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“Stopping climate change is hard enough, but racism only makes it harder”

A note from Ocean Wise President and CEO

“Stopping climate change is hard enough, but racism only makes it harder”

This was shared recently by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist, policy advisor, and Brooklyn native. She is the founder and CEO of the consultancy Ocean Collectiv, and founder of the non-profit think tank Urban Ocean Lab. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her many times at ocean conferences around the world.  

Dr. Johnson’s words are true — human rights issues and environmental issues are inextricably linked. We can’t have environmental justice without social, economic and racial justice for all.  

Racism, injustice and police brutality are horrific issues. They also prevent people of colour from their important roles in fighting issues like climate change and environmental destruction. We need to fight racism, not only because it is the necessary for our society, but also because to drive deep change and successfully protect the ocean, we need people of colour.  

While I am incredibly proud of our work in programs like Ikaarvik, which empowers Indigenous youth to amplify their voices and impact, and Ocean Bridge, which continues to strive to bring together Canadian youth from many different ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, I also recognize that there is still much more work to be done.   

Like conservation, fighting racism is not so much about our intentions as it is about our practical action, so let’s challenge one another and ensure Ocean Wise is always a safe space for everybody. Speak up and challenge racism wherever you see it in your lives, and within our organization, so that we can grow and better each other.  

As we embark on developing a new strategic plan to address the post COVID-19 world, setting clear actions for increasing the diversity of our organization will be an important part of our planning.  

Over the coming weeks and months, I will also be reflecting on what more we can do to ensure we are doing our best to be allies to the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) community.  

Help me ensure our commitment to upholding diverse ocean life is matched in our commitment to an equally diverse Ocean Wise.   

Lasse Gustavsson, Ocean Wise President and CEO

I encourage you to read Dr. Johnson’s piece in the Washington Post here: 

Posted June 4, 2020 by Sarah Ellam

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