How the LGBTQ+ community is helping to lead on sustainability issues
9th February 2022
Inclusion and equality are essential for building a sustainable future. Ensuring this often starts with educating ourselves on other cultures and communities. This LGBTQ+ History Month, student Billy Wassell has shared some inspirational stories from around the globe of LGBTQ+ groups and individuals who are leading the way on sustainability issues:
The consequences of the climate and ecological crisis are well documented. So, too, are the ramifications and intersections the crisis has on queer communities across the globe. Due to their pre-existing social marginalisation, LGBTQ+ peoples are particularly vulnerable to the violence and exploitation that have been perpetuated by conditions which contribute to the climate crisis. The roots of the climate crisis mirror the systems of power that condemn queer people to the margins of society.
Historic grassroots, queer movements can provide a valuable lesson to contemporary environmental justice activism. It is these parallels that have led to the popular activist motto, “there can be no climate justice without social justice”. This mantra forms the basis of this article, and I will explore prominent LGBTQ+ environmental organisations, all with varying aims, to mark this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month.
For my undergraduate dissertation, I am researching workplace discrimination of queer ecologists. It is my hope that my work will provide valuable insight for ecological employers in fixing the barriers that prevent LGBTQ+ people from pursuing a career in ecology.
Similar work is already being done by the Bio-Diverse Project, a UK-based organisation pushing for greater representation of minorities in the fields of biology and conservation. Their innovative resources highlight the current challenges for LGBTQ+ individuals working in the STEM sector and they have also created packs that employers can use to create a more inclusive environment. Their flagship project – the Bio-Diverse Festival – platforms LGBTQ+ voices and showcases their academic research. Such platforming of people with lived-experiences and including them in decision-making processes is crucial if we are to achieve both queer liberation and ecological justice.
A recent study found that over 50% of young people worldwide have reported feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, powerlessness, helplessness, and guilt when it comes to the climate crisis. Coupled with already poor mental health of LGBTQ+ youth, you can imagine the impact the crisis is having on queer youth, too.
The Venture Out project is a US-based organisation that lead outdoor expeditions specifically for queer and transgender adolescents and young adults. Exposure to nature is known to have major benefits to our mental health and Venture Out is providing a safe, welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ communities to experience the wonders of the outdoors.
I am sure that many of you reading this will have some sort of idea, experience or knowledge of Pride events that pop up throughout the year to celebrate queer joy – they are a different level of party! Unfortunately, Pride events across the globe have become highly commercialised and many are now run like corporate events. They have detached from their community aid origins and bring an obvious environmental cost, too. However, organisations like Out4Sustainability (O4S) and People and Planet are running campaigns in their respective countries to transform Pride events into beacons of sustainability and greenery. O4S’ campaign for greener Prides across the world includes working with stakeholders to ensure they are carbon neutral and waste-free.
People and Planet
People and Planet’s Divest Pride campaign is working towards removing all fossil fuel money from being invested in Pride events. Queer liberation is what LGBTQ+ folk need, not more rainbow capitalism!
It is LGBTQ+ History Month and so it is only right to celebrate an historic example of an LGBTQ+ environmental group. The back-to-the-land movement that swarmed the US in the 60s and 70s was a migration from cities to rurality “to find a ‘Third Way’ between capitalism and socialism”. In the 70s, many of these immigrants were women. The lesbian community within these immigrants were pioneers in imagining a new, sustainable life away from the consequences of capitalism and the patriarchy. They proved that there were ways of living that, however imperfect, did not hinge on profit or patriarchy and that instead allowed lesbians to live openly, freely, and side by side with nature.
The organisations in this article, and many more unmentioned, are carrying out incredibly vital work in tackling the rising tide of marginalisation and the catastrophic consequences of a rapidly changing climate. This LGBTQ+ History Month, remember there is hope for both tackling any form of discrimination and putting a halt to the destruction of the climate crisis.