Choiceful recognizes systemic discrimination in climate issues that stem from race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. We see the environmental movement as genuine only if it allows for a diverse representation of every human on the planet.
Why is intersectional environmentalism important?
“Anthropocene” means, simply put, the world dominated by humans. The unofficial geological term refers to the time when humans’ activity started impacting the planet to a significant degree. The term is not only incorrect but also compliant with the current oppressive status quo. Not every human has an equal impact on the planet, and some humans suffer from the “human activity” as much as the ecosystems do. Maybe “Western Anthropocene” or “Rich Anthropocene” would be more accurate of a name.
The current climate crisis both has its roots in social inequality and perpetuates it. The same anthropos that is responsible for anthropocentric changes to the Earth’s climate has created a world society based on dominance and inequality.
Extraction-based (neo)colonial economy
Capitalism as the economy of extraction started with the exploitation of colonies – Europeans reaching American shores, bringing new pathogens and plants that irreversibly changed the landscape, and assuming violent control over the indigenous populations.
Toxins-sprayed monocultures on overexploited land have been a reality for centuries, yet a reality hidden from the “developed” world’s eyes. Today, too, the ugly sides of supply chains stay in “developing” countries so us, the Westerners, can enjoy our products guilt-free. Centuries of oppression of non-whites have led to a world with a clear-cut wealth gap, where the higher environmental footprint of the rich is paid for by the poor, on global and national levels.
Climate does not discriminate but policies do
Less wealth means lower life quality. Poor communities are disproportionately often inhabiting environmentally degraded areas, such as vicinities of refineries or waste disposal centres. So although poor communities do not enjoy equal access to resources, they pay the environmental price for their production and use. Besides, poor communities have lower resilience against climate disasters. For example, those that do not own cars will find it more difficult to run away from cities on time in case of a flood or a hurricane.
Poverty is strongly correlated with race. In developed (so predominantly “white”) countries, non-white communities are generally poorer than white ones due to systemic racism. Developing countries – and no “white” country belongs to this group – take in all that the West is grossed out by, no matter if it is plastic trash or slave-like assembly lines. It is no accident that less developed countries accept transnational companies owned by citizens of more developed countries to operate on their land with little to no social or environmental regulations. Consumerist lifestyle implies outsourcing pollution and overexploitation of humans and the planet somewhere poorer.
The price for lower resilience
Climate change will exacerbate every existing discrimination. When resources shrink and climate disasters increase in frequency, the more vulnerable will suffer disproportionately. This holds for women: they are more attached to the land due to culture-based responsibilities over children and household, so they are more likely to suffer casualties in case of a disaster. If forced to flee their land, women may lose access to reproductive facilities or sanitary products, which may affect their health and lifestyle choices. The LGBTQ+ community is also more exposed to dangers of climate change, as non-heterosexual and non-binary people are more likely to be discriminated against during climate policies or climate mitigation strategies. Both women and the LGBTQ+ communities are generally poorer than straight white males which remain the “default” humans.
Climate justice equals social justice
Degradation of the planet and social inequalities stem from the same root: lack of respect for life in the name of economic profit. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for simultaneous care about the planet and the people. Vulnerable communities need empowerment to gain resilience necessary to face the challenges posed by the climate crisis.
The environmental movement remains predominantly white but the change is coming. More and more of the biggest environmental organizations start to voice the postulates of intersectional environmentalism (although voicing and implementing are two quite different things). Women start to be more vocal about their roles in climate mitigation, and policymakers start to realize the value of indigenous knowledge in climate protection.
Choiceful strives for being part of the global struggle for respect for the planet and the people. Every inhabitant of the Earth holds the future of humankind equally.
Sources & additional resources
A story of colonialism and climate and an overview of decolonized world vision: https://worldcrunch.com/culture-society/colonialism-the-hidden-cause-of-our-environmental-crisis
Opinions of black environmentalism on the intersection between climate and racism: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/03/climate/black-environmentalists-talk-about-climate-and-anti-racism.html?auth=login-email&login=email
A black environmentalist shares her struggle for inclusiveness: https://www.vogue.com/article/why-every-environmentalist-should-be-anti-racist
A study about social and economic isolation of black communities in the US: https://www.prb.org/thesocialandeconomicisolationofurbanafricanamericans/
Are we having a crescendo of ant-racism in classical music? – Getting curious with Jonathan van Ness and Dr. Kira Thurman and Ashleigh Gordon
How can democrats be anti-racist – Getting curious with Jonathan van Ness and Alicia Garza (co-founder of Black Lives Matter)
What do white people need to know about racism? – Getting curious with Jonathan van Ness and Andrew Ti
Episode 75 of America Adapts podcast deals with climate resilience of black, female, and LGBTQ+ communities: https://open.spotify.com/episode/3QVTd5CEqQAvu4e2LxCus5?si=3CeC1ApiQpGs0r1Ni9LQDg
Mothers of Invention podcast celebrates feminists that fight climate change across the world: https://open.spotify.com/show/2eeS7Z9cu5xT15XKq64hPL?si=t7bVgiZ8RN6cuHf1GM8Dkw
Future Ecologies podcast takes on decolonization from the very first episode: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4ov7kFQQBNTZ5nwvcOwDn8?si=r61bbazxRUmfeACXj6XN4Q