A climate activism group based out of Auckland, New Zealand, has disbanded after canceling itself for racism.
In a Facebook post last Saturday, the organization “School Strike 4 Climate Auckland” declared that it would cease operations “under the suggestion and guidance” of its “BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) members,” after concluding that it is a “racist, white-dominated space.”
The group is a member of the larger “School Strike 4 Climate NZ” (SS4C) movement, which aims to involve “school students aged 8-18” in climate activism. SS4C notably played a significant role in New Zealand’s 170,000-strong participation in the worldwide September 2019 climate strikes.
In its farewell post, SS4C Auckland stated its intent to “decolonise the organisation.” It apologized for having “avoided, ignored, and tokenised BIPOC voices and demands,” leading to “hurt, burnout, and trauma” among its ethnic minority members who are “most affected by climate change.”
The post has received a mixed response, with many respondents voicing their frustration. One top comment called the move “identity politics gone mad” and another pleaded with the group’s leadership to “Stop being whiny and self-hating.”
The environmentalist movement has been struggling for a while to sort out its priorities. Brooding think pieces asking “Why don’t people care more?” and “Why won’t people do anything about it?” have proliferated in recent years. The blame for lack of public interest has typically been placed on the media, which has discovered that climate coverage is a “ratings killer.”
The self-cancellation of SS4C Auckland highlights another significant, and underreported, source of the climate movement’s floundering: its confused racial politics. The Left has attempted to link climate change to everything from Black Lives Matter to its Green New Deal spending priorities, with the result being an increasingly incoherent message. To borrow the language of social justice: when a movement “centers” one issue, it must necessarily decenter another, and in this case SS4C has communicated that it values the hot topic of racism over the supposedly existential threat of climate change.
Speaking of racism, the group’s vocabulary is curiously familiar from an American perspective. The term “BIPOC” is an obvious transplant: African New Zealanders make up a mere 0.3 percent of the population, with many of them being white South African immigrants.
So too are the other clinical terms — “colonised,” “tokenised,” “systematic oppression” — originating from the American higher education empire. As last year’s George Floyd protests in Auckland demonstrated, the developed world has increasingly substituted American political concerns for their own national politics.