SEM’s CEO, Maxwell Ayamba was invited to deliver a talk as part of the launch day of a 10 week long Applied Creativity Lab on Friday 20th October 2023. It is meant to help twenty 16/17 yr olds of Sheffield City College develop new creative thinking skills to enable them to develop new social action/media campaigns to help local environmental groups achieve their goals.
The students would then present their final campaigns to an Industry panel at the end of the project who will offer advice to the students.
Maxwell (seen in this picture with Green Party Cllr. Douglas Johnson) spoke about SEM’s mission to promote diversity within the environmental sector. Maxwell in his presentation explained to the students how although, individuals from Black & Ethnic Minorities were heavily impacted by environment issues such as air pollution, yet have no voice in the decision making process.
He said the environmental field is the second least diverse sector only after Farming in the UK. Maxwell noted how the lack of efforts by some environmental organisations to diversify their workforce has become so normalised that it has become an acceptable norm not to see Black & Minoritised individuals including young people in that sector.
It is therefore strange he told the students ” I am not surprised that you weren’t expecting to see a Black man today speaking about the environment with other white people’. Maxwell said SEM is keen to change that narrative in its own small way, by engaging with young people who as the future custodians of our natural environment to become environmental champions and ambassadors in communities thereby engendering change in communities that are at the mercy of climate change, air pollution and other environmental problems.
Maxwell told the students that it is therefore acceptable not to see Black & Ethnic Minority individuals in local and national environmental organisations as compared to other sectors such as the Education and Health sector such as the NHS. He pointed out that the natural environment is our “Natural Health Service”, just as the NHS, and yet Black & Minoritised communities are not benefiting from it due to structural inequalities and racism. These structural inequalities have led to an increase in mental health and physical health problems.
Maxwell explained how that has been exacerbated by the lack of accessible quality greenspaces in these deprived communities. He urged the students to design a campaign program that would be used to encourage people from these communities to access green spaces but also the need for the college to promote outdoor learning, citing the work of the Ernest Cook Trust as an organisation promoting the concept of outdoor learning.