Climate change is imminent. It’s an issue that is affecting us all. The issue has grown, barging, without warning, into public consciousness. And with this recent surge of attention, we see exemplary movements and individuals, pushing forward change. However, and especially in light of Black History Month, there’s a problem that protrudes the face of the movement: lack of inclusivity. From the media’s focus on specifically white, middle-class activists, to the personal experience of racism from Black people in green spaces, it’s clear to see there’s work that needs to be done to create an inclusive space.
We need more initiatives dedicated to getting Black people into environmentalism. Ironically, large parts of our community have had such apathy for the environmental movement branding it as a ‘white people’s thing’, when historically we’ve been at the frontiers of living in close proximity to nature, finding ways to live respectfully and in peace with the natural world. However, like many social movements, it’s been colonised and commodified, and in turn, we’ve come to believe the green movement isn’t for us.
But it is.
Young Black people need to feel empowered to enter these fields. Giving voice to them is so important. This is why initiatives such as Action for Conservation’s secondary school programme WildED are needed. Going into schools, specifically those with diverse populations and engaging them with issues that impact people and the planet. It's imperative they're encouraged to make their voices heard!
It’s important that everyone begins to acknowledge how your position in society can largely affect your experience, and be aware of these experiences when having conversations. The correlation between climate change and poverty is strong. You only have to look at the barricades of grand wrought iron gates that protect the rich and their riches (both literally and metaphorically), and compare it to the flooded barricade of land of frontline communities.
Simply, the more well-off you are, the less you’ll feel the effects of climate change. In a study published by The UK Government in 2019, it was concluded that 15% of black people live in the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK. Surprise!
So where do we start if we want to create change? Well, we need to talk about the systemic barriers that prevent our most vulnerable groups from leading a sustainable lifestyle. Then we can take appropriate action, together, by supporting everyone. Because if we don’t talk about an existing problem, how can we begin to improve?
Thanks for reading,
Shaheim, 16, AFC Youth Trustee