Florida Conservation Voters formed in 2015 after the passage of the Florida Water and Land Conservation ballot initiative (Amendment 1). In our early years, our board, membership, and coalition partners were mostly white, over the age of 50, and strongly self-identified as “environmentalists.” Our volunteer base was largely sourced from partner organizations, such as Audubon Florida, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters, and more than 400 local and statewide environmental and civic groups.
In our earliest years, with a staff of three, we focused fairly narrowly on working within that coalition to hold lawmakers accountable to Amendment 1, calling on them to fund conservation land acquisition. Beginning in 2016, we expanded our work to address climate and clean energy, and by 2018 we formalized four core issue areas (our “pillars”) that underlie our work: public lands and parks, clean water, a just transition to clean and affordable energy, and a fair and accessible democracy.
As we expanded our work to hold lawmakers accountable on all of these issues, our core purpose came into clear focus. FCV exists to protect our living planet and make our communities more sustainable, thriving, and healthy. Defining our core purpose helped us see that we had been operating within an echo chamber of white voices and perspectives. When we asked ourselves what we meant by “our” living planet and communities, it was obvious that we lacked the experience and therefore the perspectives of people directly harmed by pollution, extraction, and destruction of our living planet. At the time, few of FCV’s members and none of its staff were Black or Latino, the two largest non-white constituencies in Florida. Without representation of Black and Latino communities, FCV sorely lacked the wisdom, knowledge, talent, and perspective that can only come from a broad coalition of people with diverse lived experiences and cultures.
We decided to deepen our understanding of how racism operates in our democracy to shape policies that cause generational harm to people and communities of color. We resolved to build relationships with social justice organizations that work tirelessly, too often without support from white-dominated institutions and organizations, to build a more just, anti-racist, pro-democracy society.
Since then, FCV’s staff has become more racially diverse, expanding from an all-white staff of 3 in 2016 to a majority Black and Latino staff of 20 in 2022. However, we have work to do when it comes to expanding our membership base, which continues to be comprised mostly of white individuals who have historically identified as “environmentalists” or “conservationists.” As we invest more deeply in community-based organizing through our Chispa Florida and Democracy for All Florida programs, and as we engage more deeply on the issues and needs that Black and Latino communities identify as priorities, our membership base is becoming more racially diverse.
We are committed to working in community with our members, partners, and local community leaders who share our values and vision for Florida’s future. We are committed to understanding the culture and struggle of people who are different from ourselves, whether those differences are race, class, sexual orientation, or other identities. We honor and respect the distinct experiences and perspectives people bring to the environmental movement knowing and ultimately building collective power to ensure a livable planet and inclusive democracy for all people.