Racial and ethnic diversity in environmental sustainability advances social equity and innovation, solving social-ecological crises. Yet, Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) remain underrepresented in sustainability fields despite high environmental concern. Universities provide pathways to sustainability careers and help diversify the field by making programmes more equitable and inclusive for racially minoritized students. Toward this end, we interviewed undergraduate BIPOC students in interdisciplinary environmental and sustainability degree programmes about their experiences. Their observations reflect a legacy of systemic racism that persists today within environmentalism. Many described motivations connecting ecological and social well-being but lamented limited interdisciplinary and global perspectives in the curriculum. Experiences of discrimination, lack of relatability and limited discussions of race led to feeling isolated and excluded. Support networks, extracurricular participation and BIPOC-specific opportunities improved student inclusion and belonging. BIPOC students hold knowledge unapparent to non-marginalized groups that illuminates pathways to racial equity in environmental sustainability.
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The authors declare that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within the paper and Supplementary Tables.
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We are grateful to P. Metzler for assisting in the creation of Fig. 1. This work is supported financially by a National Science Foundation Grant (DEB-1844531) to V.B.C.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Schusler, T.M., Espedido, C.B., Rivera, B.K. et al. Students of colour views on racial equity in environmental sustainability. Nat Sustain (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00759-7