In the Blog

introducing a website for anti-racist enviro-ing!

January 18th, 2008     by Thea Lim     Comments

If you read this website at all regularly, you’ve probably heard me moan about how marginalised groups fighting for their rights rarely seem to recognise their commonality. Whether it’s feminists having trouble reconciling with anti-racists, or green anarchists distancing themselves from anti-ableism activists, the whole thing gives me the weepies. Wouldn’t things go much faster if we all recognised how ultimately linked all of our causes - like feminism, queer rights, indigenous rights, racial equity, anti-poverty efforts, ability activism - are linked, and then work together? Instead, what seems to happen more often than not is a competition to see who has it worse. I tell you, it’s enough to tire a girl out.

One thing in particular that’s always stuck in my craw is the green movement’s tendency towards racism (or at least racial obliviousness) and classism. While feminism and environmentalism have managed to make the happy marriage of ecofeminism, anti-racism movements and environmental movements haven’t always gotten along.

That’s why I was thrilled to find out about Black.Brown.Green., “a web portal of resources and information that integrate people of color and our needs and issues with the movement for environmental sustainability.” As they say most eloquently:

We hope to spread the understanding that all things are connected and that we are stronger when working together than we are when we are tearing each other apart.

I love this site. Where else would you find the 12 Principles of Permaculture integrated with Malcolm X? Excellent! Incidentally Black.Brown.Green was started by damali ayo, who also created the hilarious (and useful) I Can Fix It! guides for ending racism.

What do I mean when I say that the environmental movement can be racist or classist? The mainstream green movement (which often encapsulates the anti-corporate and anti-consumerism movement) tends to primarily represent the experiences of middle class and white folks.

[For e.g.: (and this is an answer to a question Catherine asked me ages ago, sorry this took so long!) Adbuster’s famous Buy Nothing Day (BND) campaign rests on the assumption that North Americans spend lots of money every day, and spend thoughtlessly. While this can be true for middle class folks like me, is it really true for people who don’t have a disposable income? In behaving as if all North Americans have problems with excessive spending, BND and Adbusters is implying that working class folks don’t exist. BND has been criticised for righteously positioning itself above the middle class, and this positioning is plain silly when its assumptions reveal it to be firmly rooted in middle earth. I appreciate what BND is trying to do, but I’d feel much fonder towards it if it had a better class analysis and recognised just who it’s pandering to.]

While this is bad enough in and of itself, it’s particularly awful when you consider that it’s poor folks and people of colour who often bear the brunt of environmental degradation. In the words of the amazing Youth Environmental Network:

Nobody wants toxic facilities in their neighbourhoods; this is referred to as not-in-my-backyard or NIMBY. However, race- and class-privileged communities are able to enforce NIMBY while some communities are not. These communities are most often communities of colour, First Nations and low income communities.

This is from the Green Justice Guide, which you can download on this webpage (scroll to the bottom. unfortunately it’s a hefty doc and you might have to be patient.)

If you’d like to learn more about the connection between environmentalism and racism, and the movement to make things better, I’d highly recommend the article “Green is not the only colour” which my associate Beenash Jafri co-wrote.

Tags: activist report, eco speak, race and racism

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