We’ve all heard of Greta Thunberg, but how many indigenous activists and activists of colour can you name?
We’ve all heard of Greta Thunberg, but how many indigenous activists and activists of colour can you name? On the back of Black History Month, our Environmental Editor Meg McGrath highlights some…
Berta Cáceres, 4 March 1971 – 2 March 2016
Berta Cáceres was a Honduran environmental and feminist activist who cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve livelihoods of those in their community.
She won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, for her work in leading a grassroots campaign that caused the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam at the Río Gualcarque. She was assassinated in her home by armed intruders, after years of threats against her life.
Mari Copeny was 8 years old when she wrote to Barack Obama, calling him to take more action on the Flint water crisis: where almost 100,000 residents of Flint were drinking contaminated water, which corroded new engine parts at a local General Motors plant and caused an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that killed 12 and make 79 ill. An estimated 8,000 children now face a risk of long-term developmental problems as a result of exposure to lead in the water.
Mari decided to write to President Obama about the issue, which in response she received a letter and an invitation to meet. On the back of these, Obama authorised $100 million to repair Flint’s water system.
Now 9, Mari and the non-profit Pack your Back have distributed more than 700,000 bottles of water to ensure residents of Flint had safe water to drink.
Makaśa Looking Horse
Makaśa Looking Horse, is from the Mohawk Wolf Clan and Lakota, and is a committed water activist in Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, Canada. The majority of her community has been left without clean water, whilst Nestlé extract of millions of litres daily from their local aquifer. Makaśa is now a youth coordinator for campaigning group, Ohneganos Ohnegahdeę:gyo, which translates to “Water is Life”.
Makaśa says climate justice and Indigenous rights are deeply connected. “When we have rights to care for the land, the land thrives. With capitalism, the land is seen just as a money maker and a resource and not as a source of life. This is why Indigenous rights matter.”
As the daughter of Illan Omar, the first Muslim Congresswoman in American History, 16 year old Isra Hirsi has had to get used to media attention, but her climate activism has earned her recognition around the world in her own right.
Isra is the co-founder of the US Youth Climate Strike and a Black Lives Matter activist. She says the climate crisis “is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.” The School Strike movement mobilised an estimated 1.6 million students across 120 countries in March, with Isra particularly determined to create a movement in which young people of colour could see themselves. Isra’s primary campaigning focus is on environmental justice, and how people of colour are disproportionately affected- extreme weather events, and illnesses related to environmental pollutants are just two examples.
Meg McGrath , Environmental Editor
Featured image by: Grist / Livia Ferguson