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Opinion: Intersectional Environmentalism

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

In light of the recent #BlackLivesMatter movements worldwide, I would like to say a few words regarding why I think social justice and climate justice go hand-in-hand.

What is intersectional environmentalism?

I came across this term in one of the articles written by Leah Thomas. Intersectional environmentalism is the overall consideration of people and planet in developing a sustainable future. Why is this important in this context? This concept highlights the linkages and injustices brought upon marginalised communities and the environment. To advocate for both people and planet is to stand for equal opportunity and against an entire ecosystem of oppression.

Aid/relief discrimination

In recent climate disasters like Hurricane Katrina, research has shown that the environmental damage imposed more burden on Black communities in the US. However, disaster relief was minimal in these neighbourhoods, and instead were allocated to white communities where they were less impacted. The damage done to our climate had reflected upon the most marginalised in the country. How can we fix the exploitation of non-human things, when we haven’t considered exploitation of humans?

Both require changes to the same system

Both climate and social impacts come under one structural system -- the same system that perpetuates injustice and is negligent upon minorities. Both injustices require radical, structural changes, and we cannot change one without changing the other. 

Let ethnic minorities speak for themselves

We must listen: Listening and respecting inspiring ideas that come from minority communities. We must look to indigenous populations and learn from their preservation tactics. The simple act of listening and considering will be the way forward for both equality and environmental consideration. As Mikaela Loach says, “step up, so Black folks have the time and energy to invest in creating climate solutions instead of using our energy to explain [our] existence to other people.”

So, without social justice, we will not have climate justice. Environmentalists should come together and protect communities that have been exploited, neglected, and marginalised.

Article written by: Arwen Yeung

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