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Earth Month for All

Understanding and Supporting Intersectional Environmentalism

Published on: April 10, 2021

As we celebrate Earth Month for All, we encourage you to learn,  support, and practice an inclusive environmental movement that amplifies the voices of silenced communities.

There’s no doubt that April is an exciting month for sustainability and environmentalism. This year marks 51 years since the first Earth Day and decades of momentum and progress toward protecting the planet. Since the first Earth Day in 1970:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was born
  • The Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act were sanctioned
  • Over 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities
  • Over 190 countries have joined the movement
  • And so much more

This month, as we celebrate and continue adding to the momentum, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that when we talk about environmental impacts, these impacts exist at the heart of real people’s lives.

It’s as important as ever to ensure that the environmental movement we all participate in is one that is seen through a diverse and inclusive lens — one that acknowledges the ways in which the injustices happening to the planet are intertwined with marginalized communities.

It’s as important as ever that we all participate in Intersectional Environmentalism.

Intersectional Environmentalism — In Theory

What is Intersectional Environmentalism (IE)? Whether you’ve never heard of it, you know a little bit about it, or you’re an IE expert, a little refresh never hurts, especially in the spirit of Earth Month.

IE is an inclusive version of the environmental movement. Founded by Leah Thomas (@greengirlleah), IE advocates for the protection of the planet and all people. Specifically, IE amplifies the voices of historically marginalized, silenced, and vulnerable communities to create a more equitable environmental movement.

Why are inclusivity and intersectionality especially important in environmentalism? Because unfortunately, the United States has a long history of environmental racism and environmental injustice through both institutional neglect and conscious design.

As a result, marginalized communities — specifically BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+, disabled, and poor communities — historically live, work, and play in America’s most polluted areas, and this is no coincidence. In other words, these communities are often targets of environmental injustice and disproportionately bear the burdens of environmental harm.

For example, organizations like the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) remind us:

  • In 1983, a U.S. General Accounting Office study found that three out of four commercial hazardous waste landfills in Region 4 were located in predominantly Black communities, when only 20% of the regional population was Black.
  • In 1987, the newly-formed Commission for Racial Justice uncovered that race was the leading variable in predicting the location of waste facilities.
  • In 2007, a survey revealed that nearly 90% of environmentalists were non-Hispanic whites, and this group made up only 62% of the U.S. population at the time.
  • The EPA still fails to recognize race as a unique indicator for assessments regarding Environmental Justice.

Above all, organizations like IE, NCCJ, and NRDC remind us that a successful environmental movement requires “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.”

As a country, as a brand, and as humans, there’s still a lot of progress to be made in this space. It’s up to us all to remember: This not a moment. This is a movement.

Intersectional Environmentalism — In Practice

Now, the question becomes: what does it look like to actually practice IE? Here are a few helpful tips to get you started on your journey as an Intersectional Environmentalist:

  1. Take the Intersectional Environmentalist Pledge. Once you start familiarizing yourself with the affirmations in this pledge, it’ll give you a glimpse at what it looks like to practice IE through acknowledgment, allyship, and your unique voice.
  2. Learn about past, existing, and emerging issues of environmental injustice. The IE website hosts amazing resources that outline the various ways social justice and environmentalism intersect. Stay tuned, we’ll also be sharing our recommendations on The Field Guide.
  3. Meanwhile, commit to consciously unlearning the one-sided version of environmental history that’s overwhelmingly taught from the white perspective. When learning about new environmental events, challenge yourself to diversify the perspectives of your sources. Leah recommends books such as Braiding Sweetgrass and Black Nature for this purpose.
  4. Use your learning and unlearning to seek out and support organizations, businesses, and causes that align with the IE movement.
  5. Follow @intersectionalenvironmentalist on Instagram to stay up-to-date on events, resources, and specific calls to action.

As an IE partner, we’re committed to learning, educating, and furthering an inclusive environmental movement at 1 Hotels. Specifically:

  • We participated in the IE Accountability Program which consists of educational modules that empower our business to approach sustainability through an intersectional lens.
  • This month, we’ll be sponsoring IE’s “The Future Is” Summit that includes discussions, reflections, panels, and workshops. This will allow us to work together to further “Dismantle Systems of Oppression in the Environmental Movement.”
  • Leah Thomas and our Corporate Director of Sustainability and Impact, Corinne Hanson, will join for an Instagram Live discussion about IE

To us, Earth Month for All is not just a saying. It’s a commitment.

Happy Earth Month

We believe it’s always the right time to commit to Intersectional Environmentalism, and we support and celebrate it year-round. April just happens to be a month when that support and celebration feels more universal.

We encourage you to use this month as a time to reflect on your involvement and commit (or recommit) to an inclusive environmental movement. We’re right beside you doing the same, and we’re always here as a resource to nurture progress in this space.

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