Greta Thunberg rose to fame in 2018 after speaking out against the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Adopting lifestyle choices to reduce carbon footprint, calling out governments to take action on climate change, avoiding carbon-intensive flying; just a few things we know Greta for. But Greta is not the only face of climate activism. Society, media, politicians, everyone seems to forget about the activists of colour across the globe who have been fighting against climate change and whose voices have not been heard due to media white-washing. So here’s five people of colour who deserve more media coverage for their fight against climate change:
Amelia Telford is a Bundjalung woman from Northern New South Wales who grew up witnessing land erosion in her hometown. Climate change causes extreme weather conditions such as heavy rainfall and powerful storms, leading to land erosion which puts houses at risk of collapse, causing residents to leave their homes behind. This forces Indigenous communities off of their land with extreme weather affecting remote infrastructure the most, where First Nations communities tend to live.
Amelia founded the Company Seed; Australia’s first Indigenous Youth Climate Network, with a vision for a just and sustainable future with strong cultures and communities powered by renewable energy. The company demands that public money stops being handed to fossil fuel corporations, and for it instead to be invested in the future of the community.
It’s people of colour and people in low socioeconomic communities, women - that often face the most severe consequences.
Celina Suárez Mantilla
Celina Suárez Mantilla is a water defender from Santurbán, Colombia, and is part of the civic committee to protect the water and páramo of her homeland, and has no plans to ever stop. Páramos are unique ecosystems and the source of 70% of Colombia’s drinking water. Santurbán‘s páramos in particular supplies water to around 3 million people in the North-East of Colombia.
People like Celina are at constant risk of attack for protecting their homeland and defending their territory. They receive threats from paramilitary groups and hear news of community leaders being killed constantly. But that doesn’t stop Celina from fighting for what she believes in.
I would rather die here, fighting for what I believe in, than be safe in exile far from my country.
Ashley Lashley is a UNICEF Youth Advocate from Barbados. Barbados, as a small island in the Caribbean, is at risk of sea levels rising, hurricanes, and floods, all of which cause displacement of local residents and their homes.
There must be far greater support by the international community to us within Small Island Developing States and helping us to become more climate resilient and adapt better to the impact that the climate crisis is having on our lives today.
Ashley leads a movement called HEY Campaign (Health and Environment-friendly Youth), working with young people in the Caribbean to help them lead more sustainable, healthy, and environmentally-friendly lifestyles and to understand the impacts of climate change on themselves and their communities.
Yero Sarr is a youth climate activist from Senegal, who became active in the fight against climate change due to his concern for the future of young people. He works with various environmental organisations on multiple issues, in particular the effects of overfishing in West Africa. Around 400 million people in West Africa rely on fishing for food and income and their communities have for centuries, but overfishing by foreign businesses leaves local people with a lack of food and employment.
Yero is co-founder of the Fridays For Future movement, a youth-led and organised strike movement that began back in 2018. The movement demands to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C, and aims to ensure climate justice and equity.
Ai Ji is a Nakhi woman from Lijiang, China, an area that is extremely sensitive to the impact of climate change. The rise in global temperature causes glaciers to melt, and the change in climate is leading to the extinction of species that haven’t even been discovered or studied yet.
Taking action on climate change means each person gets involved. So far, we haven’t done enough.
Ai uses her platform to spread awareness on climate activism, fragile communities such as Lijiang, and the impact of climate change on biodiversity. For example, an increase in fires, storms, and drought.
We need to centre indigenous communities and people of colour in climate discourse, because despite being responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the Global South pay a heavier price for climate change. Yes, climate change affects everyone, but the impacts are not evenly distributed across the globe, with the Global North contributing the most to climate change but being affected the least. You can read more about the disproportionate impact of climate change here.