By Rehana Khan & the 350 Perth team
In our June 2020 newsletter, a member of our team wrote a brief article acknowledging the Black Lives Matter protest that happened in Perth that month, and emphasised that there can be no climate justice without justice for First Nations people.
We at 350 Perth would like to firmly reiterate this.
There can be no climate justice without justice for First Nations people.
We received a handful of complaints about this article, and would like to address them as a whole. It is not racist to say that black lives matter. We are not saying that white lives don’t matter. Of course all lives matter. The whole reason we are all fighting to stop climate change is for all of our lives – all humans, animals, insects, plants, nature – everything on this beautiful planet that we share. However, black lives are in significant danger from police, the justice system, and the anti-black bias that exists in many people in positions of power. It is the duty of all non-black people to address our own biases and help others address theirs. Until black lives are treated like they matter, until black people aren’t being unfairly incarcerated disproportionately to any other race, we have to continuously reiterate that black lives matter.
The phrase “Black Lives Matter” is a description of a social movement rather than a literal “be-all” claim that only, or especially, black lives matter. Purveyors of this phrase should look into the movement where they will find that it is a grass-roots movement of people around the globe, who are working to raise awareness of the injustice toward black communities, and actions to remove the injustice.
Without a focus on correcting injustice, work on climate change addresses only symptoms, and not root causes. A cohesive environmental movement needs to address the destruction that climate change wreaks on Black and Brown communities around the world. Put another way, the phrase “there can be no climate justice without racial justice” means that the environments of non-white communities are abundantly targeted by mining and other companies, to the detriment of the people.
Actions to balance our climate should be decided upon and implemented so that they inclusively help those who are marginalised and most dispossessed. For example, Rio Tinto, Woodside and BHP have been publicly reported to have little regard for the safety and wellbeing of communities in some parts of Oceania, America, Africa, and Asia, e.g. in Bougainville Province, Papua New Guinea and New Guinea. 350 Australia works with other groups and people to raise awareness of these abuses so that strategies and tactics can be implemented by collaborators to address these concerns. These giant corporations can modify their actions such that they both positively address climate change (e.g. Rio Tinto can stop supporting the climate-wrecking Minerals Council) and stop trampling on the rights of the communities on whose land they mine. Both actions, while separate with different goals, are parts of systems used by a company such as Rio Tinto, and as such, one action can feed into or compel the other because they are parts of a whole.