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We all know about the shocking murder of George Floyd by an America police officer and the Black Lives Matter protests that have since erupted across the world, and I feel morally obligated to speak out alongside them. So here are my thoughts about how racism and environmentalism come together…
I’m what you would call an environmentalist, and as such am often, along with other environmentalists, tucked away in a box titled ‘the environment’, or ‘nature’, or whatever you want to call the biosphere we live in and rely on. In this box we are expected to deal only with things directly relating to the living world.
But environmentalism is so much more than this. Where feminists cover equality to women, and anti-racism activists demand an end to racism, and animal rights activists deal with the treatment of animals, environmentalism is about all of these issues, and more, because without social justice, we can’t protect the natural world and act on crises such as climate and ecological breakdown.
This statistic from National Geographic reflects this crucial link between environmentalism and racism: while indigenous peoples make up less than five per cent of the total human population, they protect 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity. And yet even today, indigenous people face discrimination, violence and being forced off their ancestral lands, so that the land can be plundered and exploited by governments and private companies.
Environmental racism is why, as one example, activists in the UK will not tolerate the UK Government’s pitiful target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, or Scotland’s equally pathetic one of 2045.
Climate breakdown and the collapse of our life support systems will affect people in the Global South first, even though they have done basically nothing to contribute to this crisis, which means that unless we ramp up our ambitions and our targets and ramp down our carbon emissions to zero in the next 10 or so years, we are wilfully disregarding the lives of millions of people.
I am still learning to talk about these things; racism, colonialism and the brutality of our capitalist culture, and I’m continually worried that I’ll say something wrong.
But if people don’t talk about these things, they will carry on. It’s not enough to be not racist. You have to be actively anti-racist. Just like it’s not enough to be concerned about nature; you have to do everything in your power to protect it. Below are a couple of things to start you off.
Ways you can help: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co
Interesting article: I’m a Black Climate Expert. Racism Derails Our Efforts to Save the Planet – By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, The Washington Post