Explaining Intersectional Environmentalism

When you first hear the term intersectional environmentalism, it sounds confusing. But it’s actually quite simple and a term everyone must become familiar with. It’s relatively new and I only learned about it this year but it is a real eye-opener.

What is an Intersectional Environmentalist?

Intersectionality is defined as:

“The way in which different types of discrimination (unfair treatment because of a person’s sex, race, etc.) are linked and affect each other.”

– Source: Cambridge Dictionary

The person who started this new movement of intersectional environmentalism is Leah Thomas or as you might know her as Green Girl Leah from Instagram.

Intersectional environmentalism is a way to protect both the people and the planet. It’s more inclusive than the common environmental activism you see as it recognizes the social challenges brought by the climate crisis as well.

For instance, minority groups and less developed countries are more affected by the climate crisis and other environmental problems. Even though the rich are contributing the most to it, they will not feel its effects as others will. This is just one example of climate injustice.

An intersectional environmentalist also tries to make the climate and eco-movement more inclusive. At the moment there aren’t as many non-whites in the sustainability movement as there should be. And it seems only those who have money are able to become more eco-friendly.

We need to banish this division and come together in order to protect the planet, no matter the gender, color, background, or income.

The climate crisis is not just an environmental problem. It’s a social and economic one too.

Environmental Injustice

There are many injustices when it comes to climate change and other ecological challenges. Those who suffer the most are indigenous groups, the African-American community as well as those in developing countries. And that’s what I’m going to talk about here.

Black and Non-White Communities

Black communities and other marginalized groups in the western world are feeling the effects of climate change disproportionally. You may know this as environmental racism which is becoming a pressing problem in our society.

Everyone should have the right to clean air, clean water, and other basic necessities. Many of us take these for granted but many do not have these. The USA and the UK are some prime examples of this. It’s clear that if you are African-American, you are more likely to live near an area with high pollution, toxic waste, or unclean water. One of the reasons for this is that companies choose the path of least resistance when buildings their factory base. And due to the discrimination that takes place against non-whites, these problems they face are rarely fixed. They are simply dismissed.

Also, it’s interesting to note that it’s the non-whites, including the black community and Latinos that are more concerned about climate change. Not surprising since they are already living in tough environmental conditions. But this cannot continue!

Indigenous Communities

For thousands and thousands of years, indigenous tribes have been living in peace alongside nature. Nature provided them with food and shelter but unlike the rest of the world, they did not overconsume its resources.

Unfortunately, indigenous communities are already suffering because of what modern civilization is doing. Corporations are cutting down forests and consequently their homes. It’s not fair how their rights are not recognized and are forced to move and in some cases forced to move into civilization. A place where they are not adapted to.

We are destroying their literal homes, and people don’t care.

Additionally, climate change is hitting them hard. Whether they are in the Arctic or the Amazon, climate change is changing the living conditions making it harder for them to survive.

Moreover, indigenous groups are the most connected to nature. They are connected to it and understand it more than everyone. Because of this, they will also be the first ones to feel the disastrous effects of climate change.

Sadly, the voices of indigenous communities are not heard which is why intersectional environmentalism aims to raise their voices and defend them when no one else is. They deserve to be respected like everyone else.

Developing Countries

Developing countries mainly in Africa and Asia are suffering. They are the least responsible for climate change, yet they are currently suffering the most because of it. Western countries have been exploiting these countries for decades and now on top of that, they are leaving them to endure these hard conditions. They are experiencing extreme weather such as drought and flooding but no one is talking about it and more importantly, no one is helping them.

While the western world, which is generally richer, will be able to support itself to an extent during the difficult situations that the future will soon bring, other countries and communities will not have such capabilities.

That’s not even the worst part of this though. These poor countries are paying the price for something they haven’t done. The western world is pumping the most carbon dioxide into the air, due to our consumerist lives, which is what is doing all the harm and damage.

There’s also another important point to mention. In these developing countries, communities are very self-sufficient. Those who live in rural areas, grow their own food and catch their own fish. But as extreme weather will start hitting them, more of their crops will start failing and because of overfishing, there are already fewer fish in the sea for them.

Very few people are aware of this and how bad the situation is. The media and the news don’t talk about it. But we must speak up.

Climate Refugees

The climate crisis will force many people to leave their homes as cities and perhaps entire countries could become unlivable. Climate refugees will become more common as they will seek to find a new home where there’s no drought, flooding, wildfire, etc.

Right now there are thousands of people migrating to escape war or other crises in their home country. Imagine what the world will look like with millions of people trying to find a new home. The world will not survive.

This will certainly become a huge issue in the future. By acting now, we could prevent so many future problems but few people and companies are not thinking ahead. Everyone simply cares about the next paycheck.

Why Is It Important?

Well, there so many reasons why intersectional environmentalism is important. First of all, environmental justice is not just about the planet. It’s also about racism, sexism, immigration politics and so many others.

It’s not fair how some people will suffer for things they are not responsible for. Additionally, most companies who exploit and destroy the natural environment, are also exploiting their workers. All the multibillion companies only got to where they are by exploiting everything and everyone.

By becoming an intersectional environmentalist, you will be standing up to all these injustices and raising the voices of those who are not heard. When people think about environmentalism they think about the forests and the animals, but few consider how it affects communities.

The environmental movement must become more diverse and more inclusive as it will give us the biggest chance to fix the problems we have created. Everyone’s different experiences will give a different insight and perhaps a creative solution.

It’s a complex issue but one that must be talked about more often.

What can you do?

Become an activist and take action. Don’t tolerate what is happening. It’s not right to ignore the biggest issues in the world.

So while you want to go out there and become an environmental activist, also aim to become an activist to fight racism, sexism, and inequality. No one should be treated as a lesser human.

Read and learn more about the real social challenges caused by environmental problems. You might have to unlearn some things along the way. But that’s okay. Slowly, slowly become more aware and remember that knowledge is power. Don’t turn a blind eye.

Even though some of these marginalized groups are ignored and dismissed, use your privilege if you have it and your voice to make more people aware.

There is already a big movement going around this. Become part of it. Don’t just fight for the planet, fight for the people. We can’t continue to ignore the injustices of the world especially if we are the ones who created them in the first place.


This is the new approach we must take towards environmentalism. Since everything is interconnected, you can’t care about the environment without caring about the problems communities are facing due to the destruction of the planet.

There is massive inequality in the world and within countries.

Become more aware and become a better environmentalist. Don’t allow the injustices of the world to go unnoticed. Stand up with your community and speak out. Use your privilege to speak out and amplify the unheard voices. Use your voice to help the planet and the people.

When individuals start their eco journey, they often think about changing their habits to lower their footprint and their plastic waste. But it’s equally important to know the fight for environmental justice is much bigger than that. It encompasses many other challenges and injustices.

Now that you know about intersectional environmentalism, become part of the movement.

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Sofia Hadjiosif
Sofia Hadjiosif

I've always cared about the planet but never knew how I could use my skills to create an impact. But that's when I decided to start Terra Movement. To get other creatives involved in the climate movement and inspire more people to help the planet and its people.

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