When we think of Earth Day, many of us might think about plastic straws or recycling. Some of us might think about saving the rainforest, the whales, the polar bears. Where to begin? It’s overwhelming. And for many of us, the question is how much of ‘saving the planet’ is our personal responsibility?
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to recycle and protect non-human animals, it’s important to be a bit more critical and intersectional when fighting for climate change. Intersectionality, a term coined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, reminds us of what Audre Lorde said: “There is no single issue struggle because none of us live single issue lives”. With an intersectional lens, we’re able to recognize the social systems that further perpetuate power imbalances which then negatively impact communities that have been marginalized and disenfranchised.
Imagine living in a community where companies have decided to dump their toxic waste near your home because it’s simply easier. Imagine having the lands stolen from you used by the government to create dangerous oil pipelines that can cause harm to local water, trample on sacred ground, and cause toxic leaks. Imagine regularly using beauty products and household products filled with questionable ingredients that are regulated by a federal agency lobbied heavily by companies who are anti-regulation.
Now imagine being a teenage girl, seeing environmental threats everywhere, watching the news, reading the science, and deciding to call out those in power for change. And then grown men start calling you names.
Do you see a pattern here? Those with marginalized identities, voices who aren’t as loud and powerful as others, are having their lives threatened and taken away by those who are. There is power in numbers. Just imagine if we were to work together to fight against environmental racism and misogyny. How powerful would that be?
If you’re not already doing it, I challenge you to have personal responsibility look a bit differently this Earth Day. Instead of only focusing on reducing your personal carbon footprint, also work to hold companies accountable for their actions, support companies who are actively working to fight climate change, and vote for advocates for climate action in government.
Geek out with us and check out these additional resources:
- Podcast: A Matter of Degrees
- Scientific American: Pollution, Poverty and People of Color: Living with Industry
- Zero Waste Wisdom: Books about Environmental Racism, White Privilege, and Climate Justice
- The Public Interest Network: Embracing the Right Kind of Personal Responsibility on Climate Change
- Resurgence & Ecologist: Climate Justice is a Feminist Issue
- MamaCash: Environmental Justice is a Feminist Issue
- NRDC: What is Climate Feminism?
- Scientific American: Climate Anxiety Is an Overwhelmingly White Phenomenon
- The Guardian: Greta Thunberg’s Defiance Upsets the Patriarchy and It’s Wonderful
- NPR: Xiye Bastida: How Are Young People Making The Choice To Fight Climate Change?
- The Guardian: Pretty hurts: are chemicals in beauty products making us ill?
- Women’s Health Matters: Environmentally Linked Illnesses
- LA Times: DDT’s Toxic Legacy Can Harm Granddaughters of Women Exposed, Study Shows
- Earth Day
- Donate to great causes focusing on climate justice
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