Environmental justice and anti-racism
In May 2020 the world watched a fresh wave of protests following the murder of yet another black person – George Floyd – by a white police officer in the United States.
The injustice of systemic racism resonated across the globe – racism is by no means a problem confined to the States. From the COVID-linked attack on a Singaporean student to the disproportionate use of police stops on black people, including athletes and MPs, it’s clear racism is still rife here in the UK too.
The environment movement and racism
If change is to happen and equality achieved, all individuals and organisations must consider how they've contributed to systemic racism and become actively anti-racist. In other words, get vocal in their opposition to racism.
That includes us. While we've always fought to protect both people and planet, we need to maximise our power as a campaigning force to be a better ally to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. That means recognising the uncomfortable truth that the UK’s environmental movement is still overwhelmingly white and middle-class. It means listening more deeply to underrepresented voices, being honest about where we’ve got things wrong in the past and humble about how much we still need to learn.
It also means showing that the struggles for equality and climate justice are interlinked. In the UK, BAME communities suffer most from the lack of green space in our towns and cities, and from worse air pollution. And globally it’s people in poorer countries like Bangladesh and Mozambique who fall victim to extreme weather patterns and other damage caused by climate breakdown, despite having contributed least to these problems.
Anti-racism at Friends of the Earth
We must make sure diversity and inclusivity are at our core. We’ve got a long road ahead of us, but we’re taking our first steps to becoming actively anti-racist. They include:
- Partnering with BAME-led organisations.
- A refreshed Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan.
- Webinars on building a diverse and inclusive network for our grassroots network.
- Reviewing our spokespeople and taking action to support and empower a diverse network of people to speak on environmental issues.
- Speaking on panels that are diverse and avoiding all-white and all-male panels.
Equality and fairness aren't just "nice-to-haves" – they’re key to solving shared global problems. Working together with a diverse range of people will help us build better solutions for a better world. We need all our supporters, and the wider network, to call out racism where they see it and help us build a more inclusive, diverse environmental movement.
If you’re unsure where to start, we’d recommend reading or listening to the following material (which can be found online):
- How to be an antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
- Conservation refugees, by Mark Dowie
- Understanding white privilege, with Reni Eddo-Lodge.