February 27, 2020 / 10:23 PM / a month ago

Beware of the 'human cost' of going green, UK teen activist says

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - They may be clean and green but climate-friendly choices like electric cars can have a devastating human impact, a prominent British teen climate activist said on Thursday.

Recent calls to shun fast fashion could cost poorly-paid Bangladeshi workers their jobs, while electric cars risk using cobalt mined by child laborers, said Mya-Rose Craig, who is due to join activist Greta Thunberg at a climate rally on Friday.

“In countries like Bangladesh, it’s literally the main source of income for the majority of people who live there and it’s the only thing keeping them out of poverty,” the 17-year-old told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“You can’t just stop. You have to figure out another way to give these people a living,” said Craig, who lives near the city of Bristol in western England.

The United Nations estimates about 40,000 children work in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the leading producer of cobalt used in the lithium-ion batteries commonly found in electric cars.

“The environmental movement should be more aware of the human cost of being environmentally friendly,” Craig said.

Craig, also known as BirdGirl for her interest in bird watching and conservation, will speak at the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate event on Friday alongside Thunberg, who launched the Fridays for Future strikes in 2018.

“I always go to Bristol youth strikes ... it’s just the extra excitement of Greta being there and I might get to meet her,” she said.

Craig recently received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bristol for her climate activism and in 2016 founded Black2Nature, a charity which runs nature camps for black and ethnic minority children.

She called for ethnic minorities to be given greater voice, highlighting the furor over the cropping of Ugandan activist, Vanessa Nakate, out of a photo with Thunberg last month.

Craig’s call for greater diversity echoed that of Licypriya Kangujam, an 8-year-old climate activist who hit out at journalists on Twitter for calling her the “Greta of India”, saying she was not trying to imitate Thunberg.

In 2019, a U.S. advocacy campaign to increase diversity in environmental groups, Green 2.0, found that although people of color made up 36% of the population, they did not exceed 16% of staff in any of the environmental organizations surveyed.

Reporting by Amber Milne; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org

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