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Fighting systemic racism is critical to achieving environmental and climate justice, according to leading activists, as the disparities of Covid-19 and the global uprising against police brutality expose the ramifications of racial inequalities in all spheres of life. lifetime.
There has been a wave of protests demanding an end to racist policing in towns and cities around the world amid mounting evidence that brown, black and native communities have also been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Increasingly, experts and protesters have identified racial injustice as the common denominator in police violence, as well as environmental and health inequalities linked to poor Covid-19 results. And on the streets, what began when the Black Lives Matter protests morphed into a movement for racial justice amid growing recognition that systemic racism denies people of color equal access to economic, social, and social justice. environmental and climate, as well as equity in health, political power, civil rights and human rights.
“The disproportionate rates of infection, hospitalization, and deaths from Covid-19 are linked to persistent health, social, economic, and environmental inequities faced by black Americans, conditions that are rooted in oppression, discrimination, medical apartheid, and structural racism… and that today we have created a perfect storm, ”said Peggy Shepard, co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, at a press conference this week.
In the US and UK, research has found that people of color experience more air pollution than white residents. Poor air quality, which is linked to multiple respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, significantly increases the risk of death from Covid-19.
As the crowds have grown, so have the demands for radical reforms.
“Racism is built into America's DNA, and since 1619, black Americans have had to endure this violent and oppressive system. Covid 19 exposed the racial divide of our nation, ”said Robert Bullard, distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy at the University of South Texas and co-chair of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN).
The NBEJN, an organization founded in 1999 to address environmental racism faced by black communities in the United States, was relaunched this week with the promise of creating a roadmap for a broad environmental justice agenda seen through a lens of racial justice.
“Environmental racism kills, air pollution, and rollbacks to environmental protections and regulations make it hard for Blacks to breathe. At NBEJN we are connecting the dots, ”said Bullard.
Globally, the environmental and climate movement has long faced criticism for failing to understand the crucial role of racial justice in terms of impact and solutions.
In the United States, the environmental justice movement emerged in the 1980s in part because neither white-dominated environmental groups nor civil rights groups considered the disproportionate dumping of toxic waste in black neighborhoods as part of their agenda.
The movement's birth was celebrated in 1991 at the first national environmental leadership summit of people of color attended by academics and leaders from Black, Latino, Native American and Asian American communities, including Robert Bullard, who drafted 17 principles of justice. environmental.
Madhu Krishnan, a professor of African, world and comparative literature at the University of Bristol and a supporter of the climate movement, said there were a lot of black weather activists in her city, particularly in the Extinction Rebellion, but the perception still existed that he was mainly white and middle class.
“If you look at what happened to the climate globally, it takes a disproportionate amount of blame for the global north, especially the former colonial powers. Environmental repairs are due, ”said Krishnan. “And you have to think more about the solutions. The idea of carbon offsets simply re-inscribes colonial frameworks ”.
Daze Aghaji agrees that new groups like Extinction Rebellion are more inclusive and open to change than traditional organizations like Greenpeace.
“In recent weeks, the protest movement is really helping. People are more open to listen. It made people realize that the United States is not the only country with a systematic problem of racism, ”he said. "We need a moment to really think about how we relate to each other ... The toxic system is something we all have to live with."
As protesters and activists demand that world leaders also connect the dots, in a video message posted to Twitter, Ayana Johnson, a New York-based oceanographer and founder of the Ocean Collective, a nonprofit organization rooted in the social justice, succinctly linked racial justice to climate justice.
“For white people who are concerned with maintaining a livable planet, I need them to be actively anti-racist. I need you to understand that our inequality crisis is intertwined with the climate crisis. If we don't work both ways, we won't be successful in either direction ”.