“One day I hope we won’t need the term “intersectional” to preface environmentalism. One day I hope that when people think of an environmentalist, they’ll automatically envision an activist that cares about both people and the planet. I truly believe that day will come soon if environmentalists wake up and begin advocating for those whose voices are unheard, and who face the largest threats of the climate crisis. If that happens, I believe we can create the future that we want to see: one that is greener, more sustainable, and more equitable for all people.”
I hit a resounding wall when trying to write this article; it rendered me in a state of deep reflection that was discomforting, disconcerting but ultimately decisive in some ways. Although I have been a part of sustainability (in fashion, mostly) conversations for a while, I find that with the ever evolving dialogue of most intersectional discourse—it is somewhat of a transpersonal experience; existing beyond the ordinary and expanding into an understanding of one sentiment. This sentiment being, that I need to live in constant consultation with and self reflective awareness of my privilege, environmentally and culturally and socio-politically. What began as fleeting anecdotes of a liberally minded younger self, full of capitalistic critique, manifested into a sheer commitment to fight for planetary health and well-being; rooted in seeing Earth as an ecological temple for all sentience.
Photograph sourced from The Good Trade
That, however, is where the need for intersectionality in environmentalism explicitly determines itself. It cannot be about single use plastic before it’s about equality. It cannot begin to be about speciesism before it’s about racism. I feel that on this journey of continual learning/unlearning much of the “work” or even “awareness” that I felt I had cultivated around the planet, is nowhere near close enough to the edges of an intersectional and honestly accounting truth, nor will it ever be if things continue as they have. Subjectivity where truth is concerned feels irrelevant here too, and when I say subjectivity, I am explicitly talking about the white-washed-reusable-shopping bags-eco-industrial complex brand of sustainability served with an ice cold Kombucha. The kind that sees sustainability / environmental activism as a marketing strategy; a new niche for products of muted “earthy” tones.
While this version of sustainability makes for a pleasing Instagram grid, it does little to nothing for the actual driving work towards the decolonial intentions behind environmentalism. Furthermore, it almost always subtly and violently casts the most marginal and already socio-politically disregard people as those taking up space on this planet and thus depleting its resources – recklessly perpetuating the idea that somehow resource inequity can be individually determined, rather than it being systemic. As awakening takes place from a binary, mechanised slumber towards actual fore and hindsight from our past in building our future; we must take into consideration the implications white supremacy, industrialisation and colonial capital production have had on the planet and Her people. The erasure of indigenous lineages, technologies, wisdom, guardianship and medicines is not merely the collateral of conquering and the erasure of actual peoples and cultural systems; it is the deepest, most grave offence upon the history of earth, with consequences we may never fully realise – for generations to come.
Image by Leah Thomas