The perception that people of color don’t care about the environment has existed for a long time, and has been debunked for just as long. We can go back to [historian] W.E.B. DuBois, whose 1898 study on Philadelphia looked at the housing and health conditions of African Americans. People have described it as a sociological study, but if you read it, it is an environmental study, if ever there was one. He looked at the environmental conditions of these communities, but he linked them with social inequality and justice issues.
Before that, look at Harriet Tubman. We tend to think of her as someone only successful on the Underground Railroad, but to be that successful she was steeped in environmental and ecological knowledge. She knew the Chesapeake Bay so well that the U.S. military used her at the head of their ships to identify landmines the Confederates had laid in the water and identified them based off what she understood about disturbances in the water.
Slaves depended on ecological knowledge and were extremely effective at it — they used it to survive slavery. So the notion that we don’t care or know about the environment is just a fallacy.
— Dorceta Taylor, professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, and also the first African-American woman to earn a PhD from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.”