INTERSECTIONALITY OF: HUMAN RIGHTS, ENVIRONMENTALISM, AND NON-HUMAN
First, I would like to acknowledge that I stand with all my fellow beings around the world that are fighting for their lives, for justice, and the right to be themselves. It is no secret that between racism, white-supremacy, homophobia, abuse of power, and the destruction of our environment, we all have a lot of work to do! I highly encourage everyone to participate in any way you can to dismantle these oppressive systems in our governments and in our own minds.
My main intension with this blog is the long term goal of sustaining a life that truly aligns with our values and how living with integrity can impact human and environmental rights.
People with more privileges have more options and access as to how to go about this, and it is the responsibility of those in a position of privilege to adopt more sustainable lifestyles and consumer habits. People who are surviving day to day, may not have the option to choose what they are eating, or what brands they are supporting.
With the intension of living a more sustainable life, less dependent on corporations, slave labor and fossil fuels, we must also talk about ways to be environmentally conscious AND budget friendly. Many "zero waste" websites are marketing expensive items and we really need to gear our attentions towards self-reliance instead, such as, learning what products can be easily made at home and opting to find items 2nd handed or borrowing from a friend. (More resources on this shared at the end)
There are 5 kinds of wealth : Financial wealth (money), Social wealth (status, relationships & connections), Time wealth (freedom), Physical wealth (health), and finally Spiritual wealth (emotional, mental, soul health). Our relationships to these types of wealth can impact our access and ability to live a more sustainable life. It is also important to note that it is our own responsibility to educate ourselves on systemic oppression and how it pertains to our lives. (More references at the end)
This has been a particularly heavy few months as wounds from our past and present are surfacing, we are meant to feel through this deeply. I have taken a long pause from writing because I have been learning a lot from talking less and listening more. I have been listening to the voices of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations. While I plan to continue down this path of listening, I have been inspired to share this message of intersectionality that has been heavy on my mind for the last 5 months. I hope that whomever reads this will find inspiration, and learn more ways to take part in the great changes unfolding, towards a world that is more equal, more just, more loving, more free and compassionate for all living beings.
In case there are any confusions about "non-human rights" in the title, I am talking about our fellow other animals. Humans are animals too and to keep "human" and "animal" separate in our minds is a dangerous construct.
We are animals and all deserve equal respect and opportunities for a good life.
Ultimately, this is what I choose to paint about; If we saw all other beings, as a part of ourselves, we wouldn't have any suffering on this Earth.
Art by Shanée Benjamin (@shaneebenjamin)
There are 7.8 billion humans on Earth and yet, somehow there are enough resources to support us all, the only problem is that resources are not evenly distributed. There are nearly 8 billion of us, and yet we only make up .01% of Earths' biomass. Plants and trees make up 82%, tiny bacteria 13%, fungi 2.2%, the whole animal kingdom is only .4%. It is important to consider that as humans we are responsible for the livestock we raise and sadly, livestock outweighs wild animals by TEN FOLD. Livestock also accounts for 50% more biomass than all humans.
Nevertheless, I do find some comfort in this grander perspective.
"It is not the rise in population by itself that is the problem, but rather the even more rapid rise in global consumption (which of course is unevenly distributed).
This leads to an uncomfortable implication: people living in high-income nations must play their part if the world is to sustain a large human population. Only when wealthier groups are prepared to adopt low-carbon lifestyles, and to permit their governments to support such a seemingly unpopular move, will we reduce the pressure on global climate, resource and waste issues." ~Will Steffen, professor at the Fernner School of Environment and Society.
It is our responsibility to make the changes within our grasp, to move away from mindless consumption, towards societal wellbeing and a more circular, localized economy. If we change our consumer habits, we can have drastic impacts on our environment and human rights too. Along with discussions on population we must also bring up womxn's rights. The first way to significantly impact global population trends is to uplift and empower womxn in society, in terms of both education and opportunities in society.
Once we begin to follow any one form of injustice, we will find it converges with another.
Perhaps you consider yourself a human rights advocate, or an environmentalist, or an advocate for non-human animals - and the truth is all of these voices intersect.
"The exploitation epicenter, where the three spheres of injustice meet, and where the spiritual health of humans is at its frailest. When we follow the power, when we follow the money - we find that the world's worst abusers of humans are, as well, its worst abusers of animals and the environment.
AND THE QUESTION FOR ALL OF US IS THIS: HOW AM I COMPLACENT WITH THIS TYRANNY?"
It's time we come up with a new term that encompasses fighting all forms of injustice, I hope one day, this word will be synonymous with being human.
Maybe its time to abandon "isms" all together and truly walk a new path.
First, we must analyze our lives, how we spend (vote w/) our money, who are we supporting, and where can we make changes that will have the largest impact?
Art by: Lily Padula (@lilypadula)
And I know, nobody is perfect, as I decolonize my mind, my book shelf and more, I know that I am bound to make some mistakes and learn along the way, by listening to the voices of survivors, by listening to marginalized communities, we can all grow, acknowledge the past and create a better future.
Let us not undervalue ourselves either, if this pandemic has shown us anything, we ARE able to make lifestyle changes rapidly. We can adapt to a new normal, we can embody the changes we wish to see. This is THE TIME to reimagine our reality, the old paradigm does not serve all of us, and therefore it's time to rebuild. While I do want to focus on DOING, because this movement does require action, I also want to shine light on BEING. Because when we align our lives with our values, we are in the act of BEING not trying, and it becomes very natural to extend this awareness and consciousness to all aspects of our lives. It also takes a lot of work, a lot of awareness, a lot of unlearning and listening to build new habits. BEING has long lasting impacts where online "activism" falls short, too short for the times we are in, change is long overdue.
PRIVILEGE - this word can bring up a lot of emotions and it's an integral part of this conversation. Please understand that no matter who you are and where you come from, every person has some privileges. It does not mean that you didn't have to work hard to get where you are. Privilege is not something to be ashamed of, it is something to be grateful for and aware of. You may have the privilege to make choices that align with your values, and thus live a righteous life. With this comes the responsibility of using privilege to build a future where all people may enjoy the privileges you have had, and more.
This next video is journalist and author Reni Eddo-Lodge, in 2019 she published a book called "Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race" and it's on my reading list! This video is short but an IMPORTANT one to watch
This work can only be done from the ground up, from the inside out.
But to really understand where our values lie, we have to become aware of
1. What are my values?
2. How am I complacent with this tyranny?
Write it down
Art by : Loveis Wise (@loveiswiseillu)
To be general lets say that you...
Wish that all humans (regardless of race/gender/sexual orientation/class) may have opportunities for joy, the resources they need to live and the freedom to be themselves
Believe that human "progress" should not come at the cost of our only home planet and our ability to thrive here
Understand that the world is made of intricate and interconnected ecosystems,
when one part of an ecosystem is removed or damaged, it effects the whole - this is sometimes called Jenga Theory
Understand that we live on a planet with finite fossil fuel resources
Care about animal rights and and would like to see an end to animal testing
Factory farming is inhumane
Slavery is inhumane
Believe that plastic waste is a BIG problem
There are tons of ways to move your support away from toxic & oppressive industries and I promise you, every bit counts.
One place to start is to recognize our habits and move ourselves toward a circular economy.
A study from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation shows that we can address 45% of emissions by changing our consumer habits. About 55% of Emissions come from Energy, and 45% come from the production of food, plastic, aluminum, steel, concrete & more. This could reduce 9.3 BILLION tons of greenhouse gases by 2050. This would be the same as eliminating all emissions from transportation worldwide!
So what is the circular economy?
"An economic system focused on closing the loop around the production & consumption of natural resources. It goes against the notion of exponential growth, and focuses instead on the sustainability & nurturance of goods."
"How does this benefit Communities?
The circular economy allows the opportunity for local community members to have a say in how resources are being produced/distributed. This could reduce conflicts over resources, and more distribution of goods/wealth to communities in the long term.
How does this benefit the ecomony?
The circular economy allows for more entrepreneurship to blossom as more opportunities for sustainable resource production could occur. Also having an economy focused on circularity/continuous, regeneration, rather than exponential growth will be more resilient in the long term.
What does this have to do with climate change?
Shifting to clean energy alone won't be enough for us to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions which are driving the climate crisis, we have to be thinking about the products we produce & consume, too."
Thank you Kirsty aka @Browngirlgreen (blogger & podcast host) for the graphic and easy to digest info on the circular economy!
Rethink how you view natural resources. Understanding that natural resources are limited can greatly influence the choices you make in your everyday life.
Consider taking inventory of your waste at home.
Refusing to accept or support products or companies that harm the environment. One way to do this is to refuse items that are over-packaged or packaged in plastic. While it is difficult to refuse all plastic items, being more conscious can help change your habits.
Reducing the number of resources used in your everyday life is the next step in the resource management hierarchy. Start with small ways you can reduce your energy usage, water usage along with reducing your garbage, food waste, plastic, and transportation. The room in your home that usually creates the most waste is the kitchen, therefore you can focus on reducing waste here first to make the biggest impact & save money!
When you purchase an item, say a can of tomato sauce, think about how you are paying for the sauce AND the jar or container it comes in. Look around your home to find the various ways the products you purchase are packaged. Since you are paying for this packaging - why not make the most of it? There are endless ideas online. If you cannot reuse an item, share it with someone else. You can donate to a local thrift store or share with your neighbor next door.
I tend to reuse all my glass jars when I preserve produce from my garden for example.
Repurpose & Repair
Before disposing of an item, consider the ways in which it could be repurposed or repaired. There are many exciting ways household items can be repurposed and repaired.
Familiarize yourself with your local recycling program. Please understand that regardless of where you live, most plastics cannot actually be recycled and usually end up in the trash.
“For plastic bags, less than 1% are recycled of tens of billions that are used in the U.S. alone. And overall in the U.S., our plastic recycling rate peaked in 2014 at 9.5% so that's less than 10%.”
Recycling companies go to great lengths to sell their products. China used to take the majority of American plastic until 2017, but it wasn’t actually recycled when it got there.
“For a long time, we've just been offloading our waste and that allows us not to see it, right? We put it in a bag. It goes somewhere else. Goodbye. And it allows us not to feel guilt.” ~Sharon Lerner
Rot, also known as composting, is the act of turning food waste and other organics back into nutrient-rich soil.
According to Paul Hawken's Project Drawdownbook, Reducing Food Wasteis Priority #3 for fighting against climate change. This can be accomplished by understanding the Food Waste Hierarchy demonstrated below.
Food Recovery Hierarchy :
Source Reduction - cooking using fresh ingredients in small batches. Trayless dining and taking only what you're going to eat is important.
Feed Hungry People - donating to food banks
Feed Animals - using food scraps as animal feed
Industrial Uses - recycling used cooking oil for biofuels and biodigesters
Composting - composting food scraps and coffee grounds
Landfill and Incineration - last resort for disposal
(Thank you Dunedin.gov for the useful tips and graphic)
IF YOU ARE STILL WITH ME, YOU RULE!!
Seriously! Thank you <3
Without taking too much more of your time
Let's ask ourselves some important questions
And tap into some resources
Am I willing to investigate ways that I am complicit with slavery?
In the USA, we have slavery in the form of the Industrial Prison Complex, which profits disproportionately off marginalized communities. Some examples of major corporations that profit while paying
inmates $0.90 - 4.00 a day:
Victoria’s SecretFidelity Investments
401(K) or other investments are held by Fidelity, and, in some cases, some of your money invested by Fidelity is used for prison labor or in other operations related to the prison industrial complex. The investment firm funds the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has created laws authorizing and increasing the use of inmates in manufacturing.
J.C Penney and Kmart
Just to name a few
And we may not be able to cut all these companies out of our lives,
BUT ARE WE WILLING TO WRITE TO THEM AND DEMAND THEY END THEIR PROFITING FROM THE INDUSTRIAL PRISON COMPLEX?
To see the full list of nearly 4,000 companies profiting from slavery :
While I personally believe that making small lifestyle changes matter and partaking in the circular economy can make lasting impacts, this article is full of good info and added perspective of the larger picture.
"When it comes to combating climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction, what we need to do is take the money, time, and effort we spend making these ultimately inconsequential choices and put it toward something that really matters.
Beyond making big lifestyle decisions such as choosing to live in a dense urban area with public transportation, cutting red meat out of your diet, and having fewer children (or none at all), there are diminishing returns to the energy you put into avoiding plastic or making sure your old AAs end up in the appropriate receptacle. Globally, we spent $9.32 billion in 2017 on green cleaning products. If we had directed even a third of that pot of money toward lobbying our governments to ban the toxic chemicals we’re so afraid of, we might have made a lot more progress by now."
Am I willing to educate myself on systemic oppression?
Am I able to advocate for real food, seeing as our food system is killing more African Americans than anything else?
"As a doctor, I took an oath to do no harm. Today, I stand here because there is harm being done to millions and I must speak out. We know all too well the visible forms of racism in our society. We know the inequities in income and opportunity. We know the brutal violence and discrimination of the police. We know the shooting of black children. We know the name of Tamir Rice. We know the name of unarmed black men shot in the back.
But we don’t know the names of millions of African Americans killed every year by an invisible form of racism, a silent and insidious injustice.
This is an often-internalized force of racism and oppression that disproportionately affects the poor and African American communities.
We do know that 1.3% of all deaths are caused by gun violence. And it is real and tragic and needs to end.
But we may not know that 70% of deaths are caused by chronic disease—mostly the result of our toxic food system.
More African Americans are killed by bad food than anything else.
The science is clear—our processed, sugary, starchy diet is the single biggest cause of disease and death—type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and even dementia.
Our food system is the deadliest weapon used against the poor and minorities— keeping them poor, sick and fat, hijacking their brains and biology." WATCH THE WHOLE VIDEO BY DR. HYMAN:
"While the transportation of food does contribute to emissions, the production of that food is much more environmentally damaging and GHG-intensive. In their new book, Eat for the Planet: Saving the World One Bite at a Time, Nil Zacharias and Gene Stone point out that the majority of Earth’s arable land is now dedicated to livestock and their feed. “Currently, 260 million acres (and counting) of US forests have been clear-cut to create land used to produce livestock feed, and 80 percent of the deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is attributed to beef production."
In Indonesia, the production of palm oil — the most widely consumed vegetable oil, found in everything from breads, chips, cookies, ice cream, chocolate, instant noodles, margarine and pizza dough (and numerous common non-edibles like soap, shampoo, detergent and lipstick) — is “directly linked to deforestation, responsible for the deaths of endangered orangutans and the displacement of communities,” said Kaytee Riek, campaigns director at the nonprofit advocacy group SumOfUs. In 2007, scientists from Wetlands International found that the draining and burning of peatland (a sponge-like type of wetland that stores massive amounts of carbon dioxide) to make room for palm oil plantations in Indonesia accounts for 8 percent of all worldwide annual emissions from burning fossil fuels.
So, while eating locally and in season would help reduce your food miles (and thereby your carbon footprint), the more effective dietary change is to reduce the consumption of foods that require the devastation of carbon-storing forests and wetlands — meat and products containing palm oil being two of the biggest culprits. A 2008 study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that by buying food locally, the average American could only reduce their greenhouse gas emissions a maximum of 4-5 percent. The researchers concluded that reducing your red meat intake “can be a more effective means of lowering an average household’s food-related climate footprint than ‘buying local.’”
Still, there are other reasons to eat locally besides reducing your carbon footprint and saving endangered orangutans. As the Ecotarian researchers note:
Eating locally has many more benefits than just the reduction in emissions, however. It’s really rewarding to get to know local growers and producers, to learn more about the process that brings produce to your table, and elevates eating to an altogether more wholesome experience. It supports small-scale farmers, who often use more diversified and sustainable farming practices. It keeps money in the local economy rather than dissipating it out into the pockets of, ahem, tax-dodging/exploitative multinationals.
In addition, produce that’s in season and locally grown usually means that the health benefits of those fruits and vegetables are still high, as they haven’t had time to lose their nutritional punch by sitting for days in refrigerated trucks or shipping containers traveling long distances. By contrast, foods that you buy out of season are usually picked before they have reached full flavor and optimum nutritional value, so that they can survive those long-distance trips. Plus, eating in season can help save you money, as you’ll be buying produce that’s at its peak supply, meaning that it’s less costly for producers and distributors, who can then pass along the savings to you.
But the health benefits of fresh, seasonal produce are accessible only to those who can access and afford them, which is not always the case. One issue is the lack of healthy food options in “food deserts” across the country, most of them in poor neighborhoods, where the only options are unhealthy, processed foods and industrial farm produce coated in pesticides. And produce sold at farmers’ markets can often be more expensive than the pesticide-covered fruits and vegetables that are shipped in from Mexico and Costa Rica, where farming operations can lower their prices simply because of their massive scale.
Another, less pressing issue, impacts the middle class and wealthy: the danger of too many options. In a 2014 lecture at Bowdoin College, Matt Booker, an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University, asked the question, “Why did Americans stop eating locally?” Part of the problem, he says, is one of abundance, at least for those who can afford it: There’s simply “too much food, too much of a ‘muchness’ in our food supply.”
He said that big agriculture has imposed on Americans “a kind of hopelessness, an inevitability to the ecological collapse we associate with so many food systems and the economic power of these massive forces.”
One way to undo that feeling of hopelessness is to simply stop buying foods produced by industrial farms and start supporting local, small-scale growers and family farms. In addition to supporting local economies and cultivating relationships with farmers who are growing food sustainably, those who are able to make a choice about where their food comes from can reduce their personal environmental footprints.
Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to afford a Mexican avocado (that may have ties to organized crime) whenever you crave avocado toast, or a burger made from beef produced on land that used to be Amazon rainforest, or chocolate containing palm oil from Indonesian plantations that were once the homes of orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos. But you have to ask yourself: Are these foods really worth it?
Food author Michael Pollan neatly summed up all he’d learned about food and health in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Adding “local” and “in season” to that prescription wouldn’t be a bad idea."