Priti Patel, Education and Curriculum Development
The environmental movement has been widely supported by ethnic communities across the world. Yet, several of these communities are continually marginalized in discussions on environmentalism and climate change. Not only are minority communities, including African American and Latino communities, more likely to experience exposure to environmental hazards, but they are also likely to experience systemic injustices (Clarkson-Townsend, 2020). Systemic racial inequities like the lack of access to affordable, safe housing, clean water, healthy foods, and jobs only worsen the crisis of climate change. Essentially this compounding of social inequities is the essence of intersectional environmentalism. This term sprung from the idea that race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and residence all play major roles in an individual’s environment (Intersectional Environmentalist, 2021). This means that marginalized communities who face racism and income disparities are more likely to experience the adverse effects of climate change. Examples of this include African American families in Flint, Michigan who were exposed to lead and Puerto Rican families who are constantly battling global warming with poor infrastructure and healthcare (Clarkson-Townsend, 2020). Leah Thomas, a feminist theorist and writer, perfectly explains the importance of intersectional environmentalism as “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” (Clarkson-Townsend, 2020).
Each Green Corner has also understood and considered the importance of intersectional environmentalism its programs. For example, the Neighborhood Gardens Program works to provide low-income families in San Mateo County with readily accessible fresh produce through garden and tree installations. We also education families on the importance of healthy eating, sustainability, and environmentalism. Throughout the development of the program, we considered the unique environmental factors that affect the low-income communities in San Mateo County. In Redwood City and San Mateo, we found that 89% of its residents are vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise (County of San Mateo, 2021). We also found that exposure to pollution was much higher in East Palo Alto, in comparison to neighboring cities that consisted of higher-income residents. Ultimately, we learned how these communities face several inequities that compound to worsen their environmental situation. Our program works to alleviate some of these issues by providing families access to diverse fruits and vegetables right at their doorstep. We also provide educational flyers, presentations, and pamphlets that explain the importance of healthy eating and sustainable gardening practices. We hope that by providing gardens, trees, and other services, we will be able to make a positive impact on the lives of low-income families in San Mateo County.
Clarkson-Townsend, D. (2021). Environmental Justice July Blog Series. Emory Office of Sustainability Initiatives. https://sustainability.emory.edu/environmental-justice-july-blog-series-blog-5/.
County of San Mateo. (2021). Get Healthy San Mateo County. http://www.gethealthysmc.org/.
Intersectional Environmentalist. (2021). Dismantle Systems of Oppression in the Environmental Movement. https://www.intersectionalenvironmentalist.com/.
Schoenmakers, E. (2020). A Guide to Intersectional Environmentalism. Sustainable Development Association. https://eusda.org.uk/blog/news/a-guide-to-intersectional-environmentalism.