Admit it: As climate activists, we know that when we look around the room (or now, look around on Zoom) we see mostly White faces. Why is that? Climate change affects all of us, but people of color are being affected by the climate crisis disproportionately. Is there something we White climate activists are missing?
Yup. Take it from climate expert Ayana Elizabeth Johnson: racism derails our efforts to save the planet. Now is the time for us to pause, reflect, learn, and work to transform the climate movement. The exploitation of our environment is closely tied to the exploitation of people — and no people have been exploited more shamefully by the US than Black and Indigenous people. That’s not just our history, it’s our present. Let’s act to change it so that it’s not our future. To imagine and build a green future, a safe climate future, we need to imagine a future that is just, equitable, and peaceful. We can’t achieve one without the other.
Dismantling systemic racism is a moral imperative. What do we need to do to move this work forward? Here’s what I’ll be doing. Will you join me? Let’s…
We can read anti-racist literature, watch films, follow social media that can educate us about being better allies. I’ve started with:
- Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Race
- Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
- Here and here are great articles about the intersection of environmental justice and racial justice.
Next, I’ll be reading:
- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: An Indigenous People’s History of the United States
- Reni Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
- Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Anti-Racist
- Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race
- Layla F. Saad, Me and White Supremacy (this one has a workbook)
Don’t know where to start? Maybe you’d prefer to take a course, listen to some podcasts, or watch films. Here’s a list of resources. And check out this illuminating TED talk by Jay Smooth — the bit starting at 7:00 about tonsils vs. teeth is particularly funny!
COMMIT TO DO THE WORK.
Like me, I’m sure a lot of y’all have been out there, holding up signs, marching, holding vigils, and protesting. But it doesn’t stop there. White climate activists can examine where our unconscious biases exist, be willing to change, and be willing to challenge other White people on racist assumptions. Commit to this work as a lifetime project. Accept that it’s never done. We can never be completely nonracist — it’s the water we swim in. But we CAN be anti-racist. It’s up to us to keep learning and speak out when we witness racism in action — around our family table, in the workplace, with friends. The work is for right now, and for the rest of our lives.
TWO CLIMATE JUSTICE ACTIONS FOR JUNE:
- Please write another comment to the US Forest Service to protect our millions of acres of Southern Appalachian forest. You can write as many comments as you want. The comment period is open until June 29. Comments must be personalized in order to count – in other words, ya gotta add your own words. Here is the Sierra Club WENOCA page for comments. We are short of the goal for getting these out — please send yours today! Support Alternative C with the following additional points:
- Designate a specific area as wilderness (I chose the Black Mountains).
- Ask for standards to define “old growth” and that it be as “unsuitable for logging” and managed as such
- Support wilderness, wilderness extensions, backcountry, NC Heritage areas, and Special Interest Areas as “unsuitable for logging” and managed as such
- If you haven’t yet done so, please write to Duke Energy and protest this 14% rate hike AND demand that they make a serious investment in renewable energy. Comment by June 30. Here is the Sierra Club WENOCA page to help you out with that.
The silver lining of this pandemic is that most folks have used Zoom now, and it’s no biggie to ask folks to meet online. That solves a big problem for Drawdown WNC — I was struggling to figure out how we would convene all these folks from Pickens, SC to Boone, NC, from Elizabethton, TN to Highlands, NC… Now we can all Zoom together, and bonus points — we won’t have to drive a single mile! My intention was to set up a Drawdown WNC Zoom meeting for June, but this month, we are going to build on the momentum of the current moment and focus our efforts on racial justice.
Drawdown WNC will begin our monthly Virtual Visions Zoom meetings later this summer. For now, thanks for doing the work on moving things forward for a just, sustainable world.