By Published: Nov. 3, 2022

Let’s CU Well presentation on Nov. 10 reflects on the challenge and opportunity of equity and inclusion in the natural resource management and conservation field

Environmental issues are a growing concern for many, but so are issues about equity and inclusivity.

Karen Bailey, an environmental social scientist and a Be Well expert of the month, aims to tie the two together with her expertise on natural resource management (the management of how people interact with resources like land, water and animals) and conservation. 

Bailey will cover equitable ways of thinking about the environment and people in her upcoming virtual presentation, “The environment belongs to everyone: Equity and Inclusion in natural resource management and conservation,” on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 1 p.m. The event is a part of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Let’s CU Well speaker series. The event is free and open to the public, and registration can be completed at this link.

Bailey, an assistant professor in the environmental studies program, earned her bachelor’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University. She then went to the University of Florida and earned a master’s degree in wildlife ecology and conservation and a doctoral degree in interdisciplinary ecology.

Bailey researches climate change, human-environment interactions and sustainable landscape. She uses data gathered from her social science, environmental and ecological work to better understand, as she notes, how “our health and well-being is directly influenced by the state of the environment.”

Watch the presentation

There are three such research projects that Bailey will draw from in her presentation.

First, she will focus on the experiences of people of color in the natural resource field. This will cover issues of inclusion among people affected by conservation and natural resource management, as well as people who are practitioners.

Then, she says that she will apply an equity lens to climate adaptation (a field focusing on the best way to reduce climate change’s negative effects) by encouraging consideration of how equity should be at the center of decisions made in the field. This case will highlight the importance of considering accessibility, economics and enfranchisement in the context of natural resource management and conservation, she says.

Finally, Bailey will speak on a “sense of place.” Here, she will discuss how significant changes to the landscape have influenced people’s perceptions of the environment. This will mainly draw from her research on drought in the West. This ongoing research involves interviewing people from reservoir communities in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado to better grasp how people think the environment should be further managed after experiencing record low water levels.

Although relevant to Boulder, the application of these ideas is much grander in scale.

“A lot of work is happening to sustainably use and manage natural resources,” says Bailey. “One of the challenges is that all of these efforts can introduce or exacerbate inequity.”

Bailey’s conclusion is that “the only way to prevent that from happening is to think about equity as we’re developing climate solutions and conservation.”

Community participation is encouraged in the upcoming event as Bailey hopes to share and learn about people’s experiences, thoughts and perspectives.

“All this work is exciting,” says Bailey. “It very intentionally thinks about humans and their place in the environment. And it thinks about that from a perspective of those who have historically been left out of the conversation surrounding the environment.”

Bailey's presentation is co-sponsored by the Office for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. 

Photo at the top of the page: Karen Bailey talks about the human impact of climate change at the CU Night in Downtown Boulder event at Boulder Theater (Glenn Asakawa).