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President's Environment: Honoring Juneteenth

Monday, June 20, 2022
Steve Thomas

Dear SFS,

I write to you on Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.  Juneteenth, a newly recognized U.S. National Holiday, celebrates the lives, achievements, and courage of Black people. Juneteenth also provides an opportunity to reflect on how the lack of racial and ethnic diversity has impacted the development of our science and how inclusion can expand and improve our understanding of freshwater ecosystems.  Improving diversity, equity, and inclusion is both a moral imperative and a fundamental requirement for building a global community of freshwater professionals capable of addressing current and future freshwater challenges.

The SFS Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Task Force is now its third year and has made significant headway toward our strategic goals of improving all dimensions of diversity in our society.  Several sessions and workshops at JASM addressed a wide range of topics related to broadening participation in aquatic science.  I applaud all our members that engaged in these activities, and I ask everyone to help our society make meaningful progress toward improving JEDI in SFS.

While activities at JASM demonstrated our societies’ commitment to improving JEDI, it also illustrated the distance we still must travel to become the society described in our Strategic Plan.  As we reflect on Juneteenth and celebrate Pride Month, please know that the leadership of SFS is committed to improving JEDI in our Society and will be working to embed JEDI into all that we do, including our administrative structure, annual meetings, and publications.  We encourage all our members to find opportunities to improve JEDI in freshwater science, whether that be through formal participation in society activities (e.g., committees - hint, hint), programs offered by your employer, or in your own research group(s).

As SFS President, advancing JEDI goals will be the central theme of my tenure at SFS.  SFS has always prided itself on being a warm, welcoming, and inclusive society.  Now, we must rise to the challenge of living out our core values by continuing to broaden participation and support a diverse membership in SFS.  My experience in Grand Rapids suggests to me that those values remain strongly embedded in our members and will only grow as we improve access, find equitable and accessible ways for all to participate, and support a diversified membership.

Globally, freshwater resources are facing major challenges from climate change and a broad array of human activities.  Our challenge as freshwater scientists and practitioners is to protect these resources for people and the environment.  A major step towards protecting fresh water is advocating for its equitable use among all people, and by listening to and learning from others.

Happy Juneteenth and hope to see you in Brisbane a year from now!

Steve Thomas – SFS President