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President's Environment: A Watershed Moment for Social Change in SFS: Action Required

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Amy Rosemond

SFS wants to be a leader of change in science. As president, and in the other identities I have (mother, white, woman, mentor, and friend), I recognize that among the most important things I can do is center others’ voices who have been minoritized, learn from them, and advocate for them.  It has been my job to lead our Society and here, at the end of my term, it is clear that we are not doing enough in the sciences, the aquatic sciences, or within SFS, to effect changes in our practices and institutions to make them just, equitable and inclusive. 

Our SFS community is saddened and repulsed by the murders of Black Americans, including most recently, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade, as well as many others.  We condemn the ongoing violence and oppression against Black Americans and we stand with our Black colleagues in support of movements to fight the oppression of Black people like Black Lives Matter and Black Visions Collective.  We need to make space for the tragedy and trauma felt so painfully and personally by Black people and other underrepresented groups.  We regret that our Black members have faced discrimination in their communities, work places, and in this scientific Society. As a scientific community, we need to commit to changes that will make our society more inclusive and equitable for all. Members in privileged positions are especially responsible for the heavy lifting with respect to these changes. Only specific plans and actions will result in meaningful change.  

Action that brought about the U.S. Clean Water Act was ‘ignited’ by the continued burning of the Cuyahoga River. The Arab Spring started with a street vendor’s self-immolation. Even these advances are currently being pushed back through greed, oppression, and exploitation. People are on fire now because racially-motivated brutal murders and continued oppression and racism are intolerable.  We must respond.  I understand that our Society needs to change in intentional and dramatic ways to address deep social and environmental failings and failures. 

SFS has received and will continue to solicit recommendations on specific actions that our Society should take in the weeks and months going forward. An anonymous submission form on our website will soon be available for further recommendations and suggestions for these important initiatives.  Some of the ideas already received, which require member involvement, development, and action, are below:     

  1. Make Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) training opportunities available, encouraged and incentivized for all SFS members.  Create a JEDI Task Force with broad representation charged with breaking down barriers. Build resources accessible to all members.
  2. Develop relationships with interested Historically Black Colleges, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges/Universities for consideration of student engagement in freshwater science. 
  3. Make the SFS website available in Spanish and consider the many other language, cultural, and visual barriers that currently exist to development and sharing of freshwater science.
  4. Share the work and create incentives for it. JEDI work cannot and should not just be done by underrepresented people.  Recognize that all members are responsible for enacting change both within SFS and within our institutions, workplaces, and communities.
  5. Generate a special FWS issue dedicated to work from authors from underrepresented groups: "Diversifying Science = Diversifying Authors".
  6. Recognize and elect mentors from established scientists who work to help train students and early career members, and champion JEDI issues within SFS. Make this an honor, not just an assignment.
  7. Consider the Society business funding philosophy to support women/minority owned enterprises.  Set aside explicit funds for JEDI initiatives. 
  8. Continue and elevate consideration of how our meetings will impact and support local economies and how local meeting venue policies align with SFS values.

We need to be deliberate, focused, and goal-driven if we are to bring about the rapid evolution of deep social change needed in SFS and freshwater science.  Mobilizing our efforts should not require traumatic events such as murders and fires. But these events make it so we can not continue to look the other way and signal a clarion call to action: they are watershed moments.  Please be a part of these changes and send me any additional ideas you have for how SFS can create a more just and equitable network of scholars. I look forward to our work together. 


 – Amy Rosemond