This is part of a youth takeover: we asked our under 25 staff and volunteers to share their stories with us in the run up to the climate strikes, because we want to put their voices front and centre. They are raw, real and they're helping RSPB get with the times - challenging us to think differently - and we love it. Between 16th - 20th October you will see a new story each day. Enjoy!
History is excellent at whitewashing. The climate movement has long fallen in line with a history of swiftly changing narratives and emerging young white heroes. This is not good enough - a story from Roisin Taylor (pictured left)...
In the summer of 2017, Jamie Margolin and Nadia Baltimore founded a young women of colour led organisation called This Is Zero Hour, organising a mass climate mobilisation in 25 cities around the world for the summer of 2018. These two young women of colour follow in the footsteps of many other tenacious and unrelentingly passionate women of colour pushing for change in the environmental sector.
Margolin's name is not so well known, but she speaks eloquently on the power of the climate strike movement. She tweets that: "whilst it is incredible that the climate movement has grown so big, what isn't as thrilling is the compete erasure of women of colour and people of colour involved in the movement from the beginning."
Greta's story is wonderful and has taught many young people the power of a single voice, which is a cause for celebration. But the more the coverage blooms, the more central her story becomes to the origin of the climate strike movement. But it wasn't until a month after the mass mobilisation organised by Margolin and Baltimore as part of This Is Zero Hour, that Greta begun her journey, inspired by the walk-outs after the shootings at Parkland, Florida.
Much has been made in the right-wing press of Greta's Aspergers, a pivot upon which critics transform her neuro-diversity into a reason not to take her message seriously. But it seems that in commenting on how progressive it is to have neuro-diverse leaders in this movement we have reached the pinnacle of progress and change.
Climate strikers of This is Zero Hour
Neuro-diversity makes conservation fantastic, it brings with it different skills and thought patterns and gives our field new ways to solve old problems. Diversity makes organisations better and that is something that should be encouraged and supported both individually and institutionally. Celebrating Greta's remarkable achievements is legitimate. But negating the narrative of the years worth of work by indigenous people and men and women of colour is unacceptable. Diversity and inclusion are not a zero sum game.
Erasure of this kind is not new, nor is it unexpected. But it is fundamental that we, as the UK's largest nature conservation charity, recognise those at the heart of the climate strike movement. Why? Because erasure is dangerous and damaging for the productive movement like that which is needed to fight climate change.
It is particularly important, because climate change disproportionately affects people of colour and are vastly underrepresented in environmental leadership non profits and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). However, they are central to the climate fight and we must constantly strive to be better at including them in these success narratives.
The breadth and depth of the movement is exceptional, and as Margolin correctly points out, 'the most harmful part about the media reporting that Greta started the movement in 2018, is that it makes the movement appear less powerful than it is'. It takes agency from those people of colour who have been fighting tirelessly for this, like: Jamie Margolin, Nadia Baltimore, Isra Hirsi (who co-founded the US Youth Climate Strike), and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez - the Earth Guardians Youth Director to name but a few.
These young people of colour are suing their government. They have been organising climate marches. They have been lobbying governments and using social media to garner support for much longer than this movement has been on our radar.
We can uplift amazing young women like Greta, whilst standing up against the silencing and erasure of people of colour involved in the movement too. Diversity and Inclusion is just that, celebrating the remarkable diversity within the environmental movement so that we continue to build it and bring more people in to celebrate and advocate for that cause.
Our aim at the RSPB is in part to widen participation in nature. So let's do it by recognising and including ALL voices at the heart of it.
Author: Roisin Taylor, Project Officer, Newcastle
Make sure you join your local climate strike this Friday, 20th September. Go to www.ukscn.org to find your local action.
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