A few years ago, I was a columnist for the online version of a magazine based out of Toronto. It’s audience was African and Caribbean folks in Canada. I wrote about my experiences as an African Canadian growing up in a small town in Nova Scotia and generally reflected about life in the Diaspora.
One day I proposed taking my column in a new direction. I wanted to write about cool environmental news, events, and products etc. After all, I had recently graduated with my Master’s in Environment and Sustainability and wanted to share what I was so passionate about with others. Beginning in second grade I became drawn to the idea of “saving” the earth, or at least treating it better seeing as we depended on it for clean air and water and all.
My editor was not interested in my idea. How does the environment relate to Black people? She asked.
I was taken aback. How does it not? We live here! We drink water. We eat produce grown in soil that could be contaminated or healthy. Environmental issues are relevant to us because when decisions are made, we are impacted by them. For example, who decides where landfills go? Who decides where to put parks verses sewage treatment plants? Research has shown that more often than not, these nasty parts of our civilizations are located near poor communities and those where people of color live. Often these are one and the same.
Then on a positive note, there are people around the world doing great things to clean water, use energy, and get plastic out of the ocean. For so many environmental/ life problems there are exciting, creative solutions being offered. Yet every classroom and space I’ve been in that has had to do with environment whether it be at school, conferences, or committees I’m part of, I’m the only melanated face in the room.
Where we at?
Well, I know we’re out here trying to be successful. We also have a lot on our minds. What with having do declare to the world that our lives matter, it can feel like this is another “issue” that we don’t have the privilege to put at the top of our lists of things to care about. But for me it’s not about an external “issue” it’s about life (health, livelihood, beauty, sanity).
Though we are not very present at meetings and consultations, we are out here.
We are farmers, upcyclers; solar panel technicians. We turn so-called trash into art.
I reject the notion that there are set boxes into which we must fit because of our skin color. I’ve grown up being out of place all my life and so I’m comfortable being the odd one out but still, it would be cool to see more people of color take part in conversations that are so important- ones that impact our physical and mental health; our food, our air, our water.
So here I am, living and sharing. My plan is to share anything educational or inspiring that has to do with healthy food, jobs in sustainability and inventions that are good to the earth and make people’s lives better as well. As a woman who had to discover the blessing and beauty of her natural hair, I will also share my appreciation for natural beauty and quest to be an live an overall healthy, beautiful, and elevated life.
I wasn’t sure how to respond to my editor at the time, but now I’d say to her that, the environment is a “Black thing” as long as two or more are gathered. And we are out here. This is my invite to gather.