Haven’t heard of this phrase before? There’s zero shame in that. Having discovered it myself not too long ago. Uncovering it was mindblowing and not at all what I anticipated. So much so that it motivated me to action. This is how to tell if you’re an intersectional environmentalist and how to become one if you’re not.
Continue reading if you care about the planet and equality – two worthy topics on-trend as of late. Though informative, this blog will enlighten the mind. The purpose is to spread awareness, but most importantly, a more inclusive way of thinking on an individual level.
The reality of intersectional environmentalism is that the two topics, the planet, and equality, are interlinked.
Breaking down the terminology
Intersectional environmentalism is a term originally coined by environmentalist, Leah Thomas. Leah recognized the connection between issues surrounding the sustainability of our planet and marginalized communities. Let’s begin with a blank page with just the word intersectionality printed on it in bold font.
Intersectionality, coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989, describes the overlapping of identity markers. These identity markers include gender, societal class, and race among other things. Further still, Professor Crenshaw recognized these identity markers may not necessarily exist independently of one another. For example, the inability to separate being both Black and a woman as I am both things simultaneously.
What do these identity markers have to do with environmentalism?
You see, historically, the environmentalist movement has been soaked in racism. Meaning racism has been the catalyst for many of the decisions regarding the movement itself. How so? Hazardous waste facilities, dump sites, and illegal waste locations are disproportionately located nearby or within minority communities. Giving validity to the relevance of these identity markers as an inclusive foundation for a new environmental movement: Intersectional environmentalism.
Why does race matter to the environment?
Race matters. It always matters. Especially in the 21st century when racial tensions have grown insurmountably. What does race have to do with how to tell if you’re an intersectional environmentalist? Although a trending term, the realities of racism are profoundly real. Not highlighting any specific nation considering racism has been weaved into the fabrics of them all. Therefore, racism is a global issue.
The father of environmental justice, Dr. Robert Bullard, eloquently states: “When certain populations are somehow provided less protection from, say pollution, it’s because of race. Protection should not be distributed because of the color of your skin. Everyone deserves a clean, healthy, sustainable, and liveable environment. That’s why race matters.”
Let’s discuss the validity of environmental discrimination, shall we?
Historical environmental discrimination
Historically low-income and minority neighborhoods are developed around industrial sites, ports, and air pollution hotspots. With global warming on the rise, these communities are directly affected by the impacts of climate change. Environmental displacement, as a result, is projected to increase in record numbers in these areas.
How does that apply to me?
Change affects us all. In fact, it is the singular constant in life. By default, then so too do environmental changes. With the awareness of intersectional environmentalism comes a new lens through which to view current social problems around the world. Recognizing that intersectionality also means recognizing the impact of climate change on equality and vice versa.
Breaking down, then rebuilding ideals of inclusivity can be threatening. Especially so to those too familiar with privilege. But it is a fundamental necessity for the human species to progress and cohabitate on planet Earth.
When you change your mind, we can change the world
Think about the differences of opinion in creating something as arbitrary as a sandwich. It requires access to different ingredients to make a Po Boy vs bologna and cheese. Not to mention the food culture, attitudes, and perceptions centered around each sandwich. World views on equality and its relationship to the planet also bear these differences of opinion.
How to become an intersectional environmentalist
The first step to learning how to tell if you’re an intersectional environmentalist is gaining awareness. Give yourself a pat on the back for taking the initiative to read this blog. Doing so serves as proof that you are willing to head in the right direction.
Becoming an intersectional environmentalist means standing up for environmental and racial injustices. Gaining education on historical discriminations and how they affect individuals is the next step. Confronting archaic ideals of race serving as a means of division vs inclusion is the responsibility of us all.
How can you use your privilege to advocate for the cause? Perhaps advocating for an increase in green spaces or community gardens in urban areas. In what ways can the work being done be amplified outward? Leave your suggestion in the comments for discussion.