Today, April 22, marks Earth Day, a day when we celebrate the Earth and also rally around finding solutions to climate change and environmental injustice. Started in the 1970s partly in response to Silent Spring, a book written by lesbian author and marine biologist Rachel Carson, the day has been part of a movement that has grown more aptly in tune with today’s intersectional movements. At first glance, environmental injustice may not seem like an LGBTQ issue, but in fact, queer folks have a real stake in the future of a livable climate.
Although the definitions for climate justice are vast, the United Nations describes it as looking at the issue of climate change through a human rights lens. When thought of in these terms, it is easy to see how people of various communities are impacted by climate change unequally. Because of systemic issues like discrimination, unaffordable housing, and unequal pay, folks who belong to communities of color, who are low income, and the LGBTQ community are impacted more drastically by the effects of climate change even though these groups have contributed the least to it. This is what environmental and climate justice is all about.
Including LGBTQ people in the discussion around climate change is vital, as is true about including climate justice within the movement for LGBTQ rights. These movements inextricably go hand-in-hand.
As we think about how the LGBTQ community is already feeling the effects of environmental disaster, we must center the voices and stories of the most marginalized within our own community when working to solve these issues. Because transgender individuals– especially trans and queer people of color – are often already lacking resources due to systematic racism, transphobia, and poverty, this community is less adept at dealing with things such as destructive storms or deadly heatwaves. These systems of injustices are further perpetuated in low-income communities when corporations use these cities as toxic dumping sites like the infamous case of Richmond, California vs. the Chevron Oil Refinery has shown us.
“Supporting LGBTQ people means recognizing our full humanity, including the ability to live on a healthy planet.”– Tyrone Hanley, NCLR Director of Racial and Economic Justice Initiatives
Earth Day gives us a chance to think about what it means to address environmental and climate injustices. While corporate interests try to convince us that we can solve climate change through individual actions, experts say this will not ultimately solve the crisis. When these companies wave pride flags in June and claim to care about LGBTQ rights, they must consider the fact that, due to generations of discrimination, our community is unequally impacted by their contribution to climate change and their inaction toward solving the biggest problem of our generation.
Truly supporting LGBTQ people means recognizing our full humanity, including the ability to live on a healthy planet, with fresh air to breathe and clean water for all. Happy Earth Day.