intersectional environmentalism : who, what, and why
Image via Intersectional Environmentalist
Sustainability is a core component in how we do what we do. Our primary mission is to raise money for local children and animals, and our secondary mission is to do it with the smallest ecological footprint that we can.
Why is sustainability such an important pillar in our organization?
Of course there are the obvious reasons of wanting to care for our earth, minimizing what we send to landfills, finding ways to use what already exists in order to minimize utilizing resources to create something new. The list goes on.
Have you ever looked around you and completely understood the need to "raise awareness" for sustainability-related matters? Have you ever caught yourself throwing away a recyclable material because what's one plastic bottle doing to do?
This isn't an effort to make anyone feel guilty - if anything, we pose these questions as a means of identifying the inherent privilege many of us have in that we aren't forced to directly confront the realities of pollution and global warming on a daily basis.
Sustainability is just as much a human rights matter as it is an environmental matter. The specific term for this cross-disciplinary approach is called, "intersectional environmentalism." While the exact origin of this term is vague, one specific advocate and online influencer, Leah Thomas, brought the phrase into the limelight.
Leah is extremely vocal on social media under the handle @greengirlleah and she advocates for sustainability in a way that also aims to protect the very communities that are most affected by climate change.
This is a prime spot to reiterate the questions we posed above - how frequently do you find yourself directly confronting the side effects of climate change?
If your answer was something along the lines of, "basically never," then that is exactly the point Leah makes.
As an example, let's think about the impoverished communities living around major clothing manufacturing facilities overseas. Say one of the facilities specializes in dying denim and, rather than finding plant-based pigments and/or responsible ways to dispose of said dye, they dump the waste water into local waterways that then spread toxins throughout the environment. The chemicals from the denim then make their way into local crops, local livestock, and drinking water, creating a toxic ripple effect unrealized by consumers who purchase the denim at the end of the manufacturing/consumption process.
Please understand this is simply one example and it cannot fully capture this reality as a whole, and while it simplifies one of many side effects felt abroad, they are not isolated incidents. They do not exclusively occur outside of the United States.
Per the Intersectional Environmentalist website, the impacts of reckless abandon (in regards to the earth) are felt most intensely by BIPOC communities and the solutions are felt last. It introduces an entirely new layer to white privilege.
While we've painted this masterpiece of a problem, you're likely wondering what we can all do to help find the solution.
First things first, we personally love starting with becoming more educated. Knowledge is power, and when we have a greater understanding of the complex systems operating within our country then we are better able to navigate them in a way that creates lasting change.
A few great resources we love:
Second, rather than speaking for BIPOC communities fighting to change a problem they face daily (i.e., Flint, MI and their water that remains toxic after years of demanding a solution), hand over the microphone. Hold space. Listen. Acknowledge that complex problems require complex solutions created from diverse perspectives, rather than the same capitalist/colonial mindset that has dominated policy for centuries.
Third, continue doing what you can in the way of waste reduction. The cycle of R's (reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle) remains relevant, only with growing perspective as we continue to learn, listen, and collaborate with one another.
We encourage you to do any additional research on your own. As with many things in life, there are so many right ways to get the job done. It can be as small as remembering to recycle or having conversations or as large as appealing to government representatives. At the end of the day, sustainability is truly an intersectional issue that is best approached through education, collaboration, and diversity.