In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of environmental conservation and a push to take more decisive action to protect the planet. This movement is driven by a diverse range of people, from young scientists and entrepreneurs to environmentalists of all ages and backgrounds.
Many young Black voices are making their mark on the environmental movement, and in celebration of Earth Day (22 April 2023), we are taking a closer look at their achievements. Through their innovative ideas and inspiring actions, these individuals are challenging traditional views of what it means to be an environmentalist and helping create a more sustainable future for Black communities and the world.
What Black African inventions changed the world?
Before we shine a light on young environmentalists and activists from Black communities across the globe, let's revisit the past. Meet three Black inventors who made ground-breaking contributions to their respective fields. Life as we know it wouldn't be the same without these brilliant Black inventions. Not only did these inventions change the world, but they also led us to rethink our relationship with the environment.
First up, Granville T. Woods. This man was a true jack of all trades, excelling in electrical and mechanical engineering fields. With over 50 patents to his name, he was a trailblazer. He invented an electric railway system, a telephone transmitter, and a telegraphy device — all lightyears ahead of their time. These developments have led to the current plethora of electrical devices and a part of our everyday lives. Now we are examining how we can use these energy sources that power these machines and devices in a more responsible way.
Garrett Morgan was another Black inventor who left an indelible mark on history. He was a businessman and inventor with several patents, including the breathing device (gas mask) used during World War I to save countless lives. Morgan is best known for inventing the traffic signal, a precursor to today's modern traffic light.
Finally, George Washington Carver. He was an agricultural scientist and inventor who revolutionized how crops were grown in the Southern United States. He developed hundreds of products, such as 105 ways to grow and prepare the peanut, as well as a crop rotation system that helped plants and farmers thrive for years. Carver's contributions to agriculture saved the economy in the southern part of the US and were nothing short of extraordinary.
Franklin D. Roosevelt shared this message when Mr. Carver passed, "All mankind are the beneficiaries of his discoveries in the field of agricultural chemistry. The things which he achieved in the face of early handicaps will for all time afford an inspiring example to youth everywhere."
Who is a famous Black environmental activist?
There are many inspiring Black environmentalists, scientists and inventors that span various generations and are worthy of celebration. We've chosen six incredible individuals to highlight below.
1. Robert Bullard
Dr. Robert Bullard, the "father of the environmental justice movement," has tirelessly advocated for marginalized communities for over 25 years. Newsweek and the Sierra Club have recognized his work, and his many books on environmental issues are must-reads. Dr. Bullard's passion for justice and equity is nothing short of inspiring.
2. John Francis
Then there's John Francis, the Planet Walker, who swore off all motorized transportation after witnessing a catastrophic oil spill. He walked everywhere he went for 22 years, hiking across the entire United States and much of South America. His degrees, UN ambassadorship, and commitment to his cause are a testament to his impact and unwavering resolve.
3. Lisa Jackson
Lisa Jackson was the first African American to serve as the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator. She prioritized helping groups most susceptible to environmental and health threats — we can all learn from her commitment to inclusion. The Love Canal Disaster sparked her interest in environmental issues, and her leadership at the EPA helped make it more responsive to all communities. Even after leaving the EPA, she continued to make an impact as Apple's environmental director.
4. Leah Thomas
Leah Thomas founded Intersectional Environmentalist, a platform that helps people understand how to fight for climate and social justice by dismantling oppressive systems in the environmental movement. You can take the Intersectional Environmentalist Pledge and explore resources geared toward making real change. Leah's work has been featured in high-profile publications like Vogue and Buzzfeed, and she's even spoken at the prestigious Aspen Ideas Festival.
5. Joycelyn Longdon
Joycelyn Longdon is a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge University applying Artificial Intelligence to Climate Change. She's also the creator of Climate in Colour, a platform that aims to make conversations around climate change more inclusive. Joycelyn is passionate about decolonizing the climate movement and has partnered with Earthrise Studio to host a series that explores the colonial roots of the climate crisis. Her work is helping to bring a fresh perspective to climate activism, one that's centered around equity and justice.
6. Jerome Foster II
Jerome Foster II is a rising star in the world of environmental activism. As the founder and executive director of One Million of Us, an international youth voting organization, he aims to mobilize one million young people to vote in their national elections. Jerome is the youngest-ever White House Advisor in United States history and serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council within the Biden administration. He's a vocal advocate for Black and indigenous communities joining climate activism. He even started organizing Fridays for Future school strikes in front of the White House. Jerome's passion for galvanizing a new generation of outspoken leaders on the issue of climate change is contagious, and we can't wait to see what he does next.
Earth Day is not just another day to talk about what we can do to be more environmentally aware, but rather actually change our habits and put new thoughtful actions into practice in our various communities. Get in touch, and let's create inspiring content for your team to connect on a deeper level.