This is one of four summaries I wrote for four pieces which may be selected for publication. I share these with you though the pieces have been available for viewing on my website http://www.greenchicano.com
José González, Voz, one-color screenprint, 2009.
Voz means voice. The text in Spanish says, “If you want to support my community, remember that we can also use our own VOICE”. This is a direct reference to the “Letter to the Big 10 Environmental Groups” from the environmental justice movement, noting how their issues were not being recognized or supported by the main mainstream environmental organizations, and how this dismissal directly implied racial bias. The letter was also a reference to the criticism that mainstream environmental groups too often co-opted issues without understanding the needs of the communities directly impacted by environmental inequities.
Is that moment applicable to climate change? Is a similar letter needed at this point in time to address work being done on climate change? How is the work being done by mainstream environmental groups supportive or ignorant of the work being done and highlighted by climate justice groups?
Work on climate change involves being able to support all communities and especially each other’s voices. We cannot make assumptions that how we speak about an issue is in the same voice of other communities. For example we can talk about cutting carbon emissions, implementing a carbon tax, and promoting more clean energy technologies. But how are these issues connected to privilege and equity? How does the implementation of a carbon tax affect communities of color? How are clean technologies accessible to communities of color? How are their concerns and more importantly their ideas and problem solving strategies part of the conversation? How is their voice part of the process?
Thus, when we hear and engage in a discussion about climate change, we need to ask what is the voice and who is the speaker. How does that influence what is being said and who is being addressed?
It is really up to the people to own their own issues and use their own voice. With an issue as big and as complicated as climate change, all of our voices are needed. It is important that we are provide the spaces, platforms, and support for the voices of communities of color affected by climate change—and that we are not speaking for them or to them, but that we are either speaking with them or simply listening.