As Climate-Driven Crises Mount, New Activists Are Created
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So it’s welcome news that a new crop of environmental activists are working to center communities of color in the climate change conversation, to mitigate risks, seek long overdue justice, or simply contribute to an environmental movement once seen to be the purview of wealthy, white society.
If there ever was a case for radical inclusiveness, this is it—and, it’s worth noting, that climate activist Greta Thunberg herself is making it. “Africa is so hugely underreported when it comes to the climate crisis (as well as everything else…),” she tweeted recently. “If you have a platform—help amplify the voices and stories from Africa. Africa has a key role in the fight for climate justice. Please acknowledge and share their perspective.” And then, she shared their perspectives.
The first installment of the “Black In The Time of Climate Change” series, OneZero, The Guardian’s technology publication, profiles four environmental justice activists who are fighting for communities of color in work that links to climate activism across the globe.
Consider the story of Boynton, a working-class community in southwest Detroit, intentionally created by discriminatory housing practices. Boynton is adjacent to a Marathon oil refinery. The sky over Boynton is a ghastly orange, acid rain is the norm, and the population suffers disproportionately from deadly respiratory disease and Type I diabetes. Vince Martin, an Afro-Cuban who moved to Boynton with his family when he was three, says he’s seen the neighborhood decline over the past three decades as the Marathon campus steadily grew into a 250-acre tank farm. It’s now Michigan’s most polluted zip code, and some 71% of the population is Black.
He’s now an environmental activist. “Eventually a lightbulb goes off and you see that your community is a sacrifice,” he tells OneZero. “We’re actually Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory in Michigan. How you just going to sit here using these people as guinea pigs?”
While Indigenous people have long been ignored as environmental stewards and activists, there are signs that they are getting the attention they deserve.
Here’s just one: High Country News, an award-winning media outfit that covers life in the American West with a dedication to Indigenous issues, is part of ClimateDesk, a wide-ranging journalistic collaboration between a broad group of outfits, including The Atlantic, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, CityLab, Grist, The Guardian, HuffPost, Medium, Mother Jones, National Observer, Newsweek, Reveal, Slate, The Weather Channel, Undark, Wired and Yale Environment 360.
And it seems the youth will lead the way.
HCN recently covered the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) 2019 Convention in Fairbanks, Alaska, one of the largest meetings of Indigenous people in the U.S. The big story: Two teen climate change activists—17-year-old Quannah Chasing Horse (Hans Gwich’in and Lakota Sioux) and 15-year-old Nanieezh Peter (Neetsaii Gwich’in and Diné)—successfully lobbied the Federation to pass a resolution on climate change action, and persuaded them to create a climate change task force within the AFN. The resolution will center climate change issues in the legislative work the AFN does within the Alaska legislature and the U.S. Congress.
I’d love to see them at Davos, wouldn’t you?
And then there’s the rest of us.
New York Times opinion writer Charles M. Blow declared in his most recent column that he’d become a “radical environmentalist,” a label that until recently had been embraced almost entirely by wealthier, white liberals. It’s a master class in becoming aware. “[S]omething happened to me last year,” he begins. He describes a slow-drip of influences—Greta Thunberg’s United Nations speech, Bill Nye the Science Guy’s dramatic and f-bomb exhortation on a burning world, the overwhelming science. Perhaps it was simply becoming the parent of newly adult children and waking up to the enormity of the problems facing the next generation, he writes.
But he’s noticed how the world has changed during his lifetime. Growing up poor, his family produced almost all their own food, and what they bought was largely unpackaged. Now, he’s part of the problem.
“Poor people were the original recyclers before recycling was the norm. Waste was for the wealthy. For that reason we had little trash. When I thought about that in the context of the outrageous amount of trash my family and I now produce, I felt ashamed.”
So now he looks for ways to reduce his personal environmental impact as an individual and an advocate with a big megaphone. “It seems to me that environmentalism involves not only the changes we personally make, but also proselytizing, getting more people to join us,” he says with the zeal of the newly converted.
“I think that the only way to prevent the radical alteration of our planet is to commit to a radical alteration of our own behavior,” he says.
The C-suite doesn’t believe your diversity data A survey conducted by KPMG of 2,190 senior executives from nine countries finds that only 35% have high confidence in their company’s data and analytics, and a whopping 92% worry about the impact of flawed data on their company’s business and reputation. "Executives and managers are being asked to make major decisions based on the output of an algorithm that they didn't create and don't always fully understand," says Thomas Erwin of KPMG. For HR-related analytics, the data is both thin and relatively new, says Kevin Wheeler, founder and president of the Future of Talent Institute. "We're very early in understanding which analytics are important and which aren't."
Society for Human Resource Management
Megxit, explained Everyone was a royal watcher yesterday, as Meghan Markle and her husband, Prince Harry made an announcement that they would "step back" from their roles in the royal family, seek financial independence, and set up part-time residence in North America. The reactions have been as polarizing as expected. Helen Lewis has an excellent explainer in The Atlantic. "Harry and Meghan have departed from royal protocol by laying the blame for this unhappiness squarely at the door of the media," she begins, and reminds us how Harry has not only always had Markle’s back in the face of horrific and racist coverage, he’s had a long journey of his own, overcoming trauma and struggling with his mental health. “I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person,” Harry wrote in a statement when Meghan sued a British tabloid. “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
Mississippi’s governor does NOT want a Democratic senator In fact, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant took to Twitter to declare that if Democrat Mike Espy was elected to replace current Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith it would be bad. “If Mike Espy and the liberal Democrats gain the senate we will take that first step into a thousand years of darkness.” Espy, the potential darkness-bringer, would be the first Black senator from the state in nearly 140 years, lost in the runoff for the seat in 2018. Read this for a helpful rundown on the race, and the history of racism in Mississippi politics.
How the medical profession sees black women in pain I will warn you now: This essay is rough. It is an excerpt from Thick: And Other Essays, an essential book by Tressie McMillan Cottom, an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University. It begins with a horrific story about her treatment by medical professionals during a suddenly troubled pregnancy and ends in tragedy. “When the medical profession systematically denies the existence of black women’s pain, underdiagnoses our pain, refuses to alleviate or treat our pain, healthcare marks us as incompetent bureaucratic subjects,” she writes. “Then it serves us accordingly.”
Leaders, do better Research from the nonprofit Center for Talent Innovation shows what we all suspected was true: Most company sponsors choose talent who look like themselves in terms of race and gender, or as Bloomberg put it in their analysis, they “pick Mini-Me’s.” Turns about 71% of executives have proteges of the same gender and race, and the vast majority reported their mentees had the same management style or skills. The survey comes from a poll of more than 3,200 white-collar executives.
What does it mean to be white? One of the enduring problems of talking about race is the default position that white people don’t have one. More specifically, that by being the default idea of good things, like power, beauty, leadership, etc., white people don’t have a way to speak about themselves and their own lived experiences, while also addressing the messy reality of status. Writer and professor Eula Biss grew up in a multi-racial family and has been wrestling with the language around race for a long time. She uses the word “complacent” as an example. “[O]ne of the privileges of being white, is that you can coast through your experience, you can coast through your life without having to think about what your race means to other people, and what your existence in a community means to the people around you.”
“Let’s begin by saying that we are living through a very dangerous time. Everyone in this room is in one way or another aware of that. We are in a revolutionary situation, no matter how unpopular that word has become in this country. The society in which we live is desperately menaced, not by Khrushchev, but from within. To any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible—and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people— must be prepared to ‘go for broke.’ Or to put it another way, you must understand that in the attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the classroom but in society, you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance. There is no point in pretending that this won’t happen.”
— James Baldwin, "A Talk To Teachers," October 16, 1963