Group hosts seminar about intersections between racialized communities and environmental justice

Racialized people fighting for a better system and developing a sustainable world

Brick by Brick, a non-profit organization for social change, hosted a seminar on racialized people and their engagement in environmental justice on March 30. Alexandra Pierre organized this event with the Concordia Office of Community Engagement. The seminar tackled the following question: How are racialized activists transforming environmental struggles?

Nadia Bunyan, the seminar’s moderator, highlighted that climate change is worsening because of the systems that were put in place. 

“If we don’t talk about how it [climate change] happened, how is it going to change?” she asked.

Bunyan explained her belief that racialized people are always the ones raising their hand in a room when it comes to environmental justice. In order to change the capitalist system, Bunyan asserted, privileged people need to take the time to speak up as well. 

“You have to be the one in the room, but for people who are not racialized, how does that work in the space when we are talking about allyship? It’s not necessarily something that we can answer on, because we are not the ones holding that strength,” she said. 

Duha Elmardi, another speaker, addressed the problem with the following statement: “Our interventions must be the ones that address and destroy the root causes: colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy.”

Andrea Claire McDonald, a speaker and Opwaaganasiniing First Nations representative, spoke about her deep connection to nature, especially with plants, which is very important in her community.

“I believe that when we build reciprocal relationships with the plants that surround us, we can gain accessible sustainable support for ourselves and for communities,” she said. “In my mind it is not a coincidence that many of the plants that thrive in our urban environment have very specific medicine for the challenges we face.”

During the conversation, access to nature was an important subject. A participant mentioned that if someone wants to have access to certain sites, they have to pay governments, or private entities. Such privatization makes resources inaccessible to Indigenous people — the people who initially settled in North America.

Lourdenie Jean, founder of the initiative L’Environnement, c’est intersectionnel (ECI), was another speaker at the event. 

“One of my main messages with the ECI is the verb repurpose,” she said.

“Social movements led by racialized communities are already environmentally intersectional.”

Based on the event’s subject, Jean stated this: “How mainstream environmental movements can become allies to the social grassroots movements and not how mainstream movements should be inclusive.”

The event speakers and moderator approached the subject of how individual initiatives, like recycling, are only the tip of the iceberg, whereas like Jean mentioned, it is harder to join community-led change.

In her speech, Bunyan addressed the following saying: “We have it so good in North America.”  She stressed the importance of recognizing the fact that people do not see all the microaggressions and trauma that happens in this country.

“It’s very easy for people to disappear, to fall below the poverty line and not have access to services, even though they exist. Whereas in smaller spaces, in a home, where you can have land and you can grow what you need, you can be connected to your community,” she said. “And it is very easy here [in Canada] to become disconnected to all of that.”

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