CBTU Canada has joined Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change to engage community and labour activists through a research project on environmental racism.
What does #BlackLivesMatter, and the unshakable moral principle that it represents, have to do with climate change? Everything. Because we can be quite sure that if wealthy white Americans had been the ones left without food and water for days in a giant sports stadium after Hurricane Katrina, even George W. Bush would have gotten serious about climate change.
Similarly, if Australia were at risk of disappearing, and not large parts of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Tony Abbott would be a lot less likely to publicly celebrate the burning of coal as “good for humanity,” as he did on the occasion of the opening of a vast new coal mine.
A ground-breaking undertaking between The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Canadian Chapter (CBTU) and an organization known as Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) threatens to blow a hole through the climate change debate that rivals the current hole in the ozone layer.
With the inception of a ground breaking research initiative called “The Impact of Climate Change on Racialized Canadian Communities: An Environmental Justice Perspective” the two organizations have lunched a research initiative on Environmental Racism. The goal of the research project is to assess the effect of climate change on racialized communities within Canada. The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) is a partnership grant of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé is the Principal Researcher for Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW). When asked how did the CBTU/ACW partnership came about Dr. Mummé stated that the ACW is a 7-year grant funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). With 47 individual researchers and 24 partner organizations the ACW spans 4 countries. Included among the list of organizations were York University, (Lead Organization), the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Ontario Federation of Labour and more. Dr. Mummé went on to say that “CBTU was invited to become a partner organization given the organizations unique mandate to provide a voice for workers of African-descent along with CBTU’s engagement within the environmental justice movement.”
Dr. Mummé was then asked what the ACW expects to achieve by this project? “Climate literacy for every stage and age in the Canadian workforce,” she stated. “Community involvement and mobilization in the struggle to slow climate change; making resources and curriculum available for green training and education by unions for labour environmentalists and students; Youth—young workers and young students—taking leadership to reduce greenhouse gases in their schools and their workplaces; a larger role for young people who are passionate about the environment, in shaping union renewal. Linking greening work and youth union activism in union renewal. ACW hopes that Black Trade Unionists, and other racialized communities’ engagement in the fight to slow global warming will point the way to new pathways to green jobs. CBTU is very well placed to recognize pathways to new green jobs that are developing from responding to the threat of climate change, and to take steps so that this and the next generations of Black Trade Unionists are leaders in the shift to a green world of work. CBTU is very well placed to be a model for other communities as well.”
Chris Wilson is the Project Lead, 1st Vice President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in Canada and an International Board Member. When asked why African-Canadian workers should be concerned about climate change? He responded by stating that, “The destructiveness and speed of climate change is a call to action. This project is designed to explore the impact of climate change upon racialized communities within Canada.”
Wilson went on to say that, “A significant amount of research has gone into exploring the impact of Climate change upon indigenous peoples with the Idle No More movement. This project intends to bring this vision of community mobilization around climate change to other racialized communities by drawing Black Trade Unionists and other racialized communities into the fight to slow climate change while linking this fight with the development of pathways to good green jobs for the aforementioned communities.”
Wilson further stated that, “The debate over climate change is already here and the consequences are real; CBTU and ACW want to ensure that the voices of Black Trade Unionists are included in this debate to ensure that as our economy evolves and adapts to climate change and the voices of racialized workers are heard.”
According to the ACW’s website the research project is expected to encompass multiple stages with a focus upon research and mobilization.
The first stage is described as a participatory research model which evolves the use of social media to engage anti-racist activists in the process of collecting written materials that have been composed about environmental racism.
The second stage of the project is comprised of a workshop/focus-group of Black Trade Unionists. The purpose of this stage is to accumulate research data on the participants’ experience surrounding climate change and environmental racism.
The third stage is expected to provide a workshop/community forum for community engagement. The themes of the workshops include:
What is to be understood by the words “environmental racism?”
How it is affecting communities and their environment?
Exploring case studies in Canada.
The present and future role of racialized communities in the “Green Economy” and Developing an Environmental Racism Charter
The fourth and final stage of the project will be a joint report and video. Both the video and report are expected to be housed on the ACW and CBTU Canada websites.
Whether one believes in the existence of climate change or believes that climate change is fiction what is evident is that the debate on climate change has been ongoing for some time. What is also apparent is that if the African Canadian voicesof this generation continue to be omitted from the debate the African Canadians faces of the next generation risk being omitted from the solution.
Mark Brown is the Chair of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council’s Equity Committee, an Executive Board Member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionist (CBTU), An Executive Board Member of the Labour Education Center and a member of the Toronto Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Canada (CBTU) has joined the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW) research project as a partner organization by launching an action research initiative on Environmental Racism. The destructiveness and speed of climate change is a call to action. CBTU will explore the impact of climate change on racialized communities within Canada. CBTU is a community based organization that gives voice to Black Trade Unionists on issues that impact upon people of African-Canadian descent. www.cbtu.ca ACW is a partnership grant of Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Working with 47 individual researchers and 24 partner organizations in 4 countries, ACW seeks to slow global warming by developing tools to green the workplace and work itself. ACW is Canadian-focused and national in scope. http://www.adaptingcanadianwork.ca/
The CBTU Environmental Racism research project brings a vision of community engagement and mobilization around climate change by drawing Black Trade Unionists, and other racialized communities, into the fight to slow global warming while developing pathways to green jobs.
To start the project, CBTU is launching a social media campaign to engage racialized and indigenous communities in the process of discovering what has been written so far about environmental racism in the fight against climate change. Our focus is Canada, but we are including experience from the U.S. or the world if it is relevant to our situation. Using the hashtag [#EnvRacismCBTUACW], the project seeks to engage climate justice activists through Facebook and Twitter to identify the varying contexts of environmental racism. This type of crowd-sourced syllabi models similar participatory research campaigns such as #BlackLivesCDNSyllabus and #PrisonAbolitionSyllabus.
You can help to enrich the dialogue on environmental racism in Canada. Please click here to learn what we know of so far, then share your thoughts with us on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #EnvRacismCBTUACW. We will incorporate suggestions into a final bibliography which will be used to design a participatory training workshop to engage the community in the struggle to slow climate change and identify pathways to green jobs.
Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé,
Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces (ACW)
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Canada (CBTU)