What does Intersectional Environmentalism mean? We’ll let Leah Thomas, explain it in her words:
“Intersectional Environmentalism is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality.” [source]
As I’m sure you’re aware, here at vegums, environmentalism and keeping the planet healthy is really important to us. But we also want to make sure that we stand up for human rights – equality and justice. Intersectional environmentalism is an incredibly important topic. Thus, we would love to help you learn a little about it and the people who are truly affected by the climate crisis.
Just a quick note – this is a very broad overview of this topic. There’s so much more to learn about intersectional environmentalism. Take this as a sort of introduction.
In 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “Intersectional”. As a leading thinker and scholar in the field of critical race theory, she used the term to originally explain the the oppression of African American women in the feminist movement. In simple terms, it explains how feminism does not address the fact that women come from different classes, ethnicities, abilities and sexualities. It favours the needs of those who are white, middle-class, heterosexual, cisgender and able-bodied.
This is what has built the premise of Intersectional Environmentalism.
It probably comes as no surprise that the richest, whitest countries are the most responsible for the climate crisis, yet suffer the least from it. So let’s chat a little bit about each the groups of people who need the most support.
Black People and People of Colour:
Generally communities of colour are forced to live in closer proximity to environmentally degraded locations, and are therefore more likely to suffer from air pollution. This also means these communities are fated to be situated nearer to hazardous locations such as fracking sites and landfills.
People of colour are more likely to be affected by the consequences of climate change too. In the Global South, heatwaves, crop failures and extreme weather are real issues. The North also has its own problems. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the worst damage was found in predominantly Black areas. Despite this, relief was somewhat slower compared to what was provided in predominantly white neighbourhoods.
(source: @greengirlleah on Instagram)
Indigenous communities were living in balance with the land for thousands of years before these areas were colonised. Due to living closer to the land, Indigenous people are often the first to recognise the effects of climate change, and feel the impacts the hardest. It can threaten their very existence. Few countries recognise the rights of these communities and their land. Ancestral land is often used for damaging industries such as mining, pipelines and large scale agriculture.
People are trying to adapt to the changing environment, but many are forcibly displaced from their homes by the effects of climate change. Disasters such as floods, hurricanes and droughts are becoming more of a growing concern.
According to UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency), since 2009 and estimated one person every second has been forced from their home by a disaster (source).
As primary care-givers in many communities, women are more likely to be affected by climate change. Drought and water shortages mean women could have a greater distance to walk to their water source.
Women are also more likely to suffer human rights abuses in the aftermath of a disaster such as human trafficking or sexual violence as a refugee.
There have also been concerns that people blaming overpopulation for the environmental destruction may risk women’s reproductive rights in some areas of the world.
LGBTQ+ and Trans Communities:
It’s become apparent that the LGBTQ+ and the Trans community are also at risk to suffer more from climate related disasters. During hurricane Katrina (as mentioned earlier), trans people faced discrimination being turned away from emergency shelters.
According to The Big Issue here, 24% of young homeless people in the UK are from LGBTO+ or Trans community. As climate change related events are much more likely to impact those without stable housing, this is another reason this group of people need our support.
People with Disabilities:
People who have a disability are more likely to suffer from climate events. If there is limited accessibility, people with disabilities may be less able to evacuate or migrate. They may also be more vulnerable to contracting diseases and may suffer more in places with limited health services.
Disabled people are often excluded from research and solutions to climate change, however it’s really important their voices are heard.
So what can we do about Intersectional Environmentalism?
There are a number of ways we can take action on this. Firstly, it’s time to start listening, uplifting and amplifying the voices of people from marginalised groups.
We can all learn more! So do some research when you have time, give it a google and see what it’s all about. Donate to the movement, if you have the means. As this money is guaranteed to support marginalised groups (although we 100% understand this might not be possible for everyone right now).
If you don’t have a lot of free time, even following some influential voices in this field on your social media will help to educate and spread the word.
The wonderful people at Beauty Heroes have come up with this pledge to start you off with a few ideas!
As you can see, there are lots of things we can do to help, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on what you plan to do! Leave us a comment below with your thoughts.