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It’s not enough to be an environmentalist. We must be anti-racist environmentalists.

Why intersectional environmentalism is crucial in the effort to save the planet

 

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To be In Solidarity is to be in unity with your feelings AND actions for a common interest. We all want to be seen, heard, and respected. Those common generousities have not always been extended to black people, natives, or queer folks. Right now, Black people need the solidarity of every single person reading this caption and beyond. It’s time for us to come together for the greater good. Liberate one in order to liberate all. I’m so excited about this design because for the past year @teresabaker11 @kulacloth and I have been conspiring to create a fundraiser for good. It felt like the right time to bring this to life. With the sales of this Kula cloth we will attempt to raise over $20k to be distributed to a few non profits in the outdoors that are working hard to change the narrative of what it means to be a minority or underrepresented in the outdoors. More information on the organizations and the product release date soon. Thank you @teresabaker11 for always being a catalyst for good and thank you @kulacloth team for giving your resources and platform. For now feel free to share this Image (tag is for cred) to start conversations in your community or to make someone smile! #insolidarity #weareinthistogether #blacklivesmatter #icantbreathe #cometogether #speakup #naturelover #blackwithplants #blackartist #blackgirlmagic #fundraiser #diversifyoutdoors

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“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” says Angela Davis

 

“You cannot be anti-racist and not be an environmentalist. You cannot be an environmentalist without being anti-racist” says Nicole Anasis.

 

Regardless of whether climate change was happening or not, dismantling racist and oppressive social structures is something we should all care about, something we all need to prioritise. For white privileged people like myself, it shouldn’t take the pointing out of how addressing racial inequalities is the only true way to start fixing our planet, because that implies that we only care about undoing racism when it affects us personally.

Everyone should care about racial inequality because it is unjust, unfair and oppressive. Those are the reasons we need to work to undo systems that put Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) at a disadvantage. We must educate, donate, support, protect, respect, and be active.

 

 

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson recently published an article on the subject of how ‘racism derails our efforts to save the planet’, where she pointed out that although “black Americans are disproportionately more likely than whites to be concerned about — and affected by — the climate crisis”, the fact that they are still fighting for their basic human rights leaves little time for full focus on environmental activism.

Structural racism, mass incarceration and state violence mean that campaigning for social justice comes at the top of the list for many black Americans who might otherwise be focusing their energies on the climate struggle:

“consider the discoveries not made, the books not written, the ecosystems not protected, the art not created, the gardens not tended.” says Ayana.

But it is not only lack of time to organise campaigns that make environmental problems difficult for people of colour, the effects of climate change are disproportionately concentrated in places where people of colour reside. This is no coincidence.

 

Nicole Anasis, who studies Environmental Geoscience and Environmental Studies at the University of Toronto recently delivered a TED-style talk, where she explained how marginalised communities are most likely to move into undesirable locations due to lower property value. Undesirable locations may be close to nuclear power plants, landfill sites, or in places not intentionally created for residents.

In those places residents experience a poorer quality of life – lack of public transport access means that people have to drive to and from where they live, they can’t easily walk or cycle around, and in many cases there is no local shop which means driving is necessary. As such, health is compromised as life may be more sedentary, as well as the danger of poor air quality that is common in these places.

As well as this, pipelines built on indigenous reserves damage communities there, lowering qualities of life and endangering homes. Conservation efforts from the United Nations’ program REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) “essentially pays developing countries to reforest their forests”, which may have positive ecological impacts, but is hugely unfair on the communities who take that burden, despite being the problem’s antithesis in the first place.

If all lives were considered equal, we wouldn’t have an outsourcing of climate change solutions to developing countries, and have them be responsible for fixing climate change”

“If all lives were considered equal, we wouldn’t be so nonchalant about climate change.

Nicole Anasis

 

In her article ‘Intersectional Environmentalism: Why Environmental Justice Is Essential For A Sustainable Future‘, Leah Thomas points out that “when striving to become better environmentalists, it’s also important to consider what communities are more likely to be exposed to the ramifications of climate change the fastest.”

 

 

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Social justice cannot wait. It is not an optional “add-on” to environmentalism. It is unfair to opt in and out of caring about racial injustices when many of us cannot. These injustices are happening to our parents, our children, our family and our friends. I’m calling on the environmentalist community to stand in solidarity with the black lives matter movement and with Black, Indigenous + POC communities impacted daily by both social and environmental injustice. Please swipe to learn more about intersectional environmentalism and take the pledge. Here is a list of some of my favorite accounts I follow that raise awareness for intersectional environmentalism, please tag more in the comments!: @mikaelaloach @toritsui_ @jamie_s_margolin @queerbrownvegan @diandramarizet @wildginaa @aditimayer @naturechola @nativein_la @amaze_me_grace @she_colorsnature @switchbackshawty @bleavitt8 @badgal_brooky @teresabaker11 @ImKevinJPatel @Xiyebeara @lainetew @sophiakianni @xiuhtezcatl

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“Globally poorer nations, that don’t have the infrastructure in place to protect themselves against natural disasters, are often the worst hit by climate change’s disastrous effects” say Ethical Unicorn in ‘Intersectionality Is Important For Environmental Activism Too’. Many countries closer to the equator also happen to be ‘developing’ countries, so when the global temperature increases, those countries are inevitably more affected.

Natural disasters statistically affect countries who are poorer more than others, and often they do not have the money or resources to mitigate those impacts. Changing weather patterns affects rainfall, thus endangering water supplies in places like Africa, for example.

 

 

How to Help

As well as donating, educating yourself and others, and talking about the subject of racism, Nicole offers another option for how we can combat the severe effects of climate change on marginalised communities.

Where possible, living a more sustainable lifestyle lessens the damage of climate change by voluntarily negating to contribute to damaging systems.

It is of course important to recognise that sustainable living can also be a privilege for some – organic, local food is often more expensive, as well as sustainable clothing brands, living in nature and being able to eat from a garden or farm.

However, it is good to remember how our personal choices do make a difference.

You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.

Angela Davis

 

 

Resources

Other important ways to help are:

  • Educate

Invest time in educating yourself and others in anti-racism, have uncomfortable conversations with friends and family where inequality is discussed. Keep talking about the problems and the solutions.

Some good places to start:

Women, Race & Class – Angela Y. Davis

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House – Audre Lorde

Feminism is for Everybody – Bell Hooks

Natives: Race and Class in The Ruins of Empire – Akala

Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay

  • Donate

Financially support oppressed groups and organisations that provide aid:

Seedmob

Ethosfoundation.org.au

Alternatives for Community & Environment

Center for Diversity & the Environment

Center for Health, Environment & Justice

Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment

Communities for a Better Environment

Dream Corps Green for All

Environmental Justice Foundation

Women’s Environmental Network

You can even Donate With No Money.

  • Be consistent

Don’t support this cause just because it’s trending on twitter, in the news, or whatever. Anti-racism is an ongoing process.

 

“Revolution is not a one time event.”

Audre Lorde

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Elena Pollen

I live in Asturias, Northern Spain in a stone cabin where I grow my own food and live using permaculture principles. I'm interested in community permaculture and healing.

3 Comments

  1. Sorry, but discrimination goes beyond race. People from any race, who are poor will be treated like trash and look down on by others. People discriminate towards others, if they are not part of their inner group. White discriminate against white, blacks against other blacks, same with any group. It’s mostly about class warfare. You can bet any millionaire will look down their nose, towards anyone not a millionaire or above. Even those who pretend to be politically correct. The focus should be to respect other humans. (And animals, they also have feelings.)

    1. Hey, first of all – no need to apologise for saying what you think.
      I totally agree with you – many people are discriminated against not just because of their skin colour but also because of how much money they have. Class is a huge issue and this article in no way intends to deny that.
      I agree that we should all respect each other.
      In terms of racial discrimination, it has been widely written about and commented upon that despite class and wealth, racial discrimination still takes place, especially in places such as the UK and the US. For example, the author Akala mentions in his book how the stereotype of black men usually making money from selling drugs, being famous rappers or basketball players impedes both the role models young men have availble to them, as well as the treatment of the men who have achieved other things. He gives an example of his friend who is a doctor and drives an expensive car, who was pulled over by the police as a drug dealing suspect. The police showed surprise when the man explained he was a doctor, and even went so far as to call the hospital in which he worked in order to prove the fact. They didn’t take his word for it. This is a clear example of racial discriminaton that goes beyond class.
      It’s less likely that a white man would’ve been pulled over simply for driving an expensive car, less so that the police would’ve taken it as far as to call the hospital where he said he worked.

      Acknowledging white privilege isn’t about denying the hardship that white people have faced, it’s about recognising that in certain situations, the colour of your skin has not affected how you have been treated.

      Other people explain this concept much better than me. I’d recommend reading Akala’s Natives, Angela Davis’ Women, Race and Class,
      and this article by Peggy McIntosh https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/mcintosh.pdf

      Thanks for commenting, have a great day!

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