A strong environmental movement engages difference and makes room for everyone.

By engaging in environmental solutions, we also strive to create equality for everybody in Milwaukee.

Here's how we're doing that and how you can join in.

Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the nation. We see evidence of this everywhere we look. In our neighborhoods and shops, places of worship and schools, the dividing lines are immediately visible – some of these places are filled with white people, others black and brown, but very few really welcome a diversity of people and thought.

The same is true of our environmental movement in Milwaukee. When you take a look around, you see a lot of people who look and talk the same. Namely, you see a lot of white people who have strong thoughts about solutions.

Sometimes folks make assumptions about why that is and why more people of color aren’t participating. We’ve seen evidence, over and over, that it’s because we’ve taken actions both subconscious and overt to keep people of color on the sidelines (or, more accurately, off the field entirely). We have to do a better job of not just inviting people of color to the table, but opening up space at the table for input.

Racism and bias are real. They happen through statements and acts, big and small, and add up to a situation that feels unwelcoming. If we’re not intentional about working through segregation and bias to build a community truly reflective of our whole city, it’s not going to happen. The divisions are just too deep and too systemic for this problem to go away without very specific and intentional actions.

We are working hard in everything we do to be intentional and take these actions, and we’ll continue to do so because we’re committed to our environmental justice mission. We believe everyone, everywhere, has a role to play in water’s protection and care, and we want to make sure folks who have typically been excluded from this important work find their place here, now.

It’s not that folks who haven’t participated don’t care. It’s that we haven’t made big enough space in our movement for difference. If we want to build a better water future here in Milwaukee, all of Milwaukee must be engaged. There is dynamic and tremendous leadership growing across Milwaukee and the Midwest. We’re here to make sure Milwaukee steps up its game to encourage and foster that leadership.

We want to step back and recognize there is great work happening here in our city by so many fantastic environmental organizations. But that's not enough. We can’t rest on our laurels until our environmental community is reflective of the lived experiences of our entire, beautiful community, because solutions that exclude the needs and ideas of members of our community are flawed solutions. Our environmental movement isn’t there yet, but we know it can get there.

Want to become a bigger part of this movement? Donate today to support our mission. It is only working together that we can build the movement we want, and we’re so glad to have you as a partner in this.

Milwaukee Water Commons is a cross-city network that fosters connection, collaboration and broad community leadership on behalf of our waters. We promote stewardship of, equitable access to and shared decision-making for our common waters.