Why Being Anti-Racist Can Help Fight Climate Change

One of the things I love most about this blog is that we’re breaking down bigger ideas to make them more accessible. My goal has alway been about opening up the conversation so more voices can be heard, and one vital part of this inclusivity is anti-racism. Climate action has always been critiqued because it has historically been seen as a privileged value, and it kind of is. As we’ve mentioned on Living Green before, living sustainably isn’t always accessible because it can cost a lot of time and money, and not everyone is equally represented in the conversation. Thankfully climate action is becoming more and more accessible for everyone, but amplifying marginalized voices is a key factor in the fight for change.

“Pipelines” by Nikos Koutoulas via Flickr

When we look at communities of color, we can see that large percentages of these communities prioritize climate change as a crisis. But because of housing discrimination, a lot of these communities receive lower funding, less political representation, and are more likely to live in areas affected by environmental contamination. In addition to fighting systemic racism, these communities are effected by climate change more than anyone else. We can see this in communities across America, like those in coastal Louisiana which has been home to Native American tribes for generations. Due to land erosion, they are expected to be among the first climate refugees in America. Similarly, in East Palo Alto, we can see rising sea levels continue to effect vulnerable communities.

Across the globe, we know that Africa is already being effected by drought and famine before anywhere else. And in 2020, farmers burned a primary area of the Amazon rainforest that was the size of Massachusetts. Due to deforestation, the forest has released more carbon emissions than it can absorb. According to the Thomson Reuter Foundation,“across the nine nations of the Amazon basin, political leaders allow the forests to be mined for gold, drilled for oil, and stripped to make way for agribusiness, while denying indigenous people the right to decide the fate of their own lands.”

When we practice anti-racism to interrupt systemic white supremacy, we can amplify voices of color and make the conversation as accessible as possible. And, when we create fair spaces in the fight against climate change, we can come up with creative innovations and policies that will help in the future of our planet.

So, what is anti-racism?

NPR’s Eric Deggans said, “anti-racism is about pushing past knowing better and instead actively doing better.” We all know racism is bad, but when we only see racism as an action, we ignore the ways that racism is embedded into Western culture, and we ignore the ways this culture impacts people of color. With white privilege comes the misunderstanding of racism as a good/bad binary. “I’m not racist because I don’t do bad things, I’m a good person.” We completely ignore the point. Being anti-racist means actively working to educate ourselves on systemic racism and questioning our own biases, language, and maybe even our friends. It means fighting policies that hurt people of color. Not being racist isn’t enough when we look at larger social, economic, and political issues. 

Photo by Victor Bezrukov via Flickr

How can I be anti-racist?

Start by reaching for resources that are new to you and highlight voices of color. When we listen to others, we open our eyes to new perspectives and experiences that may be very different from our own. 

Read:

How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Black Portsmouth by Mark J. Sammons and Valerie Cunningham

The Color Of Law by Richard Rothstein

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Home by Toni Morrison

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

George Washington Gómez by Américo Paredes

Listen to:

How to Save a Planet podcast (particularly the episode titled “Black Lives Matter and the Climate” which was shared with me and inspired this blog post). 

It Was Said podcast (particularly episodes highlighting MLK Jr., Barbara Jordan, and President Obama’s sermon at Charleston)

The Breakdown podcast with Shaun King

The Untold Story: Policing podcast with Jay Ellis

Watch:

Because there are too many good ones, here are a couple of lists including 13th, When They See Us, Selma, Malcom X, Dear White People, Do the Right Thing, and Marshall. (List#1 & List#2)

Also, this short video about Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar, Chief of the Grand Caillou/Dula Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Chief Shirell is actively fighting dangerous policies to save and protect her coastal community.

What Actions Should I Take? 

Have conversations about race and anti-racism with your friends and family.

Consider your own unconscious biases and work to change them.

Break white solidarity by calling out racism when you see it. Both systemic and in your own personal life.

Vote for candidates who are actively advocating for anti-racist policies like the Breathe Act and the Crown Act. And call candidates who aren’t. 

Volunteer or donate to programs that focus on under funded communities like:

The Greenlining Institute – works to improve economic well-being, health, housing, and climate impacts on communities of color. 

Nuestra Casa – advocates for environmental justice and work within their community to cultivate leadership skills for community development, environmental justice, and environmental equity. They also have programs to reduce food waste with their food distribution program. This helps fight greenhouse gases while also feeding the local community.

Lowland Center – works to fight land loss, water pollution, and find new energy solutions. They also work to protect sacred indigenous sites that are threatened by flooding.

Color Of Change– design campaigns against policies that hold Black people back, and create solutions for the future.

Support Local Black Owned Businesses in NH

The NAACP Manchester branch has compiled a list of black owned businesses that you can support in your local community.

Chief Shirell said, “Our saying is that we live for the next seven generations. Everything we do and everything we don’t do is going to impact them.”

So, what will you do to impact the next seven generations?

“The animals take control of a flooded road” by wyntuition via Flickr

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