Want To Know the Future for Climate Action? Listen to POC

People of color will experience climate change in extraordinary ways — it’s time to let us have the floor

Arisa Loomba
Published in
5 min readOct 7, 2019


Illustration: Kimberlie Wong

BBack in August, at the Byline Festival, a journalism festival in the U.K., I attended a talk entitled: “Whitewashing Climate Action: Where are the voices of color?” The panel, comprised of climate journalists, activists, and policy makers, was chaired by the Guardian’s Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi. In the audience, a White Extinction Rebellion member raised her hand and uttered these classic words: “I’m sorry if you feel my organization doesn’t serve you. But perhaps you could give me some advice or practical tips as to how we could diversify?”

There was a palpable sigh in the audience. The panelists looked at one another with weary eyes. Must we always explain these things? The responses were resolute. (Minnie Rahman has also comprised a useful guide, for those who have forgotten). It’s simple. Have people of color in your leadership, prioritize marginalized voices; make your methods more accessible to those at risk of police aggression. Basically, listen.

Not only are people of color disproportionately affected by climate change, they are also disproportionately underrepresented in their involvement in climate activism.

This isn’t to say that White climate activists should be replaced, at all, but that the intersectionalities of power should be considered in the discussion. Greta Thunberg, herself, has experienced specific biases that attack and target her age, gender, and Asperger’s syndrome. And, as the statistics show, even in the U.S. and U.K., minorities and people of color experience climate change in unique ways. They are more likely to live in areas of extreme air pollution, have decreased lung capacity, and be more susceptible to health problems and death. Such was the case for nine-year-old asthma sufferer Ella Kissi-Debrah who passed away in 2013, likely from pollution.

Global Witness revealed that in 2016, 200 environmental defenders were murdered. Forty percent were indigenous people; 60% of which were from Latin America. And while…