These climate activists are passionate about using their platforms to expose environmental inequity.
The systemic disparity of how communities of color are disproportionally affected by climate change is impossible to ignore. According to studies, Black Americans are the most exposed group in the U.S. to pollution, toxins, and the harmful effects of climate change. Air pollution is particularly dangerous, as it is listed as the leading environmental cause of death in this country. Therefore, the topic of climate change must include conversations about racial injustice as well.
As a result, a growing number of trailblazing Black environmentalists are speaking up, raising awareness, and fighting back against these inequalities. Leah Thomas, founder of the platform Intersectional Environmentalist, a platform dedicated to educating about climate disparities says, “When communities of color, who are impacted the most by environmental injustices and are also leading the way in creating solutions, are included in environmental decision-making, movements, and educational systems, environmentalism will be brighter, more equitable, and more revolutionary for all.”
We've created a list of 10 environmental activists who are steadily making changes in this movement not just in their respective communities but across the country, further applying an intersectional lens to sustainability inequalities and solution building.
Bradshaw is a social justice entrepreneur who is the founder of Dreaming Out Loud Inc., which isan organization with a mission to create economic opportunities for the marginalized community in Washington, D.C. They help to build communities of endurance with equitable economic opportunity, better access to education, food security, and a healthier environment for the communities and beyond.
Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru
Gatheru, a Kenyan-American environmental justice advocate and Rhodes Scholar, founded Black Girl Environmentalism (BGE)in late 2020 with the motivation to help cultivate an intentional community for and by Black non-men. It was created to serve as a key space for underrepresented voices within the mainstream environmental movement, further helping it to be centered and not cast away to the sidelines.Now the incredible BGE team is led by four environmentalists and exists as an intergeneration community of Black girls, women, and non-binary environmentalists.
Johnson founded Off Grid in Color in 2016, which began on a whim. Following the loss of her youngest brother to gun violence, she felt depressed and lost. But then, she found solace with "Mother Earth" and all of its natural resources, which lead to the organization becoming multifaceted. She continues to help lead her community to become more self-sufficient through farm-raised food, community outreach and even birth coaching.
Michael S Regan
On March 11, 2022, Michael S. Regan was sworn in as the 16th Administrator of the U.S. EPA, and he became the first Black man and second person of color to lead the EPA. Before he was nominated EPA Administrator, he served as the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). In this role, he developed and implemented North Carolina's formative plan to speak on climate change and help turn the state into a clean energy economy. Through his leadership, he was able to secure the largest clean-up and coal ash clean-up in the nation's history. In addition, he established North Carolina's first-of-its-kind Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory board to better align social inequities, environmental protection, and community empowerment.
Thomas is a youth health activist that has been a source of inspiration for young people to take control of their own wellness and health since 2010, when her family triumphantly reversed her father's type-2 diabetes through diet. When she was 12-years-old, Thomas founded HAPPY (Healthy, Active, Positive, Purposeful, Youth) to further empower youth to look at wellness from a holistic lens and advocate for access to plant-forward nutrition in disadvantaged communities. She is also the author of a vegan cookbook, called Living Lively, and has speaking engagements around the globe.
Terry is a food justice activist, chef, and author of six books, including one based on vegetarian soul food. He is committed to spreading awareness about the industrial food system's negative impact on the environment and health. His work has been in the New York Times, Food and Wine, Good Morning America, Vegetarian Times, among many other publications. In 2012, Terry was selected by the U.S. State Department as one of the 80 American chefs to be a part of its new American Chef Corp.
Fields is the founder and Executive Director of the Black Feminist Project (formerly the BLK Projek).She started the organization in 2009 because she witnessed many women being unable to get themselves out of poverty and sustain their families. She aims to help address food justice and economic growth through the local, nutritional food movement while creating career opportunities and small businesses for underserved women and youth of color.
Thomas, founded the platform Intersectional Environmentalist and was thrust into the spotlight in May 2020 after the death of George Floyd when she took to her Instagram, making a call of action to other environmentalists to stand with the Black Lives Matter. From that moment, Thomas continued on to advocate for the amplification of diverse voices in the environmentalist space. The organization further sheds light on how environmentalism intersects with Black lives, U.S. Indigenous, Latinx, South Asian, East Asian, South East Asian, and LGBTQIA+ communities.
Carter, an entrepreneur and author of Reclaiming Your Community, founded Sustainable South Bronx, and in 2015, it became a division of The HOPE Program. The organization sets out to improve the economic and environmental state of the South Bronx through green job training programs. Sustainable South Bronx was also able to expand to New York City's °CoolRoofs, in a partnership with the New York City Department of Small Business Services. It also earned a historic grant to launch solar installation and green infrastructure training in the Bronx through its social enterprise, Intervine.
Mapp grew up spending a lot of time in the outdoors with her family doing activities such as hiking, kayaking, and much more. With time, she realized that her own unique upbringing was much different from other Black Americans, which inspired her to make a change. In 2009, she started a blog dedicated to helping Black Americans have a connection to the outdoors. The blog swiftly became the organization Outdoor Afro. It focuses on these key values: Reimagining Blackness in the Outdoors, Protecting the Outdoors, and Connecting Black People to the Outdoors. With meet-up events, policy and funding change advocacy, and showcasing the voices of Black people in the outdoors discussion, Outdoor Afro further seeks to help with the exploration of the outdoors in a safe and equitable way.