Why is Climate Activism so White?
As a Black British Muslim woman who is heavily involved in the charity sector, something that has become strikingly clear to me over the last couple of years is the lack of BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of colour) representation or involvement in the climate movement. It has become apparent that the ever-growing climate change movement in the global North is a very white and middle-class movement. Why is this the case? In trying to dissect this and understand it for myself, I asked and read around what BIPOC had to say about the climate change movement and found various answers to my question in the process.
The first, and sometimes hard to swallow, reason is that the climate movement in the UK is not inclusive in its approach. Its failure to address and engage with environmental racism or injustice is off-putting for a lot of BIPOC. Climate change impacts BAME the most, both in the global South and the global North. People at intersections of multiple oppressions are usually impacted to a higher degree, so it is no surprise that BIPOC are disproportionally affected by climate change. Privilege, power, and oppression are all integral to our understanding of how we are impacted by climate change and our environment.
However, despite being the most affected by the climate crisis, BIPOC are not at the forefront of climate change activism because their needs – our needs – are not addressed in such movements. Even when we speak out, our voices are either intentionally or unintentionally erased from conversations surrounding climate change. Exploring the ways that global warming harms low-income communities, primarily Black, indigenous and POC communities are critical to understanding how we can overcome this lack of diversity and inclusion in climate-based movements. We therefore must challenge ourselves to centre the voices of those most impacted by environmental harm in the fight for the protection of our planet.
Some of the biggest climate change movements in the UK have already addressed and accepted that their movements need to be more inclusive. While addressing the matter is the first step to a solution, it proves useless if it is not followed by tangible action. If you, or your organisation, are questioning why there is little BIPOC involvement or representation in your environment campaigns and movements, ask yourself whether your climate activism or movement is intersectional? If climate or environment centred movements want more BIPOC representation and involvement, then the solution is straightforward, include and spotlight our experiences too.