The young people’s climate movement has united against ‘environmental racism’

Licypriya Kangujam
Fréa Lockley

Globally, children and young people are leading the way on climate action. But despite their incredible work, they’re also facing another battle. While trying to raise awareness and save the world, they’ve hit the wall of systemic racism from adults and the establishment media.

“You are deleting a story”

Worldwide, most people now know about Greta Thunberg. And while her work raising awareness of climate chaos is incredible, there are many other children and young people whose names should be equally familiar. But globally, adults and the establishment media have whitewashed their stories and vital contribution to this crisis.

Eight-year-old climate activist Licypriya Kangujam from Manipur in India has had enough. She’s called the world out insisting people stop calling her “Greta of India”:

In 2019, Kangujam told global leaders to “act now against climate change” at the COP25 climate conference in Spain. Although she’d already spoken about climate chaos in 21 countries, newspapers tagged her “Indian Greta” and “‘Greta’ of the Global South”.

But, as Kangujam says so eloquently, making this comparison ‘deletes’ her story:

Adults and media around the world have chosen Thunberg as their poster girl. Meanwhile, they’re literally cutting out incredible, young Black climate activists.

“Climate activists of colour are erased”

On 24 January, the Associated Press (AP) came under fire for cropping Vanessa Nakate, a 23-year-old Black climate activist, out of a group photo taken at the 2020 Davos climate summit. The photo only showed four white activists.

According to the Guardian, Nakate said:

Climate activists of colour are erased. I [had] activists who messaged me to tell me that the same thing happened to them before but they didn’t have the courage to say anything.

“Do not erase voices”

It’s worth noting that there’s absolutely no animosity or competition between the young people themselves. In fact, their solidarity should shame the adults. Thunberg made this very clear, and Zero Hour, founded by 18-yr-old Colombian-American climate activist Jamie Margolin, amplified the message:

So while they’re leading the world on climate action, these young people now have a second battle – challenging racism:

Young people demand unity, not division:

So yes, Thunberg’s activism is incredible. But we also need to learn the names of all these other incredible young people and stand with them too. Kangujam, Nakate, and Margolin deserve equal praise and respect. So too does 12-year-old Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny from Flint, Michigan. In 2016, she wrote to Barack Obama demanding he take action on the Flint water crisis. Copeny told Vox that the climate movement, “need[s] to address issues of environmental racism because it is a huge part in the climate movement yet it is treated by most as a nonissue”.

And as 17-year-old Xiye Bastida pointed out:

The first ones to get affected are Indigenous communities who are displaced because of infrastructure and disrespect of the land. It’s not just coming from Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities being victims of pollution that the fossil fuel industry brings. It’s much deeper than that. Whose spaces are they choosing to contaminate and build infrastructure in the first place?

“A liveable planet for all”

These issues are too important to ignore. As Nadia Nazar, a 17-year-old Indian American activist, told Vox:

The climate crisis is the largest threat to every single person and living thing on this planet. We must make sure that we include everyone in our solutions because everyone needs to be uplifted. This movement led by Indigenous, frontline, and youth of colour will win and achieve a livable planet for all.

White global leaders and journalists may well try to compare all these incredible young people to Thunberg. But the world needs to sit up and listen, because these activists won’t stand for it, and nor should we.

Featured image via Wikimedia – Dilanlekamge

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us