On Friday, August 6, Ohio Citizen Action’s Executive Director Rachael Belz was invited to speak on a panel at The City Club. Belz was joined by her colleagues and friends; Leah Hudnall of Ohio Climate Justice Fund and Tanner Yess of Groundwork Ohio River Valley. Over the course of the hour-long conversation moderated by Margaret Bernstein, guests were able to listen to a much needed conversation centered around climate change, community power, and climate equity.
The panel discussion revealed the roles that we as individuals play in the overall larger conversation surrounding climate change and community leadership.
For me, one of the biggest takeaways was a quote from Tanner Yess. Throughout the conversation, he made sure to stress the fact that “with climate change, solutions have to be nuanced, they have to fit, they have to be large-scale, and they have to be impactful.” While on some level, I knew that climate change solutions wouldn’t be completely one-size fit all, some part of me truly believed that until I heard Tanner give tangible examples.
Leah also stepped in and reminded us how there are often conversations surrounding climate change happening in many Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities, but due to lack of funding and not having many resources available, their voices are not being heard. As Leah pointed out, “funder relations [are] one of the biggest barriers stopping Black, Latinx, and indigenous groups from even receiving a look at a grant or an opportunity.”
The environmental movement has been co-opted and whitewashed due to the systems that surround us. We need to actively make sure to include the voices of the communities who are most at risk. Leah said it best: “It is up to the people to change the climate icon from a polar bear to a child, and the only way it is going to happen is if we begin to demand [that].”
The way our current system is set up, BIPOC people are left out of the conversation, are often viewed as not doing the real work, and are often not even given a chance to sit at the table to begin making the changes that are so desperately needed.
This system will only change if we change how we view the climate change movement. As Rachael aptly put it, “if we don’t each step into the roles that we need to step into, no matter what color our skin is, no matter where we come from, we aren’t being inclusive enough as a movement.” Next to reversing climate change, making the space more inclusive and open should be the name of the game.
To view the recording of this conversation, clink the link here.