The Black Lives Matter uprisings show how hard marginalised voices fight to be heard. The tragic events that sparked them prove that brutal racism still exists – and that centuries of exploitation and oppression have created an unfair world for people of colour today.
That’s as true in the climate movement as anywhere else. Despite deep experience of environmental racism, and expertise fighting for social and environmental justice, people of colour are still left out.
As a huge imperial power and the home of the industrial revolution, the UK holds a unique place in history as one of the greatest historic emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. Today, people of colour worldwide bear some of the worst impacts of the climate crisis, while contributing the least to its causes.
Most people know Greta Thunberg and the global youth climate movement she inspired. But outside the media spotlight, Black, Indigenous and other people of colour around the world are also working tirelessly for environmental justice.
In early 2020, Ugandan youth delegate Vanessa Nakate was cropped out of a photograph at the World Economic Forum in Davos in early 2020. This scandal highlighted how important it is to recognise and celebrate Black, Indigenous and people of colour fighting for our planet.
So take some time to read about these young activists and change makers, share their stories, and support their crucial work where you can. Then keep exploring: check out Climate Reframe, which showcases more brilliant UK climate experts, campaigners and advocates from communities of colour.
As the executive director of SustainUS, Khan works with other frontline youth to challenge the fossil fuel industry and demand climate justice internationally. “Since 2014 I have been attending the UN climate conferences and every year I see the same thing – countries in the Global North not wanting to pay reparations to countries in the Global South already impacted by the climate crisis,” Khan says.
Follow Aneesa Khan on Twitter.
Okunde is active in the UK Student Climate Network (UKSCN) – the grassroots youth climate strikes organisers in the UK. She is currently working with youth climate strikers Manchester and Fridays for Future to support digital climate actions during the global pandemic.
Raman-Middleton is a climate activist with UKSCN. She has spoken about the Teach the Future campaign and the importance of climate education to students, teachers, and media organisations, most recently at the Children’s Media Conference and the Big Climate Teach In. She is currently setting up a London Climate Youth Network to educate and empower students about environmental and climate issues.
Follow Anjali Raman-Middleton on Twitter.
Aoife Mercedes Rodriguez-Uruchurtu
Rodriguez-Uruchurtu is a climate activist with the UKSCN based in Manchester, and is also involved in the COP26 Coalition.
She says, “My activist journey began in the spring of 2019, when I started striking for climate in front of the Scottish Parliament.”
Xakriabá is an Indigenous activist in Brazil fighting Amazon rainforest fires and plans for mining on Xakriabá land.
She says, “I am a daughter of Mother Nature: taking care of her is taking care of ourselves. We will take care of Mother Nature in order to protect us – we only exist because she still exists.”
Follow Artemisa Xakriabá on Instagram.
Photo: Antônio Barreto
In 2018, Khan led a youth climate retreat in the Adirondack Mountains with leaders across New York State.
She also traveled to San Francisco to interview high-level attendees at the Global Climate Action Summit, and joined the Youth Fundraising Advisory Board.
Photo: Leah Qusba
Ayisha Siddiqa is co-founder and co-coordinator of Polluters Out is a global coalition of young people from 80 countries united with scientists to challenge the fossil fuel industry’s control of land. Siddiqa is also on the core team of Re-Earth Initiative. In September 2019 she helped mobilise and lead over 300,000 people onto the streets of Manhattan.
Manuel is from the Island of Palau. He was among a group of young people from 12 countries around the world who in 2019 presented a landmark complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child against government inaction on climate change. At COP25, he said that everyone had the right to enjoy the planet, but Palau families’ rights are being violated with people forced from their homes by rising sea levels.
Photo: Children vs Climate Crisis
Palmer is an activist fighting for climate justice which is intersectional with social issues. She is part of the UKSCN, Fridays for Future International and Extinction Rebellion (XR) Youth. She is a public speaker who has spoken at events such as COP25 on environmental justice.
Elizabeth Wanjuri Wathuti
“I am a passionate environment and climate activist from Kenya and the founder of Green Generation Initiative. I also recently joined Wangari Maathai Foundation as the Head of Campaigns.”
Learn more about about Wathuti in our UK Black History Month blog.
Follow Elizabeth Wanjuri Wathuti on Twitter.
Terena works with Mídia Índia, the main digital channel of the Indigenous cause in Brazil. In 2019 he was part of an Indigenous delegation from Brazil touring Europe. A music producer who takes inspiration from nature and the Indigenous struggle, Terena says, “It’s time to make melody a tool for fighting”.
Follow Eric Terena on Instagram.
Erisvan Bone de Sousa Silva
“I am the founder of Mídia India – a network that makes the Indigenous struggle and resistance visible in Brazil. Since 2015 we have been using digital communication as a tool in the fight, showing the strong role for Indigenous communicators in the struggle.”
Follow Erisvan Bone de Sousa Silva on Instagram.
Helena Gualinga is an 18-year-old Indigenous activist from Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon. At COP25, she called out world leaders for criminal negligence, and expressed her concern over the Ecuadorian government authorising oil extraction in Indigenous land.
Follow Helena Gualinga on Twitter.
A Manchester Youth Strike coordinator and a member of UKSCN and Fridays For Future. Asim is currently working on a number of environmental projects, including the Green New Deal hub and the Greater Manchester Youth Combined Authority Environment group project. The latter is to hold an event on climate change and how young people can make a difference.
Isra Hirsi is a 17-year-old climate and social justice activist from Minneapolis, Minnesota and is co-founder of US Youth Climate Strike. She won a Brower Youth Award for her climate activism. She is the daughter of US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. “The climate crisis,” Hirsi has said, “is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.”
Follow Isra Hirsi on Twitter.
Jerome Foster II
Forster is the founder and executive director of One Million of Us. Foster led a climate strike outside the White House in solidarity with the second global Fridays For Future strike, which took place in May 2019. “I am committed to galvanising a new generation of outspoken leaders – this is very important to me,” he says.
Follow Jerome Foster II on Twitter.
Ahmed is part of the UKSCN. She talks at schools and educational institutions explaining the importance of climate justice. “I also partake in interviews where I speak of the ecological crisis and how it impacts people in the Global South,” says Jessica.
Virasami is an artist, writer and political activist who organises across different struggles from housing rights to anti-racism to climate justice. He was a key organiser in both the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements and is active within Wretched of the Earth and the London Renters Union. He recently published How To Change It, available to pre-order.
Follow Joshua Virasami on Twitter.
“In the past year and a half I have worked with my Minnesota climate strike team on pushing policy regarding issues like divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy.” A daughter to Somali immigrants, 16-year-old Jama spoke alongside congresswoman Ilhan Omar at the Green New Deal Minnesota climate rally in February 2019.
Follow Juwaria Jama on Twitter.
Birla has organised with Climate Strike Leicester, where she acted as a spokesperson. “The 100 companies causing this terrible climate disaster know us consumers, especially ones like myself from a low-income background, cannot afford an alternative, there isn’t even one. There will never be ethical consumption underneath capitalism when people and nature are disregarded.” she said in a speech in October 2019.
Stephan started organising with the Washington DC student climate strikes network in 2019, when she was 14. She is now National Finance Director of Youth Climate Strike US. She says, “We plan to make climate change an essential debate topic in the 2020 election.”
Follow Karla Stephan on Twitter.
Namugerwa is the Team Leader of Fridays For Future Uganda. Namugerwa is a 15-year-old climate activist advocating for a plastic bags ban in Uganda. She is also the the founder of #BirthdayTrees, which calls on people in Uganda to plant a tree to celebrate their birthday.
Follow Leah Namugerwa on Twitter.
Litokne Kabua is from the Marshall Islands. He was among a group of young people from 12 countries around the world who in 2019, presented a landmark complaint to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to protest government inaction on climate change. The 16-year-old urged leaders to visit the Marshall Islands to see how rising seas are destroying them.
Photo: Children vs Climate Crisis
Fayokun is an 18-year-old youth climate striker. She is an activist with the UKSCN, the grassroots organisation which organises the youth climate strikes in the UK. Her work is focused on the Green New Deal and promoting anti-racism in the climate movement.
Follow Lola Fayokun on Instagram.
Louis VI wrote and presented a documentary called The world is (y)ours which aims to help young people of colour in Britain understand that where we live is negatively affecting where we’re from. He says the climate conversation is a conversation we should be leading. “Don’t forget this isn’t a recent thing, the destruction of the environment started with colonialism.”
Mya-Rose Craig is an 18-year-old British-Bangladeshi naturalist, passionate about birds, conservation and saving our planet whilst respecting Indigenous Peoples and highlighting global climate justice. She writes a blog, has spoken alongside Greta Thunberg and Chris Packham and appears on TV and radio. As president of Black2Nature, which she set up when she was 14, she is the youngest to be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science for fighting for equal access to nature.
Nadia Nazar is a 17-year-old artist and youth climate activist. Nazar is the co-founder, co-executive director, and art director of the This Is Zero Hour movement. In 2019 she told Vox, “Together, the youth are shaking the systems that have supported the climate crisis, including racism, patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism.”
Follow Nadia Nazar on Twitter.
Rauf is part of the Green New Deal Manchester Group and is working on and attending the UKSCN conference representing Manchester this year.
“My work is not only about saving the environment; it is about saving communities, lives and jobs. Climate justice is not only justice for the climate, it is justice for the people and something we should all fight for,” she says.
Nigerian eco-feminist Adenike is the founder of I Lead Climate, a green democracy grassroots climate campaign. She campaigns for the recharging of Lake Chad, and a green recovery post Covid-19. She’s passionate about youth climate action through education. She attended COP25 climate conference in Spain as a Nigerian youth delegate. Read more about Adenike in our UK Black History Month 2019 feature.
Quannah ChasingHorse Potts
“I see my ‘activism’ work as just protecting Indigenous lands, our way of life, and my culture. Being a land and water protector is part of my identity as an Indigenous woman. I grew up really grounded in my Han Gwich’in and Ogalala Lakota values and connected to the land, animals, waters and my culture. Protecting our way of life and land for future generations keeps me going and motivated.”
Follow Quannah ChasingHorse Potts on Instagram.
At the age of nine Pandey sued the Indian government over climate change. Her home state of Uttarakhand has been devastated by heavy rains, flash floods and deadly landslides. She wants to force her government to prevent any more damage. She says, “I want to save our future, the future of the coming generations.”
Sayma is a digital communications volunteer for the UKSCN. “I help out with blog posts and social media. Activism is more than hope, it is the active denial of corruption in a nonsensical and lonesome world by a collective of passionate people. We should demand change until changes are made,” she says.
Westbrook works with the UKSCN focusing on policy, outreach and the Green New Deal. She is also the coordinator of political engagement at the Teach the Future campaign. She is also an opinion writer, who has written in the Independent, Huffington Post, gal-dem magazine amongst others.
Vanessa Nakate is a Ugandan climate justice activist and founder of the Rise Up Movement. Nakate said she started Rise Up to help amplify the voices of climate activists from Africa. She says it’s time to stop erasing African voices in the global climate movement. Read more about Nakate in this UK Black History Month blog from November 2019.
Follow Vanessa Nakate on Twitter.
Vic Barrett is a first-generation Garifuna-American, based in New York. He was one of the 21 young plaintiffs in the Juliana v United States lawsuit. “People of colour, Indigenous communities, low-income communities and young people face a significantly higher risk of experiencing the impacts of climate change”, he says.
Follow Barrett on Twitter.
Zanagee is a 20-year-old founder and interim director of advocacy for Zero Hour, and is currently studying political science at Brown University. He led the on-the-ground planning for the Youth Climate March in Washington DC in 2018 as logistics director, and since then has led a number of Zero Hour’s advocacy campaigns.
Follow Artis on Instagram.