Minority voices need to be included in conversations on environmentalism

Environmental youth activists at a science event in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of CNN

Conversations among young “millennials” and “generation Xers” in regards to environmentalism, and specifically climate change have heightened in the past few years. The destiny of our planet is obviously an important issue to younger generations since they will obviously be the generation around experiencing the detriment of ignored environmental issues.

In September 2019, 17-year-old climate activist, Greta Thunberg, spoke at the UN Climate Action Summit. Her compelling speech gained global traction as she called on politicians and prominent figures from around the world to care about the future of our planet in the same way that many young people do.

As inspiring as Thunberg’s message was, it shone a light on how easy it is for White men and women’s voices to be accepted in political spaces as opposed to Black people and other minorities.

This assertion comes from the fact that there are many minority environmental activists who have never been welcomed on a platform that large and definitely have not gone on to become Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

In a press conference, this past weekend in Davos, Switzerland, youth activists was invited to a climate science event, where Thunberg attended.

Vanessa Nakate, a 23-year-old climate activist from Uganda was photographed alongside other White climate activists.

AP news released a version of the photo that had Nakate cropped out completely.

Nakate called out AP’s exclusion on Twitter, expressing how hurt she was to be cropped out.

“You didn’t just erase a photo you erased a continent but I am stronger than ever,” Nakate tweeted.

AP News released a statement but Nakate went on to say that it didn’t sound like a genuine apology and that it was inexcusable.

Nakate was able to stand up for herself and gain massive support from users online, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the outcome when minority voices are shut out of spaces.

Climate change’s impact on the globe will undoubtedly affect humans. Humans living in nations that are at risk of economic and agricultural ruin will be most heavily impacted.

In Thunberg’s notorious speech, she even mentions this issue, referring to herself as one of the “lucky ones,” as she lives in a nation where she knows she and others won’t be ignored.

Proof of this erasure and discrimination occurred when Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico. Media coverage and governmental aid were minuscule in comparison to when natural disasters strike states in the continental US.

In 2010 when a major earthquake hit Haiti, it gained global attention. Yet there has been controversy surrounding the legitimacy of the aid Haiti received following the catastrophe.

Natural disasters are inevitable, but the erasure of Black and other minority voices is avoidable.

The issue is not that the world needs to give “a voice to the voiceless,” it’s that the world needs to give listening ears and active support to the cries for help these voices are demanding.

Everyone has a voice, we all just need to listen.