Let’s talk about George Floyd, racism, and the climate crisis.

George Floyd was a black man living in Minneapolis. He was brutally murdered at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department two weeks ago, the latest in a long line of black people killed by police violence in the US. His death triggered uprisings all over the States calling for justice, and in defence of black lives. It also sparked hundreds of solidarity and anti-racism protests across the world, from Australia to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK. The scale of these demonstrations rivals the historic Civil Rights protests of the 1960s and could be a game-changer worldwide.

Right now you might feel uncomfortable, as many white people like me do when engaging in a conversation about racism. You might also feel confused, wondering why a climate change campaigning organisation is talking about racism, and where I’m going with this. 

I ask you to please keep reading.

If the connection between racism and the climate crisis is not immediate to you, I have a confession to make: it wasn’t to me either, when I started my journey of action on climate. But the more I listened to and worked with those at the frontlines of the climate crisis, the clearer I heard and understood.

The disregard for black lives and the lives of indigenous people and people of colour is at the root of the climate crisis, fueling centuries of colonisation, extraction of resources (including fossil fuels), and inequitable climate impacts. Any meaningful solution to the climate crisis must therefore centre racial equity and justice. In other words, we must oppose racism every day if we want action on climate to succeed.

First, we need to learn and reflect. Here are some resources that might be of help with that.

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Racism is unfortunately a powerful destructive force here in Europe as well. The disregard for black and brown lives kills thousands who make risky migration journeys across the Mediterranean every year, rather than providing them with safe corridors. It keeps communities of colour in the most polluted parts of our capital cities. It shows up as monkey chants at football matches, as erasure of European colonial genocides from school curriculums, and as limited opportunities for people of colour to access healthcare, jobs, and education available to their white counterparts.

There are some amazing groups who lead on dismantling racism in our societies and climate movements here in Europe. Groups like the Climate Liberation Bloc in the Netherlands, or Wretched of the Earth in the UK. I encourage you to look for them wherever you are, support them, listen to and lift up their voices – and work with them to integrate their demands into your work.

If you have money to share (and we know that, during this pandemic, not everyone has), I encourage you to donate to the Black Lives Matter and anti-racist groups in your own country.

There are countless other examples of racial injustice from the rest of the world that don’t make it to the evening news – countless stories that have yet to be told. Unfair as that is, the prominence of US events has opened up a unique window for conversation – with your friends, family, within your community, and with the people you consider your companions in the fight for climate justice. This is an invitation to take that opportunity and nurture the ideas and connections that need to be at the core of the movement that will dismantle the fossil fuel industry.

Most of all, however, this is a call to action. If you haven’t yet, this is the time to take your first step towards being actively anti-racist in your climate work. If you’ve taken some initial steps, it’s time to push further. It is uncomfortable and hard work, for those of us who are white (like my entire team, and the vast majority of 350’s network in Europe).

But it’s absolutely necessary work: to stand up in defence of the lives of black people, indigenous people and people of colour here in Europe and around the world; to centre their experience, voices, and demands in building a prosperous future for all.

Take the Pledge in defence of Black lives

When the media moves onto the next news story, I hope we don’t. This work is a long journey, but the reward of that journey is immense: justice for all.

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