The Earth Has Many Colours
2nd July 2020
The natural world boasts a beauty of vibrant colours and textures. Everywhere you look there is diverse fauna and flora – each unique, and in its own way striving to co-exist with our rapidly growing population.
Over the last couple of months though, amongst the global Coronavirus pandemic, a couple of deaths caused by racist attacks highlighted another struggle; a struggle for humans to co-exist with one another!
A group of individuals and friends (Black AF in STEM) over in the United States of America indicated that being from a BAME background has a negative impact towards their job prospects in STEM fields. It was an interesting point made which soon went viral and became the conversation that everybody was communicating with one another, whether it was online through social media or within small groups at home during the worldwide lockdown.
Such conversations formed by pupils having enough of these senseless deaths of fellow BAME pupils, brought forth a new term called ‘Intersectional Environmentalism’, which will most certainly stick around for a while. For those who do not know what this term means, Leah Thomas who was one of the many advocates for this new movement explains it perfectly as:
“This is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people and the planet”.
Is the Conservation/Environmental field diverse?
Yes, it is a very diverse place, however, it is just not appreciated and recognised as much. However, given time and this will certainly change. For me personally, looking into the whole issue with some areas of the STEM fields mainly granting the majority of the opportunities to white people is evident. It doesn’t take much research too to see a lack of BAME candidates in most STEM fields, even here on our home turf in the United Kingdom. This issue is unfortunately happening and it has been occurring for a long time. But one of the beauties in what I experienced during #blackbirdersweek and #blacklivesmatter events that went viral online on Twitter and Instagram, is that working in STEM fields and having a passion for the natural world and environment, is universal. It is a very diverse passion and interest, and it was so invaluable to have seen this.
There are undoubtedly some issues out there with a lack of job opportunities, funding, scholarships and fair representation for people with a BAME background. But one thing that’s for sure, is that the Earth has many colours, and anybody (no matter what languages they speak, what different lands they walk on, or where they’re originally from) should rightly have their place and voice to protect what they love.
You can check out my interview with PBS NATURE HERE, where I talk about my journey to becoming a conservation biologist, what the Black Birders Week meant to me, and how I would like to empower others to go after their dreams. Among myself are other BAME candidates who are working in the conservation and environmental field which may be of interest to you.
The planet doesn’t care about the colour of our skin or where we come from. Each and every one of us has the right to play our part in protecting our natural world and its environment. Positive changes occur when respect and unity begins!
Tolga Aktas | Biologist, Writer & Environmental Photojournalist
>Animal Biology graduate<