When you think of climate activists, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and Leonardo DiCaprio may come to mind. In the UK, the environmental industry is thought to be one of the least racially diverse, but some young activists are trying to change that.
“I didn’t feel connected to the environmental movement. I saw it as a very white space and a place that wasn’t for me,” says Dominique Palmer.
Activist Dominique creates content for social media, speaks publicly, and writes about the weather.
The 23-year-old has just returned from the United Nations environmental meeting, COP27, in Egypt, but says that as a child growing up in London, she couldn’t imagine doing any of this.
“I just didn’t understand that some of the issues, for example asthma and air pollution, that I faced growing up were actually related to environmental issues as well,” she adds.
representation and access
Dominique sees a disconnect between the black community and the climate industry in the UK and feels there are a few reasons behind this:
“If you don’t see yourself represented early on, I think that separates a lot of people.”
Countries in Africa and the Caribbean are disproportionately located in parts of the world that are vulnerable to climate hazards, hurricanes and floods.
Despite this, the UK environmental sector is the second least diverse industry in the country, just after agriculture.
Just under 5% of environmental professionals identify as black, Asian or other ethnic minorities, compared with around 12% across all professions in the UK, according to the report on racial diversity in environmental professions.
Dominique thinks that the accessibility to nature could also be a reason for this.
“I didn’t feel connected to natural spaces, especially living in the UK. This is the case for a lot of black people, especially in cities where they don’t have access to green spaces,” she says.
“Sometimes it can seem like a problem that’s not really for us when it’s actually tied up and tied to our whole lives.
“But so many incredible black-led groups are now working to address that gap.”
listen to the latest If you do not know Podcast to hear more from black climate activists and also find out who were the first black people to live in Britain.
There has been some work to try to increase representation, with the launch of Race For Nature’s Recovery, a project that is part of the government’s Kickstart scheme for 16-24 year olds with universal credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment .
Places youth of predominantly Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds in jobs with environmental organizations.
“I thought it would be quite common,” says Franceska Fisher, who was involved in the scheme and joined the student-run environmental charity, SOS UK, last year.
“But seeing how my company has put climate change at the forefront, it’s beautiful to see that what they say is what they mean.”
Fast forward to today and Franceska now works at the same company.
“It’s good to see that it wasn’t a form of tokenism. It was really, ‘No, we want you here, we want to see you improve here, we want to see progress here,'” he says.
His advice to anyone interested in working in the climate industry?
“Black youth need to understand that there are more opportunities outside of the mainstream jobs that we see.
“The environmental sector is looking for people of color to join their organizations, so they too can diversify and change the way their businesses are established.
“So really go for it, there are a lot of opportunities,” he adds.