Archive for March, 2022

Cover of The Intersectional Environmentalist by Leah Thomas.

I just finished a book called “The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet” by Leah Thomas. This book just came out in 2022, and it is a very interesting read. The book lays out many compelling connections between the environmental movement and social justice. It explains how BIPOC individuals and communities have, and still are, being burdened with the majority of environmental costs from pollution to climate change to food insecurities. It also does a very good job of explaining some of the history of the environmental movement and the feminist movement, and it shines a light on where and how both of these movements have a history of excluding and further marginalizing already marginalized groups.

The book also explains how inequalities play out in particular industries such as the green energy and the clothing/fashion industries. This subject is especially difficult because the overall ends may be important to pursue (transitioning to more sustainable sources of energy, for example), however we as a global society must be aware of both the ends and the means matter. If noble ends are accomplished using morally questionable means, the side effects of those means will tarnish the ends and their nobleness will be diminished. To learn more about this book and intersectional environmentalism, I highly recommend the book and the website that has tons of resources.

One specific resource that I was particularly interested to learn about was a mapping tool that has been developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called EJScreen: the Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool. This is a site that has many different layers of data that you can add on or take off a map of any area in the USA. These layers include information about pollution (such as lead paint locations, ozone rates, air particulate concentrations, etc.), socioeconomic indicators (such as race, household income rates, age demographics, etc.), health disparities (such as life expectancies, heart disease, and asthma), climate change (such as wildfire risk, sea level rise impacts, flood risks, etc.), critical services gaps (such as broadband gaps, food deserts, and lack of medical coverage) and more.

This tool allows the EPA to better understand the issues facing the country and to better fulfill their mission to protect the people and natural resources of the USA. It also allows each of us to do some exploring ourselves.

By adding or taking off layers, we can look at what factors are impacting the communities we live in. Are there areas of my city that have unusually high levels of air pollution? I can click on that data layer and see how air pollution concentrations differ across the city. Are there areas of my city for which flooding is an unusually high risk? I can click on that data layer and find out. Are there areas of my city that contain a large number of BIPOC households? I can click on that data layer and find out.

And, of course, even greater power comes from this tool when several layers are overlapped on top of each other. That is when the intersectionality of these different factors comes to light. Are the areas of high air pollution similar to the areas where large numbers of BIPOC people live? Do the areas of high flood risk overlap extensively with the areas of low income households are?

When several of the data layers are combined, distinct differences in living conditions can be made visible. And once they are viable, we can all start to figure out how to address them.

If you read this book, let me know in the comments what you think. If you play around with the EPA mapping tool, let me know if you find any interesting/surprising/disturbing correlations.

Thanks for visiting my blog! If you are interested in other ways to connect with me, here are a few options:

Follow this blog!

View and subscribe to my YouTube channel – A Birding Naturalist

Follow me on Instagram – abirdingnaturalist

Follow me on Twitter – A Birding Naturalist

Read Full Post »