In order to ensure everyone has the ability to enjoy the outdoors without being threatened, there must be more diverse voices at organizations, including the OEC, who work to protect the outdoors for all. Together, our organizations must work harder to diversify our movement as well as live into our values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. We must be actively anti-racist in every policy discussion we have and each action we take.”