Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” 30 years ago and thank goodness she did. In the simplest terms, it describes how identities can overlap and impact the experiences of any one person or group. For instance, intersectional feminism highlights how Black women and other women of color typically face more discrimination compared to their white counterparts. Intersectionality proves that, in the immortal words of Audre Lorde, “we do not live single-issue lives.” And those issues are the common thread that impacts everyone, directly or indirectly. The work of a creator is no exception and intersectional environmentalism, in particular, is a movement you probably didn’t know is tied to your work.
“It affects all of us,” said sustainability expert Ashley Renne during BlogHer Planet. “Intersectional environmentalism advocates for people in a way that doesn’t minimize or silence the way race and culture impact who experiences environmental injustice.” This term, coined by environmentalist Leah Thomas, not only calls for amplifying the voices of marginalized people in the sustainability sector. It also advocates for the kind of change that can influence the growth of your business. (Selfish motives aside, you should also care about your fellow humans.)
For example, if you’re a food blogger writing a vegan cookbook and part of your audience lives in a food desert (an area lacking access to fresh food), you’re less likely to build brand loyalty. Perhaps you’re a wellness influencer who specializes in outdoor workouts but your readers live in an area where air pollution is high. Climate change policies (or lack thereof) also impact where shipping facilities are built and how supply chains are connected. Long story short–don’t wait until Earth Day to do something.
Because environmental justice is tied to social justice, this means you don’t just have to create eco-conscious content to do your part. An equally effective tactic could be merely educating yourself about the issues facing your audience so you can better meet their needs. If you’re a Black creator or want to ensure your brand is inclusive, amplifying intersectional environmentalist work is especially important. According to Renne, this is because the blowback of climate issues hurt underserved communities the most.
“People were really shocked when I showed these statistics that were very alarming about how Black Americans contribute…less to climate change but bear…more of the harm compared to other racial groups. Studies also show that pollution facilities have historically been built in and around African-Åmerican communities,” she said.
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“Each year, the oil and gas industry dumps tons of methane and toxic pollutants into the air and that disproportionately affects the African-American population. It’s that dirty air, the wildfires, the storms, the floods–all of these weather-related events affect who? The marginalized communities that don’t have the infrastructure to necessarily combat these events.”
Some of us will only feel the reverberations of environmental injustice and some will be directly hit. There’s certainly a lot of ground to cover and plenty of other issues to worry about too. But if you want to be truly inclusive, keep up with Ashley Renne and other sustainability experts of color to ensure that your work is contributing to the solution instead of the problem.
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