Earth Day 2013: 3 Important Reasons Environmental Justice is a Feminist Issue

For those in the environmental justice movement, every day is Earth Day. Earth Day is a day to unite people and struggles because of a shared interest in water, land, and air. Earth Day sparked the mainstream national environmental movement in 1970 and continues today. The present national environmental justice movement struggles with the same issues that it did in 1970, including climate change deniers, well-funded lobbyists, and a divided environmental community. While indigenous communities have been concerned with environmental issues since colonization, the national mainstream environmental movement has been able to spark awareness about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and the dangers of GMO.  However, this is why the movement needs feminism: 

1. Intersectional feminism!

Feminist theory tells us that research and application must be intentional and considerate of the lived experience of those involved. It is important to understand that the environmental justice movement has intersections just like any other movement. For example, environmental injustices happen to the differently abled, women, indigenous communities, low-income communities, and in communities of color. In most cities, power plants and oil refineries are in the lower-income side of town. In turn, working class families experience the backlash of poor regulation, including polluted water and air. We then must look at health care equality and accessibility. In most cases, Native American reservations deal with problems associated with toxic water and water including asthma and bronchitis.

2. Patriarchy is pervasive in the environmental justice movement!

Obviously, feminism is about dismantling patriarchal systems and the environmental movement is one of them. Sustainability is an environmental issue because families must think about limited resources and how many mouths they have to feed. Sustainability is an issue that mothers must think about.

Even in the age of mass consumption and manipulation of natural resources, working class families struggle with access to healthy natural food and rising costs. Specifically in indigenous communities, environmental concerns are cultural concerns. The environmental justice movement should include indigenous women's perspectives and practices that include the connection between reproductive health and environmental protection.  

3. Checking your privilege!

While taking into consideration the mysterious connections between women and the earth, the environmental movement must also look at actual conditions of women in the United States and in other parts of the world. As a paid organizer of an environmentally conscious organization, the individual must check their privilege as a representative and facilitator of the movement. More than likely, working class women are unable to volunteer, attend meetings, or work in the movement, thus creating a delicate dynamic of privilege and power. This is because working class families have to focus on working and taking care of their families. Thinking creatively outside the box is a great way to reach mothers and women who struggle with access to healthy food, health care and taking care of their children.

Huge props to organizations that have made it painfully clear how capitalist business models and legislation have created a disconnection between communities and the earth and providing solutions to these problems. Just like any other movement, different communities are impacted at different levels. By simply acknowledging privilege, indigenous communities and working class women the movement can become a more inclusive one.

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Maribel Hermosillo

Maribel Hermosillo is a contributor for PolicyMic's Identities column covering racial justice and feminism. Maribel has written for Rh Reality Check, Strong Families, The San Antonio Current, Yes Ma’am, Brown Queen and The Arts United of San Antonio. Maribel graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a focus on American Studies and Mexican-American Studies. Maribel's experience as a first generation queer woman of color deeply informs her writing and poetry. Maribel likes to take long reflective walks on mountains, hills and wooded areas. She resides in San Antonio, Texas.

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