Introduction to Intersectional Environmentalism
Intersectionality is a word that has been used a lot lately regarding social movements and civil rights, it is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise”.
Many social movements like feminism or environmentalism have been led by white people from higher-income areas, which consequently means that they have been tainted by privilege, not having into account the issues or points of view of other collectives.
A clear example of this is the movement to ban single-use plastic straws, that ignores those who need such a tool to eat and can not adapt to the use of metal or glass straws, due to its weight or shape. Another example would be veganism, this movement incriminates any behavior related to the consumption of animal products, based on the negative consequences for the environment that the industrialization of meat production has as well as the fight for animal rights, but it does not have into account indigenous voices and communities that have a more traditional small-scale way of consuming animal products that, for the most part, is very respectful of the environment.
That is the reason why we can not have a climate movement without taking into account different perspectives, which doesn’t only mean listening to the voice of minorities but also fighting for their civil rights. Many studies have shown how BIPOC’s (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities suffer from climate change, they are statistically more likely to be exposed to toxic waste, landfills, highways, and other environmental hazards.
Intersectional Environmentalism is the intersection of social justice and environmentalism, it is a form of climate justice that doesn’t only have the planet into account but also its population. Leah Thomas, a climate activist, defines it as “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. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + the planet”. And for it she has launched a platform called “Intersectional Environmentalism” where you can find resources, information and action steps to support intersectional environmentalism and dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, you can read more about her from and her platform here.