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Intersectional Environmentalism: The Key Practice to Achieving Our Goals

By Morgan Barragan

 As we push for policies and actions that help in our fight for the environment, we are reminded of the vast necessity for an intersectional approach to solving environmental issues. Intersectional environmentalism is a form of environmentalism that advocates for both the planet and its people. This type of approach seems like a no brainer; after all, we are a key part in the global ecosystem. However, many environmentalists have yet to fully recognize the difference between traditionality and intersectionality.

How can we work to have a more inclusive environmental approach to our lives?

The easiest way to do this is to take a step back and listen to the voices leading the intersectional environmental movement! Two notable figures in this movement are Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Leah Thomas. Dr. Johnson is the co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab and focuses her work on making information on how to save the environment accessible through her podcast, How to Save a Planet. Leah Thomas is the founder of Intersectional Environmentalism, a community focused group that amplifies the voices of the BIPOC community in regards to environmental issues. By taking the time to listen to the message behind the work of these environmental super stars, we learn how we can take part in the intersectional environmentalist movement.

The next steps we can take are to understand that environmental issues especially impact BIPOC and work to create a space that welcomes diversity. Due to historical and systemic racism, BIPOC unfortunately are most likely to live in environmentally compromised areas. Did you know that in the United States that race is the greatest indicator as to who lives in areas with poor air, soil, and water qualities?

Once we recognize that BIPOC unequally face the consequences of environmental issues, it becomes easier for us to amplify the voices of the BIPOC community. We can invite and foster diversity through community outreach in neighboring communities, asking for the opinions and thoughts of BIPOC people, specifically seeking out diverse people in the volunteer recruitment process, and more! It is important that we create a diverse space so that we can best serve diverse communities through out advocacy for environmental policy reform and action.

What is Surfrider Long Beach doing to be an intersectional environmentalist group?

Surfrider Long Beach is built of a diverse group of volunteers working to support the Long Beach community. We actively seek out volunteers from a variety of backgrounds, offer volunteer opportunities that are easily accessible to many, work to build a strong sense of community amongst our volunteers, and provide digestible summaries of policy issues to our followers. Additionally, we recognize and celebrate minority organizations who are standing by our side in the fight for the planet.

We still have a lot of work to do to achieve our goals of conscience environmental practices and environmental equity for all; but with the help of people for care for the environment like we do, our goals will become reality!