In the past few weeks, I’ve received countless… many… emails and outreach from the environmental organizations I’m connected with. Universally, and in a direct manner that I’ve never seen from the environmental movement before, the only message they have right now is. Black. Lives. Matter.
Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Story of Stuff Project, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, 350.org, Climate Justice Alliance, Greenfaith, The Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, Youth Climate Strike, Earth Uprising, Fridays of the Future, Citizen Climate Lobby, Environmental Voter Project, Interfaith Power and Light, Environmental Justice Alliance…
You get the idea. even PETA has taken a stand.
These groups are suspending their typical environmentally centered messaging to insist their members discuss, confront and address systemic racism, violence in policing and the social and economic conditions that perpetuate it. They AREN’T dancing around the elephant in the room this time… the language is clear, deliberate and forceful.
They are all using this as an opportunity to look at the intersectionality between racial and environmental justice work. I believe this to be a pivotal moment when even the mainstream environmental movement can see their work in a larger and arguably more inclusive context for an effective and deep social change that they have been working for all these years.
I remember in the 1990s/2000s in college when I first encountered this powerful theme of “eco-justice”. Working at the time with organizations such as the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), Earth First!, Heartwood/Forest Council and the Green Party, it felt new and instructive, powerful and eye opening. I was dismayed to see that the mainstream environmental groups thought this to be a diversion from their work. Why would it be a conflict to place our environmental work into a greater context and examine the social and political connectedness between the many facets of justice work? For me, at the time, the Green Party in particular presented a meaningful framework to understand social and environmental issues in a coherent platform for action.
That was 25 years ago and we, in the environmental movement, STILL haven’t woke. 25 years…! But maybe I can be optimistic again, after the past week of protests ACROSS the spectrum of justice, that we can get back to the forward march towards a just sustainable world that we’ve kinda sorta dropped the ball on.
And there is a shining light among activists today I think we can all agree on. I see this in the Green New Deal and pretty much ALL of the activism of our youth today. Young people know.. they feel the truth of intersectionality… that systemic change is needed to benefit environmental/climate work, biodiversity, animal rights, LGBTQ+, civil rights, democracy action, feminist issues, race. To many of our young people, it seems like a given.
Here’s a novel thought… maybe once Black Lives Matter… the rest falls into place a bit easier.
Brian Hagemann, Director of Administration & Green Team contact
you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As I was researching, reading and thinking about this weeks Nature Walk I came across the writings and video from Leah Thomas, also known as GreenGirlLeah on twitter and instagram. Below you’ll find a few of her writings and the video that inspired some of these thoughts.
Social justice cannot wait. It is not an optional “add-on” to environmentalism. It is unfair to opt in and out of caring about racial injustices when many of us cannot. These injustices are happening to our parents, our children, our family and our friends. I’m calling on the environmentalist community to stand in solidarity with the black lives matter movement and with Black, Indigenous + POC communities impacted daily by both social and environmental injustice.
What is Environmental Justice?
What Is Intersectional Environmentalism?
This is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways i 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.
Intersectional Environmentalist Pledge
I will stand in solidarity with Black, Indigenous + POC communities and The Planet
I will not ignore the intersections of environmentalism and social justice
I will use my privilege to advocate for black + brown lives in spaces where this message is often silenced
I will proactively do the work to learn about the environmental and social injustices Black, Indigenous + POC communities face without minimizing
I will respect the boundaries of BIPOC friends and activists and not demand they perform emotional labor or do the work for me
I will share my learnings with other environmentalists and my community
I will amplify the messages of Black, Indigenous + POC activists and environmental leaders
I will not remain silent during pivotal political and cultural moments that impact BIPOC communities