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A few BIPOC Leaders in the Environmental Movement
August 24, 2020 · Aaron Burr

A few BIPOC Leaders in the Environmental Movement

Environmental sustainability and social justice have always been, and always will be, inextricably linked.

Not in the common tone that we need equality in order to accomplish an environmental agenda, but in the sense that both inequality and environmental degradation share a common enemy: domination.

If the problem is the same for both marginalized communities and the natural world, then one cannot be solved without the other.

The environmental movement has traditionally been very non inclusive: pushing solutions that are really only attainable for the select few, or simply not involving the communities which are the most impacted by climate change. The communities including black communities, indigenous communities, communities of color, and women.

Because of this, it’s important that we shine more of a light on individuals in marginalized groups who are leading the charge in environmental and social justice. Check out our article on women in the sustainability movement. Because this article will be a little more focused on people of color, black, and indigenous leaders. 

Ron Finley

Ron FInley

Ron Finley, known as The Gangsta Gardener, is all about food freedom. In the south central part of LA he has witnessed first hand the problems associated with food insecurity and food deserts. Food deserts are areas that have no access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

You know that unused space between the sidewalk and the road? Well, Ron started turning heads when he planted food in that space. He was fined by the city for gardening without a permit, but that inevitably led to just more momentum towards acquiring fresh food in a part of town that’s been neglected for years. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Also commonly referred to as AOC, this amazing woman has been sending shockwaves through mainstream politics. She has also worked very closely with the Sunrise Movement to establish the Green New Deal.

The GND is a massive leap forward for the United States, establishing mostly a framework for environmental sustainability. And while the Green New Deal is just a framework, it also includes important aspects of environmental justice for marginalized communities.

Sara Blazevic

Sara Blazevic

And of course we can’t mention the Sunrise Movement without mentioning one of its co founders! Sara Blazevic, along with Varshini Prakash co-founded the Sunrise Movement: an organization created by young people for young people to push a non-political (meaning not picking sides) agenda towards real environmental policy.

Sara often speaks about watching the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on TV and it having a large impact on her thoughts on climate change along with the devastation it brings.

Her interest seems to have shifted a lot into how climate change and its disasters will affect people. Through things like resource depletion, forced immigration, and much more, it’s important now more than ever to focus on the human aspect of the natural world. 

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

Xiuhtezcatl is a hip hop artist and activist spear-heading the environmental movement through his music and through his participation in organizations like Earth Guardians.

Issues of the environment and equality are heavy topics which are tough for many people to comfortably absorb. This is why things like music and other forms of entertainment can be so powerful, because people are able to let their guard down and actually listen. 

Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas

Leah has been advocating for the acknowledgement and learning of the deep connections between social justice and environmental sustainability.

Following the death of George Floyd and the recent Black Lives Matter protests, Leah noticed the environmental movement was excruciatingly silent. Which led her to co-start Intersectional Environmentalist.

Straight from the IE sight:

“This is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + the planet.” - Leah Thomas

Instead of ending with my own words, this article would be better served ending with the words of a more important voice.

Nakisa Glover, who is very active in all things environmental and social justice, wrote this:

“Climate justice and social justice need each other. What is the point of clean air, clean water, and green grass if the people of the world are dying at the hands of social justice ills? Conversely, what’s the point of solving all the social justice issues if the people are going to die because there is no clean air or clean water? We got to solve both together. Recognizing this has been the most pivotal, transformational achievement for me and my work.”

Written by Aaron Burr 

A writer dedicated to working solely with companies on a mission to help the earth and people on it.