Intersectionality and Environmental Justice

Something I’m really passionate about is environmental justice. Many people don’t understand the extent to which privilege can protect and provide for those in higher classes. I’m actually writing about this a little for my senior thesis, which is about the gap between media literacy and climate change. Part of this means looking at how environmental issues and climate change have more effect on those in lower class communities, specifically indigenous communities and neighborhoods with mostly people of color.

For example, factories are most likely to be built near lower income neighborhoods than richer (and whiter) communities. Flint is also a notable environmental justice crime–a city filled with mostly people of color, where years later they still don’t have water. Climate change will have more effect on poorer communities that are not as equipped to handle higher temperatures.

Another issue is how we want solutions to climate change, but are willing to cross too many lines for these solutions. In a podcast I listened to recently, called Thresholds (episode six), the reporter talks with a family living on a northern Norwegian island, who depend on reindeer herding as their livelihood. They are Sami, which is an indigenous people. The family are advocates for clean energy, especially after seeing how their reindeer are starting to be affected–the snow itself is changing–from light and fluffy snow to hard-packed snow–making it difficult for reindeer to get to the food lying underneath.

We cannot move forward with climate change solutions, or other solutions to environmental issues, without thinking of all the people who may be affected. We need to ask ourselves, when looking for solutions, what is this costing others? We need to look at the less obvious ways climate change will be affecting everyone. 

These types of issues aren’t as widely covered in the news media, either. Reporting about Flint has decreased immensely (something else I touch on in my thesis) and the news media primarily relied on city officials instead of residents as sources. AKA, the news media needs to do a better job with reporting stories that are already underreported, and focus more on communities of color and lower class neighborhoods.

But we also need to pay more attention, give more help where its desperately needed. If only people paid as much attention to how environmental issues affects lower income neighborhoods that they do to celebrity news (not saying you can’t do both, but more attention is needed elsewhere). With climate change, we must always have intersectionality in mind.

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