Protecting the Earth is a Civil Right and Responsibility by Jarid Manos, originally published in The Huffington Post
Why are we allowing the stereotype to persist that people of color don’t care about the “environment?” Studies have long shown strong black support not only for pollution prevention but nature protection and global ecological issues, and the Congressional Black Caucus has “the best environmental voting record of any interest group in the U.S. Congress.”
Protecting the Earth is a civil right and responsibility. And protecting the Earth is inseparable from protecting our children’s health and future.
So why does it seem that voices of people of color are silent on environmental issues? Either the media is not allowing diverse voices to be part of the national discussion, assuming we don’t care, or we are abdicating our responsibility to this democratic society by not sharing information, teaching youth enough, and ensuring our voices are heard.
Many people of color internalize violence, in other words we easily accept violence in all its iterations. This often stems from generational trauma ricocheting down through the years. Malcolm X, who evolved much in his later years, spoke of “a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing” while he also said, “but I don’t think it will be based on the color of the skin.” I have to ask: how much of this oppressing do we do to ourselves through not seeking information, making bad food choices, and accepting apathy and inability?
If all causes are connected, then the violence we do to the Earth mirrors the violence we do to each other, and often accept into ourselves. Earlier in my life, when I looked at ecology, while I saw that it was a scientific word, it actually may be the final and greatest social struggle because it demands, at its heart, the interconnectedness of all living things.
For the last two years, I have been going to church (St. John’s Downtown, in Houston), even though I’m not really a Christian. Being boundless, I never thought I could find God inside four walls but here I do. This has caused me to explore in new ways human relationships with God, Earth and self, not just at St. John’s but everywhere. I’m no stranger to grief and sorrow, but I see people of all colors, cultures and communities asking God for such mercy on our pain, then turning right around and treating animals, Earth, and our children’s health and future with such violent disregard.
My organization, Great Plains Restoration Council (GPRC), has two operational themes that underlie our programs: Plains Youth InterACTION and Restoration Not Incarceration. We take care of body and Earth as one, and by taking care of others, we take care of ourselves. Our 12 Components of Ecological Health were inspired by Dr. King’s “Six Steps for Non-Violent Social Change.”
The next couple decades will determine the course of civilization. Like a body long abused with drugs, bad food, no rest and no exercise, Earth is riven with “dis-ease,” and her life support systems that give us all life are collapsing.
The climate is in extreme danger. The oceans are being killed. There is less than 1 percent left of America’s native coastal prairie. Africa is suffering from desertification. The tar sands pipeline is a straight shot to climate hell. The meat industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide and millions upon millions of people are in equally poor health from such consumption. The list goes on; the red alert buttons are screaming.
We all live downstream. When we learn to live like a watershed, we will get healthier.
It’s time for people of color to take front center stage in the new millennium’s environmental movement as a matter of flesh and blood, culture and soul.
It’s exciting to see a growing movement of people of color now leading to protect the wonder of life on Earth, from Atlanta to Houston to Oakland to President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. People are part of that wonder, despite our ongoing (but at last globally decreasing) violence. Critically, we must look at the health of our own bodies and lives as part of the Earth.
We need to begin ensuring access to information in information deserts that prevail in our local communities, and we need to insist our voices and moral concerns are heard and noted in the national dialogue. We already know that our lives are not just for ourselves, so we need to lead!
Protecting the Earth and our children’s health and future is a crucible and a sacrament.
A crucible is a severe scorching test; a sacrament is something that’s holy. The spirit is not separate from the flesh.