Written by Terri Witherden
Being an Environmentalist means that you are concerned with protecting the environment. Whether you are new to the movement and just starting out, or a veteran who has been tracking your carbon footprint for years, you believe in making changes that put the planet first. This can come in many forms: tracking your carbon emissions with apps like The Climate App, refusing single-use plastic to stem the tide of disposables in the ocean, or choosing to shop locally and eat more seasonally.
Fighting racism and amplifying melanated voices may not spring to mind when listing the actions to take to fight climate change, but the two causes are clearly linked. Right now millions march worldwide calling for justice for the victims of racial inequality. They are calling for the reform of social and political systems built to favour one segment of society at the expense of others. These are the same systems that have led us to the brink of climate catastrophe and mass extinction.
For this reason, Environmentalists have their role to play in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and are important allies to the cause. However, if you’re not too sure how the two causes intersect, here are some key resources to get you started.
1. Climate Change is an Anti-Racism issue
Police brutality, racial inequality and the global climate crisis all stem from the same roots. It is not possible to live sustainably until racial inequality worldwide, and in more local communities, is resolved.
As Sam Grant, executive director of MN350.org, the Minnesota affiliate of the international climate activist group 350.org says in this NY Times article:
“Police violence is an aspect of a broader pattern of structural violence, which the climate crisis is a manifestation of”
It can be tempting for environmentalists of all levels to put their interest in saving the planet we share ahead of social justice issues. However, it is poorer areas (often Black and POC communities) that are the least equipped to handle the effects of a changing climate. These are also the communities on the frontlines experiencing the effects of global warming first hand. Both causes are fighting to protect the same communities.
It’s not choosing this or that. Or this, then that. It’s this and that.”
Read the full article here: Black environmentalists talk about climate and anti-racism – NY Times
2. An introduction to Intersectional Environmentalism
Article to read: Why Every Environmentalist Should Be Anti-Racist - Vogue
The crossover between anti-racism and protecting the planet has been highlighted on Instagram and in this Vogue article by Leah Thomas, an activist and eco-communicator. She calls it “Intersectional Environmentalism”:
Intersectional environmentalism is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet.
Leah calls out the “very clear data that communities of color have been most exposed to poor air quality and environmental conditions” and links it with the last words of both George Floyd and Eric Garner (who died in police custody in 2014): I can’t breathe.
She also explains how Environmentalists can take the Intersectional Environmentalism Pledge in order to amplify the injustices done to both communities affected by racial inequality and the injustices inflicted on the planet.
Read the full article here: Why Every Environmentalist Should Be Anti-Racist - Vogue
3. This is Not a Single Issue
This article, from 2015, is written by Black Lives Matter US co-founder Patrisse Cullors and Black Lives Matter UK member Nyeusi Nguvu, and clearly outlines the common causes between Environmental and Anti-Racism agendas. Describing climate change as a race issue which leads to harm for both marginalised communities and the planet, the article concludes that the only way to address climate change is to address systemic racism as they are symptoms of the same poisoned systems.
[it is] only by challenging this unjust system from every necessary angle, as well as by connecting the dots between our daily struggles and global crises, that we can truly begin to build a better world for all black lives and protect our communities from the impact of climate change.
Read the full article here: From Africa to the US to Haiti, Climate Change is a Race Issue – The Guardian
As these issues continue to dominate our newsfeeds, it is easy to be swept up in the intricacies and become overwhelmed. The problems and beliefs that contribute to both climate change and systemic racism reach deep into how society is structured and will take effort from all of us to dismantle and reform. It will not be easy, it will not be convenient, it will not be quick, but we encourage you to read and educate yourself in order to be a good ally to both causes. For the sake of those who need us and for the sake of the planet.