Twenty three-year old Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, has said that climate movement has been idealised to be led by only white activists while continually erasing black activists from the fight.
Nakate made these remarks while speaking in a live virtual discussion on Wednesday held by Doha Debates.
Speaking live from Kampala, Nakate discussed the lack of diversity in the environmental movement and noted that environmental activism is now a privilege.
Nakate also noted that people from Africa cannot, for example, organise strikes and protests the same way Europeans can because of the “politics and how risky it is.”
She said: “Environmental activism is different for the people in the Global South. It’s more complicated to do strikes in the Global South because of the politics and how risky it is to go out there and do massive strikes.”
“In my country, Uganda, you find that most of the schools use firewood for preparation of food. I have been to these schools, I have interacted with the teachers, and they say they know the dangers of cutting down the trees but they do not have any alternatives. This makes climate change a preserve of some people.”
“To me, personally, environmental racism is me trying to tell my story and other fellow climate activists in my country [of Uganda] – to talk about issues that are disproportionately impacting our lives. And yet we’re continuously being erased from the climate change movement.”
On being cropped out of an Associated Press photo at the World Economic Forum in Davos with four white climate activists:
“I was cropped [out of the photo in Davos] because of the history of excluding and erasing Black people from leading ecology movements. I think the climate movement has been idealized to be led by only white activists.”
“We have seen people of color leading ecology movements from way back. So this is a history of continuous erasure of Black voices, in the leadership of these movements. That is why I think I was cropped out.”
On environmental racism:
“If we do not include the issue of environmental racism in the environmental movement, then we cannot have the justice that we are looking for…When you come to the global south, it is the least contributor to the climate crisis especially countries in Africa but they are the most affected by climate change.”
“We know the historical events that brought about the climate crisis, from colonialism to imperialism and exploitation, to communities in countries like mine.”
“Many children have to sleep hungry because their families have lost everything to climate change. Many girls have to skip school, they have to drop out of school, because their parents cannot take care of them.”
Vanessa Nakate on what people can do to amplify voices of climate activists of color:
“We need more people on board to help platforming and amplifying the voices of the activists from the most affected communities.”
On balancing the needs of the economy versus environmental activism:
“At the end of it all, you cannot make money on a dead planet. You cannot make profits on a dead planet. A time will come when we have lost all our life support systems, and all the capitalist leaders will realize, money is nothing on a dead planet. So we have to put the people and the planet over the profits. That’s the only way to survive.”
Credit: Doha Debates