The UK will be hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in less than three weeks. This summit brings parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Going through the Read COP26 Explained document, I experience the dissonance between the images showing a palette of identities and communities and my experience working within the climate and social justice space. My sense of belonging in this space is the question. Yet, I am one of the scientists who regularly ingest, digest, and regurgitate the climate crisis conversations.
As a queer Creole woman from a small island state, I reflect upon the intersectionality of identities related to decision-making in this space. Are the diverse identities stamped all over the COP26 genuinely sitting at the decision-making table? If they are, do they feel welcome? Do they have a sense of belonging? Throwing a party is not a prerequisite to being a good host unless you intentionally create safe spaces for the historically marginalized voices.
Mauritian Creoles, which constitute about 27 percent of the population, reflect mixtures of African, French, and Indian origins across a broad range. Black Creoles especially have been subject to discrimination. Many neighborhoods are ethnically segregated, with low-status Creoles invariably in the most impoverished housing. With an ecosystem extremely vulnerable to the climate crisis, young Mauritian Creole womxn's risk factors are exacerbated by their exclusion from the economy's decision-making processes. Further compounding this problem is the profoundly systemic discrimination against Creole womxn in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) majors and careers, disproportionately creating higher structural unemployment barriers against young creole womxn.
Therefore in a system that continues to fail the historically marginalized, I want to address a message to my fellow Creole Womxn, to all of them. Your Voice Matters! Your Truth Matters! Mothers, daughters, whatever hat you wear, you have a role to play in the climate and social justice movement. You do not have to fly out to the COP26 to be a changemaker unless you want to!
So you may be wondering, what can I do? The environmental crisis is deeply linked to the health crisis that the world is facing. Inequitable access to resources means basic needs are not being met. So here are a simple few ways in which I have committed to take care of myself, my community, and the environment in a fundamentally greenwashed broken system that needs healing.
1. Self-Care & Self-love
As much as I can, I spend as much time on myself as I spend working. It is a privilege that I recognize. However, self-care has been a recurrent blog theme because people who care about others and nature are often taken for granted and struggle with boundary setting.
Deep intergenerational trauma needs to heal in the creole community, where the shadow of colonialism still exists. Nonetheless, where there is trauma, there is also light and strength and the ancestors' resilience that made us survivors. So I will continue to advocate for you to take at least 10 minutes every day to think about your healing.
2. Feed your soul & feed your mind
I am blessed to work with communities across the globe doing climate and social justice. The biggest takeaway from this international exposure has been the power of finding common grounds to shape collective leadership. Regardless of our role in society, our collective minds are a powerful tool toward halting the rapid race toward the anthropogenic destruction of our planet. Books, podcasts; documentaries are a source of great inspiration for my work and daily life. Even the words in this blog are inspired by Thoughtful and impactful leaders. Their stories and knowledge inspire me and allow me to innovate as a scientist and community member while thriving in my personal life.
3. Find your tribe.
Not everyone needs to become scientists; we need mothers, grandmothers, and caretakers of the next generation. We need you! We need people from all walks of life to make an impact. Find these people, meet, share, heal and grow with them. Let them challenge you with their differences and challenge them with the unique tapestry of your beautiful identity.
“Just as ecosystems need biodiversity to thrive, society needs cultural diversity to grow new possibilities. Monoculture deadens our collective potential.”― Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis
Final thoughts & Some resources...
I could have written this blog about the policy, the science, or the research needed for climate and social justice, but I am more than a scientist. I am a creole woman, and my identity has often made me feel unseen or unheard, no matter how educated I am. So I am not here to tell you how to do science or be environmentally conscious. I am here to say the following: your voice matters because you bring in a unique perspective. Speaking truth to power is the most critical yet underrated thing we can do in the climate and social justice fight. I hope you find tools to take care of yourself and your basic needs so that you can join me in this essential work.