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Intersectional Environmentalism

Far too often is the face of the environmental movement a white one.  This face is not representative of the communities who stand to lose the most and be most brutally affected by climate change and the impact of the fast fashion industry and we, as environmental activists, must work to change this.  The Textile Rebellion team is committed to ensuring that our activism is as representational as possible and we will continue to amplify the voices of the many wonderful people of colour who are fighting for climate justice.  We believe in the strength of an intersectional environmentalist movement and wholeheartedly support the work of BIPOC activists fighting for a better, fairer world.

What is Intersectional Environmentalism and why is it so important?

The term ‘intersectional’ was first coined in the 1980s by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (you can see her discuss intersectionality here) to describe the layering of injustice and discrimination faced by those who exist on the intersection between social issues, such as black women.

If the environmental movement exists to fight against the impact of climate change, water pollution and other seemingly nature-based issues; intersectional environmentalism seeks to recognise and support those in society who stand to be impacted the most by these issues.  As we have seen countless times, from the 2014 water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to the impact of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, race and poverty are almost always determinative of the extent to which people’s lives are affected by environmental disasters.

Furthermore, intersectional environmentalism exists to ensure that the face of the environmental movement presented in popular media truly represents those on the frontlines of the climate emergency.  This is vital in making sure that we consider a spectrum of viewpoints and experiences in activist groups and, thus, guarantee that we are fighting for change which will be beneficial for everybody, not just those in positions of privilege.

As the incredible Aja Barber put it: ‘When we allow white, able bodied, thin people to be the only face of our revolution, we run the risk of creating the same cycle of problems and oppression that we’re trying to escape from.  We cannot find our way out of a mess by supporting the same methods and ways that have gotten us into the mess. When we erase brown and black faces and bodies from the narrative, we erase people who have been doing the work all along with none of the incentive of a shiny popular Instagram page to manage’.

How can I support Intersectional Environmentalism?

There are many things that you can do to ensure that your environmentalism is intersectional and actively anti-racist:

  • Research, research, research!  Read up on intersectional environmentalism with an active consciousness about the face behind the things you read.  Is your information coming from somebody with first-hand experience of the issues discussed, or is it somebody with an ulterior motive who may wish to spread misinformation?  Is your information coming solely from white, middle-class, able-bodied, cisgender people, or do you listen to a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds with a spectrum of viewpoints?  We live in a time where, more than ever, people are free to share whatever they want and we must be aware of this in ensuring that we are getting every side of the story.  In order to make educated decisions which will lead to positive change, we must understand the full extent of the argument.

  • Listen.  Nobody knows everything.  Listening to others with an open mind is key to pushing for change which represents the best interests of as many people as possible.

  • Diversify your feed.  This is potentially the easiest, but one of the most important changes you can make.  There is a plethora of incredible POC environmental activists who regularly post inspiring and educational content on social media.  If you scroll through Instagram and see only people who look like you, it is time to make a change.  Some of the accounts we love include:

  • @ajabarber

  • @indyofficinalis

  • @mikaelaloach

  • @thriftsandtangles

  • @greengirlleah

  • @jeromefosterii

  • @genesisbutler_

  • @positiveobsession

  • @sustainablebrowngirl

  • @zerowastehabesha

  • @wastefreemarie

  • @disabledmakers

  • @dominiquedrakeford

  • @little_kotos_closet

  • @celinecelines

  • @benita_robledo

  • Address your own habits.  We all have things we could do a bit better.  Take a good look at your own habits and consider making small, but meaningful changes to ensure that you are not contributing to a consumerist system which is ultimately exploitative and unjust.  

  • Rally for change.  So, you’ve diversified the information you consume, addressed habits in your own life and wish to go one step further?  Spread the word!  Join groups for collective action and fight for better environmental policies and change which will help everyone, not just the privileged few.  Change is possible, we just have to do the work.

Intersectional Environmentalism and Fast Fashion

At Textile Rebellion our key aim is to address the injustices of the fast fashion industry and encourage people to seek more environmentally and ethically-friendly alternatives to fast fashion.

We are at a moment in history where ever-increasing numbers of people are becoming aware of where their clothes are coming from and this is incredibly encouraging!  However, there is a lot more work that needs to be done.  In the UK we buy more clothing per head than any other country in Europe and a huge proportion of this is purchased from companies which rely on the labour of black and brown people in developing countries, yet fail to pay them a proper living wage and provide healthy working conditions.

We firmly believe that change is possible and in upcoming blog posts we will continue to investigate this injustice and exploitation.  We will also be providing useful and easy tips and tricks to help you build an eco-friendly and exploitation-free wardrobe.

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