Intersectionality is a term coined by lawyer, scholar, and advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, which encompasses the overlap between various aspects of identity such as race and gender, and how these influence individuals’ experiences. When combined with environmentalism, which focuses on protecting the environment, intersectional environmentalism concentrates on understanding and addressing how social justice and environmental issues are connected. It addresses how environmental issues uniquely affect marginalized communities.
For instance, when looking at the Amazon forest fires, an intersectional environmentalist wouldn’t only consider how they affect the surrounding environment. They would look at how they harm local indigenous communities as well. An intersectional environmentalist would work to protect and support both.
The first step to making your environmentalism more intersectional is educating yourself. Expose yourself to how environmental issues are impacting marginalized communities. However, don’t expect marginalized individuals to spend their energy educating you. There are plenty of resources out there for self-education.
Then, the next time you read an article, or learn about an issue pertaining to the environment, apply these new perspectives you’ve learned about. Critically consider the issue from all possible perspectives. Consider how you and others can help create positive change for the environment and the people being affected.
Then discuss it with others using whatever platforms you have available to you. Encourage people to consider issues from an intersectional, more inclusive standpoint.
However, it’s important to not center conversations relating to intersectional environmentalism around yourself. Instead, amplify the voices of marginalized peoples.
Below, I have a starter list of resources to look at to expand your perspective as an environmentalist.
Black Faces, White Spaces Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors by Carolyn Finney
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States by Carl A. Zimring
The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors by James Mills
Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor
Come Hell Or High Water: The Battle For Turkey Creek (2013) directed by Leah Mahan
Mossville: When Great Trees Fall (2019) directed by Alexander Glustrom
Sun Come Up (2011) directed by Jennifer Redfearn
The Condor and the Eagle (2019) directed by Clement Guerra and Sophie Guerra
The Last Guardians (2017) directed by Adam Punzano and Joe Tucker