The Side of Black History That’s Green Pt.1

As most do, in celebration of Black History month, I find it of high importance to honour black people who made history and changed the very fabric of our society. It’s key that we remember the victories of black people outside of the grasp of colonialism and slavery. I once heard someone say that our history did not start with slavery, but was disrupted by it, and that has stuck with me for years. But as a sustainable blogger, I wanted to honour the unsung heroes of my race. Through the month of October, I wanted to talk about three black figures who have inspired means for a more sustainable world.

Number 1: John Francis (A.K.A The Planet Walker)

This man is the definition of above and beyond. After seeing an oil spill in San Fransisco Bay (1971), he vowed to travel the globe solely by foot or sail. And for 22 years, he has done just that. Not only did he do this, but after finding himself in constant conflict with people about his decision, he vowed himself to silence for 17 years and decided to listen to the world and people around him on his journey and it has been a major learning experience. During those years, he was able to pursue higher education to doctorate level without uttering a single word. Even upon getting hit by a car, he still convinced emergency services to let him walk to the hospital.

You can access a ted talk from the man himself here:

With Francis, we are reminded that not only is it the job of major companies and organisations to be sustainable. Yes, they have lasting impacts, but we should ultimately question if we want any piece of the pie. And when we look at his story and how people fought with him about his decision, let’s reflect on if whether or not we’d like to be those people in the environmentalist literature that will be written about our generation. Why do we hate the fact that others care about the planet? Why do we ridicule vegans, protesters and second-hand shoppers? Is our lack of care offended by their abundance of care found in such lifestyle? Why do we fight to justify having anything to do with things that destroy our beautiful world? And then why do we complain about the ugliness?

I’ve found his story insane and so encouraging to learn about as a black environmentalist. When performative blackness tells me “veganism, up-cycling and second-hand buying is white”, both Francis and I scoff at it, and I am reminded that despite the dominant white narrative of sustainability, this earth belongs to us all. To me, deeming sustainability as a “white concept” is an assumption made under a post-colonial framework that asserts that the world is a white world to be governed and stewarded by white people. God made this earth for us all, He gave us sense organs to perceive its beauty and to enjoy it. When we abuse it and take unhealthy authority over it, we’re punishing ourselves. Stop being part of the problem and let’s enjoy the simple pleasures afforded to us that continue to exist amongst the turmoil.


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