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