Green Racism

Environmentalists’ loathing of the masses is most destructive in the developing world.

Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate has accused the media of racism after she was cropped out of a photograph circulated by the AP news agency.

The original photo shows Nakate alongside other young climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The cropped version leaves only the white activists in frame. ‘You didn’t just erase a photo. You erased a continent’, tweeted Nakate, alongside a comparison of the two photos.

The AP has removed the cropped version from its wire service, though it insists there was no ‘ill intent’ behind its edit. Nevertheless, the incident provides a fitting metaphor for the environmental movement which really does ‘erase’ the developing world and the people in it – often in the nastiest ways imaginable.

A handful of environmentalists have started to notice that the climate movement, despite claiming to speak on behalf of the global South (apparently most at risk from the ‘climate emergency’), is overwhelmingly white and middle class. In 2015, Craig Bennett, the then head of Friends of the Earth, told the Independent on Sunday that the green movement had to escape its ‘white, middle-class ghetto’.

More recently, some Guardian pieces have drawn attention to Extinction Rebellion’s ‘race problem’ and lack of diversity. But critiques largely raise questions about tactics and image. Some reactionary tendencies within the green movement are identified but these critiques from sympathisers fail to acknowledge the broader context of green misanthropy.

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