How racism derails global efforts to solve the climate crisis.

I didn’t think there would be anything more terrifying than the news about COVID spreading across the world.

But then…

Ahmad Auberry, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were murdered.

And not just them. So many other stories of injustice, inequality, and police brutality started pouring out.

Artwork by @shirien.creates

The reason why I share this here, on a blog about sustainability and climate change, is because I’ve learned that racial inequality is intertwined with the climate crisis. If we don’t work on both, we will succeed at neither.

The National Climate Assessment in the US conducted a research and found that people of colour are more likely to bear climate impacts. They often come from a lower-income communities and, therefore, have lower capacity to prepare for and cope with climate-related extreme weather events.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that people of colour are more concerned about the climate crisis than white people as Yale’s Program On Climate Change Communication shared in this article.

That’s millions of people who could be a major part of solving the climate crisis. Only if they didn’t have to carry the burden of white supremacy and injustice on their shoulders.

"If we want to successfully address climate change, we need people of color."

– Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

As a white person, I am well aware of my white privilege. But even though I have black friends, I never truly looked at the world from their perspective. Until I watched the Uncomfortable Conversation With A Black Man by Emmanuel Acho.

If you haven't watched it yet, please do. It's only 10 minutes long and truly life-changing (you can click on the above link or the image below).

But going back to climate change, I wanted to highlight the work of marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. A few days after the tragic murder of George Floyd, The Washington Post published Ayana’s op-ed where she says:

"Here is an incomplete list of things I left unfinished last week because America’s boiling racism and militarization are deadly for black people: a policy memo to members of Congress on accelerating offshore wind energy development in U.S. waters; the introduction to my book on climate solutions; a presentation for a powerful corporation on how technology can advance ocean-climate solutions; a grant proposal to fund a network of women climate leaders; a fact check of a big-budget film script about ocean-climate themes, planting vegetables with my mother in our climate victory garden."

That’s a long list.

She also said;

"Look, I would love to ignore racism and focus all my attention on climate. But I can’t. Because I am human. And I’m black. And ignoring racism won’t make it go away."

– Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

With the climate crisis, it’s important that we don’t delay all these important projects and decisions as they will affect lives of millions of people.

There comes a time when silence is betrayal.

– Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Collectively, we need to have these uncomfortable conversations to move forward. You may already know that Dr Brené Brown is the queen of uncomfortable but crucial conversations. I’m obsessed with her books, her TED talks, and, more recently, her podcast Unlocking Us. In the episode with Ibram X. Kendi, I learned about the term “anti-racism” and how important it is that we all learn how to be actively anti-racist.

The climate crisis is similar to COVID in a sense that it doesn’t respect any boundaries. It can affects anyone. If we want to save the planet, we must include EVERYONE. We must build the biggest team possible.

"We must value human diversity as much as we do biodiversity." – Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Black Lives Matter movement receives the most attention, but it doesn't mean that other lives don't matter. Whilst some people see "All Lives Matter" as more of a "we're-in-this-together" statement, it's problematic because it redirects the attention from Black lives, who are the ones in peril (find out more about What Black Lives Matter Means). However, if we want to win at addressing the climate crisis, we must elevate all races, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian.

We’re in this together, and only together can we solve the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced.