Landless Black Participation in the Climate Justice Movement
Our Planet is in serious crisis due to Climate Change, issues such as reduced rainfall, increased levels of heat and extreme drought continue to affect food security. Food prices are sky rocketing beyond crazy. Climate Change is something which we ought not to run way from anymore, however you need to begin wondering Why Black People in South Africa are less interested in the conversation around these issues. Why is Climate Change foreign to many of our people? Well there are a number of ways through which civil society organisations are trying to increase this highly needed participation, this is through the establishment of University student chapters of their organisations to gain presence and penetrate the student community. In 2015 we managed to establish such chapter of an organisation which advocates for policy change on how we generate energy in South Africa, I will explain how it worked out. When chapters of organisations are established at universities, there exist separation of power between the main organisation and the student chapter, not of course forgetting to take into account the existence of the main organisation’s vision and mission statement, a chapter as a result ought not to act outside the scope of work and guidelines indicated by the main organisation. Well in our case, the movement is clearly seeking to fight for social justice by primarily focusing on the climate change, ensuring that issues such as ; lack of access to electricity due to high prices, the degradation of environment and the negative impact of pollution by the coal mining industry are dealt with. The student chapter we established and continue to manage has acted within these outlined objectives of the main organisation; however the disagreement resulted when a few weeks ago a number of my colleagues attempted organise a talk through a Climate Justice organisation we work with, we wanted to understand why is it that the Black majority is less eager to engage on issues around the protection of the environment. This was meant to be one of the ways through we see an increase in Black youth involvement in the movement. Although this sounds like a great initiative to carry out, the response from the regional organisation which I won’t mention was rather poor and utterly disappointing. We had a meeting where were shared our ideas on how to tackle lack of Black participation within the Climate Justice movement in SA, however, this did not go as planned but rather, the Black dude we were leasing with told us that we could not go through with the topic for the discussion as it could be hurtful, rowdy and become too political for the o already active people in the movement. Here he was referring to the White people who form part of the Green movements in SA. We wanted to have a dialogue session on “Why Green is so White- Decolonising the Climate Justice Movements in South Africa. The reason for this kind of discussion is relevant provided that there already exist public discourse on issues of race and the legacy of colonialism and apartheid as they all determine how Blacks make sense of the world, the climate justice movement in this country ought not to be excluded from such a debate. By questioning the positionality of a White climate justice activist in a country such as ours becomes important because of the existing material conditions faced by Black people, we want to understand how is it that, as a climate justice movement we encourage people to love and nature their environment yet they do not even own a piece of Land. How is it that we constantly engage on ensuring Food Sovereignty through advocating for the decrease in Bread prices but we are afraid of creating discomfort for? Engaging on such topic is not meant to assert that Climate Change does not exist or that we are disregarding what the fight is about. The person whom my colleagues and I were engaging is Black and but we could not go through with what we had planned, rather it was suggested that we change the theme to ‘Liberating the Climate Justice Movement” just to be on the safe side and not create unnecessary tension. In addition to the suggested changing of name for the session, it was suggested we screen a documentary: The shore Break as it indicates that in fact Black people are involved in the Climate Justice Movement. There are a number of examples which we can turn to in attempts to further understand the role of White people in the Climate Justice Movement, at Wits University there exist a number of organisations aimed at dealing with environmental issues but the problem with these movements is that they are not willing to engage different structures which advocate for decolonisation process South Africa should undergo, mostly their members are white and there exist a few Black middle class students who see any discussion around Land Ownership as being “too extreme” and very much “unnecessary.” We should be looking to build solidarity across all social justice movements despite what they advocate for. High food prices and pollution in mining towns such as Sasolburg or Emalahleni affects our people the most, therefore not wanting to have a discussion on how the green movement is so White is very much problematic and counter what we aim to achieve. Lastly, as indicated before; the land ownership is very much central to how we bring in Black people into the movement. By Mpho Ndaba (@Abthony_base1) Illustration by Karl-Raphael Blanchard.