January 26, 2021
Over the last few years I’ve campaigned on Climate Justice, from climate education to divestment from fossil fuels, working with a range of NGOs and campaigning organisations in the UK. Although these organisations are brilliant, and the work they do is amazing, I’m often struck by their inability to see climate justice through a holistic lens.
It is a fact that the impacts of the climate emergency disproportionately affect People of Colour (POC) and those from working-class communities. And, of course, even more so, young people, who will inevitably pay the price for the bad decisions being made today. Young People of Colour, especially those from working class communities, are arguably the most important voices that we need to bring about real change in our systems and processes. Yet they are the people who are so often left out of the issues, and the sector, altogether.
The 2017 Policy Exchange report showed that environmental professionals were the second least diverse occupation in the country, after farmers. There are many reasons for this – the colonial tactics of nature conservationists over the years, that black communities live mostly in urban areas and see the countryside as the preserve of the white middle-class, and cultural perceptions. The sector has known it has a massive problem with racial inclusion for a long time, but it has not prioritised taking collective action to date, because it hasn’t seen it as important enough.
Well, things are changing, Black Lives Matter, and will increasingly matter as the world wakes up to the racial injustice of global heating and the ecological breakdown. The sector must act now and deliver change. That is why I am so delighted that Race for Nature is getting going, as I see that programme as the start of that change.
Action for Conservation, Generation Success, SOS-UK and Voyage Youth have teamed up to create a transformational work placement programme that offers an incredible opportunity for marginalised young people to get into the sector and start to change it from within.
Over the next 18 months the programme will train, support and mentor over 150 young people, mostly young People of Colour, to get their first jobs in the environmental and sustainability sectors, building them up to deliver transformational work, and celebrating the impact they make to the sector. The programme will also work to bring down the barriers that remain, through anti-oppression training, lowering entry-level requirements for jobs and creating a more inclusive environment.
I really hope the whole sector will unite behind Race for Nature, and the young people in their work placements – they need, and deserve, our support.
President, SOS-UK, and Vice President, European Students’ Union