Black History Month: Race and Climate Change

First and foremost, it is an absolute honour to be asked to write (or perhaps contribute to) a wide ranging conversation about the intersection between race and the environment during Black History Month (BHM) 2017. I, a skinny kid from Zimbabwe who moved to Wales when I was 14, have been tasked with writing a few words about this period of history that we’re in, a period that calls forth our best talents and abilities to make a sustainable and just world. In this conversation we are about to have, I hope I will give due diligence and respect to the position I have been given for I know very well that BHM has different meanings, all significant, to a lot of people and I earnestly apologise to those that may feel I have not done this position justice come the end of this blog. It’s important to note that BHM is celebrating its 30th birthday this year, which is an astounding achievement. I hope this shows that as a nation and society, we are heading towards an era of justice, liberty and equality despite the many forces that push us off this path; forces that are ever present.

“…the one thing that we do have in common is this beautiful planet we call earth.”

Before I go any further, I believe it’s important to take note of the moment we find ourselves in here in Britain and across the world. It’s also important for you to understand why I believe and I am indeed hopeful, that an intersectional climate movement with an intersectional approach can best create a sustainable world which runs on a fair, green economy. It’s becoming more and more evident that our current lives exist in echo chambers from Facebook to our regular lives. Anger, instead of compassion and understanding, is the most valued currency be it whether you are left or right wing. It Is also becoming more and more evident that we are finding it difficult to agree on what the problems are and how we fix them. Perhaps that’s to do with having less and less things in common with our neighbours, regardless of their race. Well, the one thing that we do have in common is this beautiful planet we call earth. It is our home and we’re all neighbours in it regardless of our race. If you allow yourself to consider this, you come to realise that we all have a vested interested in doing the right thing.

“I have never been that interested in race…but I know that race is interested in me.”

In writing this, I have been forced to think back about what it was like being one of five black families in Brecon, Wales, a market town of 7-8000 people. In High School, I was one of three black students for a while. I bring this up not because I am trying to solicit any sympathy or parts thereof however, I am trying to illustrate how the environment I was born in, then having to grow up in a different environment, influenced my interaction with race and all the issues that came along with it. I have never been that interested in race, but I am not naïve. I know that race is interested in me. I know I am Black, I know that racism exists and I know that in the world that I am trying to help build, there is a possibility that there won’t be racism. But I cannot take that for granted, especially when people of colour don’t get heard. But before I am black, I would like you to know that I am human, as are you. As Roman playwright Terrence said: “I am human therefore nothing human is alien to me”. If you’re going to take anything away from this, may it be this.

I was asked to write about Race and the Climate movement, a worthy and weighty topic, in part because of the distinct lack of diversity in the Climate Movement. A movement I have been part of since 2010 when I was a Welsh Climate Change Champion together with five other like-minded youths of different races. I love what the climate movement is all about because I believe Climate Change is the biggest threat facing humanity. I don’t necessarily see it as just a threat, but also an incredible opportunity to perhaps reset if not right the wrongs of the past.

“…being part of the climate movement has given my life a purpose”

One of the reasons why I believe that Climate Change is not only a threat, but an incredible opportunity, is because being part of the climate movement has given my life a purpose. In this movement, I have found something in common with people from different walks of life. We’re all united by our love for this planet and doing everything we can to ensure that this place we call home is habitable. Habitable not only for us, but for the millions unborn. But we can only do this if more and more Black people, people of diverse backgrounds, and the despised and downtrodden are included within this movement- not for photo opportunities, but so that they can contribute to the all-out effort in making the world a better place, one which is sustainable and fair. The movement has to reach out to these groups of people because the danger is that in fixing a common problem, one group will gather around a table where everyone is the same and come up with a one-size-fits-all solution, and that is not what this moment calls for and it is certainly not democratic.

“The effects of climate change, if not tackled properly, will divide us even further”

Another reason why I think this is an incredible opportunity is because of what St Augustine said in the City of God. He said: “…a nation is a multitude of rational beings united by the common objects of their love,” and if we are to consider the moment we are in, we find ourselves divided, anger runs in the streets and hate crimes have gone up in the country. But I believe that an Intersectional Climate Movement offers answers and a shot at redemption. I say redemption because running on anger as a passion will not let you reach the acropolis, love will. The effects of climate change, if not tackled properly, will divide us even further. If we are to unite in the love of our planet so that all our individual actions and efforts contribute positively in making the world more sustainable and just, then we might just stand a chance.

“I said in the beginning that I am human before I am Black”

I said in the beginning that I am human before I am Black. The Climate Movement would be wise to ensure that it diversifies the movement as much as it can, doing it with the utmost expediency because humankind depends on it. When the story of the Climate Movement is told, it cannot only include one group of people and have other people’s stories written off history.

 

Written by Cyril Moyo

Cyril Moyo is a former member of UKYCC’s International Team and currently works for a National Charity.

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