On Changing the Conversation: Lylianna Allala

On Changing the Conversation: Lylianna Allala

By Lylianna Allala, Board Member | Environmental Professionals of Color, Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Jayapal

If you look at this map of Washington, you will see data-driven evidence that communities across our region are experiencing disparate effects of climate change. This map in part tells the story of my family and my community, but it does not define us. Despite being burdened by environmental injustice, we have historically been left out of climate conversations.

The mainstream environmental movement started as a conversation centered on the preservation of wild spaces, but has left out the narratives of communities who have always been a part of caring for the land. Indigenous peoples are the original stewards of the land yet this fact is rarely acknowledged in mainstream environmental narratives.

Raised in a Midwestern Chicanx family, a cultural connection to the earth was passed down to my siblings and me. This connection helped guide my career choice in the environmental field. First as an AmeriCorps member and eventually to my work managing urban forest restoration in the West Duwamish Greenbelt.

Yet, as I continue to grow my career, it is clear there are not enough people who reflect my identities driving policy in leadership positions within mainstream environmental organizations. Just look at the research of Green 2.0. The experience of often times being the only person of color in the room inspired my commitment to make fundamental systemic change in process, policy and programs.

I began a career in environmental work so I could be in service to people and nature. Now, my personal mission is to change the conversation in the environmental movement. To center community-led strategies and wisdom to drive equitable decision-making processes. 

One project that captures this mission is my volunteer role with the King County Land Conservation Advisory Group. Together, we developed recommendations for preserving our region’s most precious resources while keeping in mind that some communities don’t see the benefits of these conservation efforts in an equitable way.

To begin to address these inequities, the County formed the Open Space Equity Cabinet of which I co-chair. With an advisory board of indigenous leaders and leaders of color from King County, our focus is to make policy recommendations to address open space gaps through the Conservation Futures Program.

This has been a powerful and rewarding process that allows us to elevate the voices and leadership from our communities, and put forth our solutions to move forward with a justice-based approach.

Through this approach, we are building a pathway to begin to eliminate disparities such as the ones highlighted in the Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map.

I look forward to applying my professional experience in the context of community engagement and environmental work to Earth Day Northwest 2020. I’m excited to bring insight on ways we can speak to environmental and climate issues at the intersections of health.

I envision the success of Earth Day Northwest 2020 as contributing to a truly multicultural movement that leverages our best thinking for a resilient and healthy region for all.

I chose to be a part of Earth Day Northwest 2020 because I know it is time to change the conversation. It is time for the environmental movement to better represent the people.