There is something strangely moribund about the words ‘climate action.’ These are the words that are used to pressurise the higher-ups, governments and companies that seem to continue to be doing all the wrong things. These are the words that are uttered in fiery speeches to great or petty effect depending on who the speaker is. These are the words that bring a wave of general futility, of utter desperation, of false promises and mostly of vague green things. These are words that, like climate change, have begun to lose their meaning. What are we acting upon?
The climate doesn’t need saving. The climate is eternal. We are not.
It’s easy to forget people in the fight for the climate. It’s easy to forget that, in the end, it is the people—marginalised people—who will be always be the first to get affected, if not the only. And so, although we register the feminist, queer and climate movements as three individual fights, we also tend to separate them, forgetting the intersectionality that bands all these issues especially involving the structurally excluded people.
Turns out Societal Stigma IS also an Environmental Issue
As the latest IPCC report confirms, we are, for certain, going to be experiencing a rise in extreme weather conditions like floods and heatwaves, as the globe continues to warm. In the face of disasters, a brittle, fractured society will be overwhelmed by the mass migration and aggravated inequalities that come with them. So, in order to lead a sustainable future into a utopia where humanity and nature live in harmony—we first need to strengthen our society into something more resilient. Beyond just changing our energy sources and lifestyles into something more sustainable, we’ll also have to actively work towards bridging the gaps in a too-divided society. Truly, the social sciences are just as important in dealing with the climate crisis and the accompanying social evolution that must happen.
But why is this such a pressing issue right now?
Queer, Anti-Capitalist, Intersectional Eco-Feminism Is What We Need
Well, most of the impact of rising temperatures is going to fall onto the people that society sidelines, the people whose lives are often invisibilised in the narratives that are set by policy-makers. Thus the climate crisis further perpetuates existing inequalities.
This is because struggles like poverty, unemployment, stigma and homelessness are disproportionately experienced by those from marginalised groups, like for instance the LGBTQIAP+ community. Therefore, climate problems are interlinked with problems like transphobia and general queerphobia, as community members often do not get access to the support they need in the event of climate change-induced disasters. At the same time, queer voices are often excluded from decision making and discussion regarding climate activism. Exclusion also often means that those from marginalised groups are robbed off their access to information and education. This can result in exclusionary disaster management strategies and further discrimination, which can cause multiple layers of difficulty due to that same intersectionality.
Guess What? Personal Health and the Climate are Interlinked too.
Another issue that is not talked about enough is the impact on mental health by climate change and vice versa: our government devotes a very small percentage of resources to the country’s mental health sector, rendering life-saving mental healthcare inaccessible and unaffordable to most—especially those from, again, marginalised groups. Mental healthcare is especially important in ensuring the people’s well-being in disaster management, as these experiences can have traumatic impacts that can hinder a person’s ability to live a fulfilling life. Mental healthcare is a basic necessity and human right but, with only 0.75 mental health experts per 100,000 people in our country, our system is not yet equipped to provide necessary first aid in the event of a climate disaster. This sector too needs more attention and inclusion if we are to develop healthy disaster management strategies.
Additionally, mental health awareness and providing safe, positive spaces to promote mental well-being is also important in climate action, as activists are often prone to climate crisis related anxiety, stress etc. Only by ensuring individual positivity and health can environmentalists be able to bring about positive change. Mental health is not only about the individual but is ultimately reflective of a community as a whole.
Inclusion is More Than Just Performative Fineprint
Now that your mind has been thoroughly stretched out by the vastness of climate intersectionality, let’s ask ourselves another question. What can we do about it?
Educating ourselves is a first, of course. Then comes allyship and holding powerful folks and governments accountable so as to ensure actual representation in policy-making spaces. Marginalised communities just need accessibility in order to come in and introduce fresh perspectives that can help us all deal with the crisis better. Climate justice is mutually beneficial, because diverse voices mean ideas that come from a place of experienced hardships that is used to fighting crisis after crisis.
Ensuring diversity in committees itself ensures that policies aren’t performative or wasteful. For instance, another overlooked aspect is menstruation. Do educational campaigns on climate awareness include awareness on period waste? In the event of a disaster, will there be adequate support for menstruators? And is this support backed by sustainable, zero-waste, menstrual products like menstrual cups and cloth pads, or just performative distributions of regular, disposable, chemical and plastic-containing pads that will simply further worsen our situation?
Tackling our society’s stigma against seemingly unrelated things like mental health, menstruation and the queer community is important to meet not just equality, but inclusive equity in climate activism, as all of us have different needs, voices and perspectives. This article covers only a few perspectives, but there are many more. Also, not to forget, everything isn’t (surprise, surprise) about the human species, the animal rights movement, ecological conservation and understanding the environmental impacts is pretty obviously important too.
Therefore, the climate movement has to go hand-in-hand with all other environmental and social justice movements: the feminist movement, the anti-caste movement, the queer movement, the disability rights movement, the indigenous Adivasi population’s movement, mental healthcare equity, period equity etc. And we must give importance to diverse voices, because only then can we fix the loopholes in the same system that also continues to exploit nature.
Climate denial is just another form of our society’s ignorance, so as environmentalists, we need to move away from ignorance in every aspect. Just like climate change has now rightfully come to be known as climate crisis, climate action too needs to become climate justice.
Ananya is a chaotic humanities student with a deep interest in the relationship between art and society, a writing obsession, and way too many bizarre ideas involving their camera. You can find them on Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube and check out their website here.
Featured Image Source: Yale Climate Connections