Race and the Environmental Emergency

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Wildlife and Countryside Link is a coalition of environmental organisations in England committed to protecting the natural environment.

Late last year, it made a submission to a parliamentary enquiry into Race and the Environmental Emergency on behalf of 11 of its 80 members.  If the purpose was to get some publicity, it's been a roaring success.  If it was to get good publicity, that might be another matter as it met a storm of critical comments from some sections of society when its submission recently became public.  But as many might think that the main critics are the usual suspects, that might not matter too much to Link.

It's a curiosity submission in many ways.  Many aspects make clear points about the human – nature relationship and all our responsibilities.  For example:

"The health, wellbeing and prosperity of nature and people are inextricable.  The current crises our world faces—rising global temperatures, declining biodiversity, increasing disease and mental illness burden, and significant social, health, and economic inequalities—are all interconnected."

This might almost be modern environmental education 101.

But not everything is.  Much of the criticism of what was written has centred on the notion that "green spaces" are in effect "white [only] spaces".  Take this:

"Cultural barriers reflect that in the UK, it is White British cultural values that have been embedded into the design and management of green spaces, and into society’s expectations of how people should be engaging with them. Racist colonial legacies that frame nature as a ‘white space’ create further barriers, suggesting that people of colour are not legitimate users of green spaces. The perception that green spaces are dominated by white people can prevent people from ethnic minority backgrounds from using green spaces."

Tell me, when you "engage with" a green space do you really carry all this baggage and this menace?  I mostly have an OS map, a waterproof (it's England after all) and some water, and I make sure I say a cheerful hello to everyone I meet whoever they are.  What do you do?

As I read it, I was struck by this paragraph very early in the report:

"The Global North and higher income countries are disproportionately responsible for global carbon emissions. Data from the Global Carbon Project shows that just 23 of these countries are responsible for half of all historical CO2 emissions, including the US, the UK, and much of Western Europe. These countries account for just 12% of the current global population. These countries are also responsible for the greatest emissions per capita. More than 150 countries are responsible for the other half of historical emissions."

I wondered why there was no mention of China, given that [Our World in Data figures] it has generated 260,619,240,000 tonnes of emissions since 1750, second only to the USA (426,914,550,000 tonnes).  Russia is next with 119,290,814,000 tonnes, followed by Germany (93,985,866,000).  The UK is 78,834,704,000 tonnes (about 5% of the total over time).

So why not mention China?  This must have been a deliberate choice as the people at Link are not incompetent.

I can only conclude that citing China (and Russia) would have got in the way of the story that Link wants to tell about the Global North and higher income countries and responsibility for carbon emissions.

At this point I stopped reading.


A question of numbers.  I did wonder why only 11 out of 80 members had signed up to this.  What about the other 69?  Did they actively not approve?  Probably not as there are well-known difficulties in such coalitions of managing signs-off and I imagine that Link is no different.  These are exacerbated when there are sharp deadlines involved as I imagine was involved here.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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  • I always enjoy your perspectives, especially when they notice inconvenient social consequences of environmental policies of 'privileged' governmental technocrats.