PAPER: ‘Overwhelming Whiteness’ Is Holding Us Back In The Fight Against Global Warming

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Environmentalists need to move past the “overwhelming whiteness” that is keeping them from winning the debate on global warming, according to an article published on the news site Quartz.

“Given the environmental threats posed by a Trump administration, it’s more crucial than ever that Americans work together to fight climate change,” authors Nicole Smith Dahmen, Troy Elias, Deborah Morrison and Daniel Morrison wrote in Quartz.

“And in order to achieve broad, collaborative action, the mainstream environmental movement will need to take a hard look at how its overwhelming whiteness has thus far hobbled its efforts,” they wrote.

Arguments like those of the authors are nothing new. Some environmentalists have been vocal in the last few years about the apparent lack of racial diversity in prominent environmental groups.

Van Jones, President Barack Obama’s former “green jobs czar,” urged environmentalists to reach out to black communities.

“Some affluent white communities are more vocal and maybe have more intensity, and also more resources to single this one issue out, but the polling data’s pretty clear that African-Americans are among the most supportive of environmental regulation and climate solutions,” Jones told the blog Grist in 2013.

Environmentalists see protests like the one going on outside the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota as a means to highlight how minorities can be galvanized to protest fossil fuels.

Activists even tried to draw parallels between the riots in Ferguson, Missouri to current displays of global warming activism. Protesters clashed with riot police over the shooting of Michael Brown in August, 2014, by a law enforcement officer.

Black Lives Matter activists are reflecting the wider push for more racial overtones in anti-fossil fuels environmental protests, demanding reparations for “environmental racism” and “food apartheid.” Activists want military spending be cut and more black people be given jobs producing green energy and sustainable foods.

“Clearly, people of color are invested in working to address climate change and other environmental issues,” the Quartz authors argue. “And yet the mainstream environmentalist movement has failed them, largely because it has been designed by and for a white, upper-middle-class demographic.”

“Immediate and significant actions must be taken to reach these communities of color who reflect the new socio-political landscape of the United States,” they wrote. “Given that people of color are largely supportive of ameliorative actions to address climate change, and that they are potentially less swayed by political ideologies regarding climate change, climate messages should prioritize people of color as essential allies in the climate-change mitigation movement.”

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