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A global push for racial justice in the climate movement 

A global push for racial justice in the climate movement    For years, mainstream environmental movements around the globe have excluded people of color, who are disproportionately impacted by climate change. Today’s global Black Lives Matter protests have amplified calls for institutions of all kinds — including environmental groups — to challenge and dismantle chronic systemic racism., The World, June 30, 2020 By Anna Kusmer

Environmental sociologist Dorceta Taylor remembers being the only Black person in her environmental science class at Northeastern Illinois University in the early 1980s. When she asked her white professor why there weren’t more Black students, he quickly told her that it was “because Blacks are not interested in the environment,” she said.

This assumption ran counter to everything she knew. She had grown up in Jamaica, where people from all backgrounds were passionate about the environment and loved nature.

Taylor, until recently a professor of environmental racism at the University of Michigan, found that underrepresentation exists at environmental organizations across the United States. In 2014, just under 16% of people of color were represented in a survey of hundreds of organizations, compared to about 35% of the population, she said. In the early 1990s, only about 2% of the staff of environmental nongovernmental organizations were people of color.

In the UK, the environmental sector is one of the least diverse sectors of the economy.

Yet, people of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation and climate change, and environmental organizations are being called to focus more than ever before on environmental justice.

In the past few weeks, big international green groups including Greenpeace and have responded with statements, videos and op-eds supporting Black Lives Matter and calling for racial justice.

Related: Black Lives Matter UK says climate change is racist

But environmental activist Suzanne Dhaliwal is skeptical this will translate into real inclusion, particularly in the UK, where she lives and works. Dhaliwal, who identifies as British Indian Canadian Sikh, grew up partly in Canada and spent much of her 20s working alongside big environmental nonprofits in the UK. ………

So, Dhaliwal started her own environmental nonprofit, UK Tar Sands Network, which works alongside Indigenous communities and organizations to campaign against UK companies investing in oil extraction in Alberta, Canada.

“Now, what I call for is direct funding of Black and Brown and Indigenous organizations and leadership training,” said Dhaliwal. “We need research money so that we can research new strategies.”

Other environmentalists are trying to change environmental organizations from within.

Samia Dumbuya just started a job with the European branch of international nonprofit Friends of the Earth, working on climate justice and energy issues. She lives in the UK.

As a Black person whose parents are refugees from Sierre Leone, talking about racial justice issues within the environmental movement is personal for her. She says she sees how climate change is affecting her parents’ home country with increasingly bad flooding and landslides. ………

Across the globe, the urban spaces that are overpoliced and lack public investment also have the worst air quality and contaminated drinking water. The environmental movement will grow stronger with more diverse representation, but also by making these connections, Taylor said.

“Environmentalists all over the country are really taking note that they need to think of the environment now as not just the trees and the birds and the flowers, but the human relationships that are in them — and how these are really threatening some people way more than they’re threatening others.”

July 2, 2020 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, environment, indigenous issues

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