Friday, November 25, 2016

The Necessity of Social Justice Work in Climate Activism, Part Two: 5 Reasons We Won't Get Anywhere on Climate Change Without Doing Anti-Racism Work

This post is directly inspired by an ongoing conversation with a fellow activist in my town, who I collaborate with. The ideas and organization of it have been turning over in my head for weeks, since before I went to Standing Rock, dividing themselves into the categories you will see below.

I wish I didn't have to explain this stuff. I wish we were all already on the same page. And I know others have said the same things I'm going to write here. None of this is original, it is all completely derivative. Unfortunately my requests for my network to supply me with these specific points I want to make already being connected did not return any results. The following assessment is a result of years of thinking about these issues, slow learning.

I don't want to delay further in diving into the main content of this blog, but I first want to name a realization that came to me as I was outlining it: systems thinking. It's a matter of systems thinking! 

Where did I recently read something about the "conservative" versus "progressive" worldviews, and the difference being one of Systems Thinking? Was it Rebecca Solnit? Or a link sent me in email by another fellow climate collaborator? If I find it, I will link to it, but the general point was that those who support "conservative" policies seem better able to think about direct cause and effect. Ah yes, here it is, George Lakoff, "Understanding Trump." Scroll down or CTRL+F to 'Direct vs. Systemic Causation." (Ironically, I will be here making some very different conclusions than some of those Lakoff makes at the end of his article, and I'm using one of his premises to do so.)

But about direct vs. systemic causation -- if you see climate change as primarily caused by fossil fuel pollution, you try to stop that fossil fuel pollution, without changing anything else in the social system. But once you see that it's the larger system causing that fossil fuel pollution, a system that funnels power in certain directions and away from others, you begin to realize that unraveling that system from any corner of the fabric can bring it all apart.

I hope this becomes more clear as I go on. I'm figuring this out myself right now - external processing. Thanks for coming with me.

Practical/Logical Reasons (Why Racial Justice Work is Necessary for Effective Climate Activism)


1) Movement Building & Mutual Aid

About a year ago, my local 350 chapter had a "Global Climate March." It was a big event, with hundreds of folks in our smallish city. At the end of the march, when we were coming into the plaza, there was one person there who seemed quite angry at us. They were getting in our faces about another cause, and telling us their cause was more important. I don't want to say what it was, because it isn't fair to have this person's behavior reflect on that cause. I think they were jealous of how much we'd been able to mobilize compared to their group. But getting in our faces and demanding we pay attention in a certain way wasn't the way to go about it. And this isn't a matter of tone policing, because it was another environmental issue, not a social one (to the extent there's a meaningful division, which is exactly what I'm tearing apart right now, so it's all paradoxical). Anyway, I told this person I wasn't available to listen to their shpiel, especially because they were saying that their issue is so much more important than climate change.

This person could have thanked and congratulated us for our work and looked for common ground, ways to build off of our momentum. Instead they felt we were a threat, a competition for a scarce commodity of activist energy - a capitalist worldview. I would like to suggest that instead we can view activist energy as synergistic, a force that builds off of one another as all of our causes are moving us in the same direction: a world that works for all.

And people's ears tend to turn off when you say, "My cause is more important than yours." Even if this were objectively true (and I'm not saying it is), it is not going to get you any allies. All you have to do to recognize this is imagine how you feel when someone else says it, and compare that with how you feel when someone shows you how both of our issues are related and we can work together for common cause.

2) Vision

Speaking of a world that works for all... that's not what we have. The violence and suffering experienced not only by the global poor, but by marginalized groups in these United States, is so extreme, that I have heard at least one person express the sentiment in response to climate change, "Let it burn." And if you reading this think this is a dramatic, selfish statement, I want to transparently say that I believe you are the one who is out of touch, and encourage you to educate yourself on the following realities. When there is NO safe place to hide from being shot by police for being black, when there is nothing that can save you, not politeness, nothing except hiding in your house (and then how do you support yourself? and what kind of life is that? And is even that enough to protect you?), or when you are at risk of being attacked for not conforming to gender norms, or your concerns about accessibility treated as incidental when activist meetings are held in places wheelchairs can't reach, for example... is the world even worth fighting for? Who are we fighting to keep alive? Rich, white men, the ones causing these problems in the first place?

This is all very depressing stuff. I encourage you to let go of trying to convince people that "let it burn" is a selfish stance, and instead work together to create models of the world we want to create, a world in which all humans have their well-being and dignity, and basic safety, given the utmost care. This gives people the emotional support needed to want to be involved in an activist community, and trust that if the climate struggle is won (let's leave aside the question of what "winning" means for now), that it will be for a livable climate in which all can thrive - not a continuation of the oppression and harm that systems of domination have been enacting on the world for a few thousand years. (See Sylvia Frederici's Caliban and the Witch for more on this, and how we got to where we are at from Medieval Europe.)

3) Access to Power and its Implications for Resource Extraction and Waste Disposal

This could be a relatively complicated point, but I will try to keep it concise. Poor, indigenous, and/or people of color do not currently have equitable influence in decisions that affect them. Look at the racial and economic make up of Congress, for example. Is it proportionate to the population in demographics?

The systems destroying the Earth through fossil fuel extraction and waste disposal depend on "sacrifice zones" (see Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything and accompanying movie). Consider, for example, the Dine' struggle against Peabody Coal. If indigenous sovereignty had been respected in the history of this land, Peabody Coal would never have been able to do the resource extraction there that it has - with the accompanying reduction in carbon emissions. Apply this to current struggles at Standing Rock as well.

So, if you can't bring yourself to care about social justice, at least see how it is compatible with your aims, single-issue climate activists. If People of Color, indigenous folks, poor folks - if all communities have full empowerment and choice about the resources taken or disposed of in their communities (think mountaintop removal in Appalachia), are they going to consent to it? No, they won't allow it. And this will leave the fossil fuel companies with nowhere to turn. It will starve them out.

On the other hand, it is hard for us to truly work with folks until we embrace the idea that the reduction in emissions that accompanies maintaining/restoring indigenous sovereignty and community self-determination is not the primary goal, it is a wonderful, wonderful secondary benefit to righting a social wrong. Which brings me to my next point, and a different category of points altogether.

Spiritual/Intuitive Reasons (Why Racial Justice Work is Necessary for Effective Climate Activism)


4) Karma

You weren't expecting me to say that, were you, racially aware social justice warriors following along to see if this blog validates, contradicts, or expands your worldview? It's borderline appropriative, isn't it?

Nevertheless, it is the simplest way to convey my sense that we, and by that I mean those of us in the upper tiers of privilege in this world, mostly white folks, may be getting our just desserts when it comes to the climate crisis. I'm not proposing we think of it in a Christian way, where God is punishing us for our white supremacy and colonialism with climate catastrophe, although it would be all too easy to go there.

No, what I mean here is more elusive than that to our inherited Judaeo-Christian outlook. It has more to do with the Buddhist idea of "dependent co-arising." Nothing exists separately from anything else. The lessons we are learning as humans on this planet (getting New Age on ya, watch out!) are all interrelated. The lessons we are learning from the climate catastrophe are not separate from the lessons we are learning from the legacy of enslavement, genocide, rape culture, and other forms of domination. And until we work out our "karma" about this troubling domination paradigm, we won't be "rewarded" with a stable climate. Oops, I've slipped back into the Christian worldview of reward and punishment! It's tricky! I have an internal felt sense of the difference between a reward/punishment interpretation of karma, and a dependent co-arising interpreation, but conveying it is hard. I will ask you to turn elsewhere if you want to explore these distinctions further.

This is all my intuitive feeling about the state of affairs we are in, which is why I created this category of reasons. And I have one final, cliche' thing to add before I go.

5) Albert Einstein

There's a quote that I've seen so many variations of, I wanted to get to the right source and cite it accurately for this blog, even though I've been planning on including it for weeks. Well, this is easier thought of than done. You might know which quote I'm thinking of, but here's an exploration of where it comes from if you want to check.

Regardless of the specifics, the idea of this quote is that we need a new type of thinking to solve the problems we face. Or, we can't solve problems with the same type of thinking that created them.

The problem of climate change was created by a certain type of thinking. Thinking works in memes; ideas and patterns of thought spread between social groups like disease. And when our society is clustered into segments, where some folks who are tasked with solving problems and have the resources to try to do so, are only exposed to certain types of thinking, they aren't going to see certain solutions.

So, we must look at whose voice has been left out. This relates to point three above, but in a different way. It's not only about self-interest, it's about genius and brilliance, the genius and brilliance that gets lost in the cracks of systems of oppression.

White people have different ways of seeing things than people of color. This isn't an essentialist statement. I don't believe there is a fundamental racial difference in our thinking. But when I have a different social experience of life than someone else, different ideas are more or less likely to occur to me. Different solutions. And in our society, we do have different experiences of life based on race, as well as culture, relative wealth/poverty, ability, age, and straightness or queerness in all its myriad forms -- etc. etc. People with different experiences of life will see solutions that are in the blind spots of other people. So we have to listen to more voices if we want a more complete picture.

Isolation hasn't worked. Putting issues in vacuums hasn't worked. We are in an unprecedented crisis. We need each other. A friend of mine told me years ago that when she asked a Zapatista elder what she could do at home to help the cause, the answer was, "Break down individualism." And that's what intersectionality is - the breaking down of individualism within the activist world.


So, I've made my points and now I'm supposed to wrap up, always the most difficult part. [I started to write "the hardest part," and then wanted to make a sex joke. I'm letting you all know this because silliness keeps an activist grounded. This one's for you, C.]

All I really have to say is that if this blog helped connect some dots for you, and you want to continue to learn about these things - systems thinking, intersectionality - I hope you will take the initiative to do so. A big part of my activism is educating myself. Sometimes it is borderline self-indulgent, mental masturbation perhaps. But Paolo Freire, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, talks about the importance of education and reflection on our activism. Without it, we are easily manipulated into getting caught up in propaganda, part of a mass of people not discerning on the direction we're headed in. Not everyone needs to be quite as into reading and self-education as me, perhaps. Some people learn better through interaction and conversation.

But every time you read an article or listen to a podcast, you may be helping the activist community by not having to reinvent the wheel. People have fallen into many pits along the way of making social change, and we can learn from them to some extent, even as we necessarily make our own mistakes. So I invite you to check out the resources I linked to in this article. Everyday Feminism is also a decent starting resource. There's no requirement to agree with everything you read on there, or anywhere - I don't! But there's no requirement to disagree either. There's another way to relate to ideas, which is to consider them, feel into them, understand the perspective they come from and empathize. Look at where they apply or don't apply. Are they universal, or only useful in some specific situations?

If you're wondering why or how I've gotten into meta-education here on a blog about racial justice and climate activism... me too. But it makes sense when I think of it as a reflection on not just what I'm fighting for, living for... but how I'm doing it. I'm inviting myself as well as those reading, to come to our activism with curiosity and open-mindedness, a willingness to stand for what we care for, as well as a willingness to learn. I am learning from all of my experiences, including the disagreements I have with fellow activists, and I am doing my best to lean into them when appropriate, and even be grateful. Because, if I hadn't had the conflict that inspired this post, I wouldn't have written it, and I imagine it may benefit others as well. These are uncertain times in which the effects of my actions and writing are not predictable, but as a comrade and lover exclaimed to me while reading Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark recently, "Dark doesn't mean bad; it just means you can't see!" So even though we can't see, let us feel our way forward.

Or some other trite, inspirational ending. I told you, I'm bad at conclusions. Life doesn't end. But blog posts must.

Interlude: Journey to Racial Awareness(?)

I originally wrote this July 14, 2015, and am publishing now because the desire to share my learning with other activists has become more important than my fear of negative reactions to this note.

The other night I was sitting on my porch couch with some friends talking about social justice, as one does on most nights, and the subject of exponential awareness-raising came up. By this I mean that there are issues that I have come to care about that I didn't always concern myself with as much as I do now, and in the past years my understanding of why they are important has increased exponentially. One such issue is, to put it broadly, racism. It can be hard to remember my own deeper degree ignorance of not so long ago, when relating to people who are unaware of what I have had the fortune and choice to be educated about. We talked about how our awareness was changed on this issue, as white people. What was the journey? And after this conversation, I got to thinking that I might find meaning in sharing some of the milestones of this journey, for me.

I was told by my mom at age three, perhaps, that my grandfather was "prejudiced" but that she, or we (I can't remember if she specified herself or both of us) weren't. We lived in a nearly all-white neighborhood in a small, conservative Northern California town, but we had one black neighbor who my mom was on friendly terms with, and we sometimes went over to her house. So I was never consciously "racist" by the dictionary definition of "consciously believing people of a certain skin color are inferior or should be stereotyped in a certain way." But it would be a long time before I started to understand that racism is so much more than that.

Unfortunately my exposure to people of color remained limited most of my childhood and adolescence as I lived in small rural communities such as Anderson and Gardnerville that were mostly white and also segregated in function. My time in Sacramento for three years was something of an exception to this.

I'd like to jump ahead to my teenage years, during which time I became more involved in activism: first animal rights, then working at the Peace & Justice Center, Food Not Bombs.... My main cause was always "saving the Earth." Although I definitely always carried a sense that "what's wrong with the world" is all inter-related, I still had some compartmentalization when I would express the thought, sincerely at the time, that social justice issues such as racism should take a back-burner to environmental concerns. I believed, and still do, that industrial civilization is deathly, but I led that to another belief that any other "causes" could not be important--even that working on social justice while species are dying every day was selfish. Humans in the first world have it so good, I thought, even if they do experience racism. How can that be as important as stopping the destruction of our entire biosphere?

Enter Mimi Riley's "Our Sustainable Future" class at Butte College, 2008. This was hardly a "social justice" class, mostly focused on such issues as deforestation, climate disruption, ocean pollution, etc. But one thing she exposed us to that semester was the concept of "Eco-Apartheid," from Van Jones. We watched a movie from him that discussed the racial segregation of the environmental movement: middle-class white people driving Priuses while black and brown families are forced by institutional poverty to live in areas subject to factory pollution, causing health problems, among other things. His proposal was to dissolve this eco-apartheid through efforts such as creating green-collar jobs (like installing solar panels) for working class people of color. I didn't rush out and join that campaign, but I thought it made sense, and my separation between "environmental activism" and "social activism" dissolved a little more (it had always been porous). I realized that if I wanted people facing the issues of racism to care about things I care about--like protecting redwood trees--I needed to show mutuality and care about the daily struggles they face that keep them from having more energy to expend on other "causes." I didn't yet know how to do this, but again, I agreed it was sound in principle. This article by him expresses some of the same ideas:

Another milestone happened over a period of time, but there is a story that crystallizes the principle. I was at workshop with Miki Kashtan in Berkeley in 2012, about Principle-Based Teaching (of Nonviolent Communication). While we were there an issue of perceived racial (racist?) exclusion came up. There was a group process about it. The outcome of this process was the idea that it is easier to be present with a white person who is crying because their feelings are hurt during a conversation about race--and harder to empathize with a person of color who is expressing anger about injustice. But being present with that anger is all the more important and valuable because it is harder to do. This will seem like old hat to many anti-racism activists, but it is a milestone for me and others I imagine. Before that, I still had a fear of anger and some beliefs that it is "not an effective way to express oneself," or that it is the job of those of us who are upset about a social injustice to calm ourselves before speaking, rather than an opportunity for the listener to practice being present with rage and frustration. I already was convinced that anger does NOT equal violence, and anger is a valid emotion, but I still had hangups internalized from culture about it--even and maybe especially within the NVC community.

Now my awareness increase starts to unfold faster. In 2013 a friend told me to read "Sitting in the Fire" by Arnold Mendel. It's a book about communicating about privilege and oppression. He calls it "rank" instead of privilege, but it's a similar concept. He discussed all sorts of rank, including gender, racial, even spiritual. (This ties back in with the above paragraph--people pull "spiritual rank" by saying something such as, "But I must be right and you must be wrong because I am so calm and you are hysterical.") He also encourages people to not deny their rank, but to use it to promote awareness of those who don't have it. For example, he says, if you are heterosexual and coupled, don't refrain from making out with your partner in public because not all queer couples can do that. Make out with them, and then loudly pronounce, "Wouldn't it be great if ALL romantic partners felt safe kissing in public? I'd LOVE to live in a world like that!!" (Which I then did at least once with my boyfriend at the time, although I used to kiss my ex-girlfriend in public a lot too. Chico is pretty chill.)

That same year I was noticing the misogyny all around me more and more. I had someone coming to my NVC classes cross some boundaries, and do some online harassment towards me. I found it very difficult to get support. People wanted to justify his actions and defend him more than support me. I became even more hyper-aware of systemic sexism than I had been in the past. And since I was reading Sitting in the Fire at the time, I once again came to a logical conclusion: If I want men to be my allies in the fight against violence and predation on women, I need to be in integrity and be more of an ally to those who don't have an unearned social privilege I do: whiteness.

At that time I started to access online learning resources more. I started reading more articles on Everyday Feminism and such sites about types of oppression that I don't face. I started seeing a word pop up that I had a feeling of long before I saw it (although it had already existed, it wasn't as pervasive as it is now): intersectionality. Over time, I have really come to stretch myself more and more in reading "angry" even "accusatory" expressions of rage against injustice that I don't experience myself, although I can relate to from other oppressions I do. Occasionally I can really take on that view, such as when reading bell hooks and realizing I identify with her first-person narrative character so much that I also feel that "Killing Rage" (the name of one of her books) about white supremacy; I no longer have the patience to wait for "progress" on this issue; it should never have happened this way in the first place. (!)

Now, this exponential awareness increase has gotten to the point where I see racism everywhere I turn. I also see COLONIALISM which I have always been more aware of, from being taught a certain empathy for First Nations people also by my mother (although she didn't know that term), and from valuing the ecological wisdom that First Nations traditions hold. I no longer see these things as even remotely separate. Racism and the destruction of the planet are part of the same issue, along with a whole host of other tragedies of patriarchal culture.

I imagine some people reading this and thinking that this white woman doesn't even know. I KNOW I still have a lot to learn, and I am enjoying the painful process of challenging my racist socialization, although I feel like if I take in any more awareness about injustice my head might explode. Maybe that would be a good thing though. It's said, when your heart breaks, let it break open. What happens if my head breaks open? New astounding insight?

Looking over these milestones I see that it took so long for me to get these things that now seem so obvious and I wonder if there is a way to communicate them to people who haven't encountered these within themselves. This was actually one of the topics covered at the workshop in 2012; not about racism specifically but about increasing awareness of the world and our desires to live well in it--how to condense milestones in consciousness into a short phrase--like a bumper sticker--that can easily be grasped. Some that could be sifted from what I've written here might be, in order:

"Down with Eco-Apartheid: Green Jobs for All"

"Anger is an Opportunity to be Present to Injustice"

"Use Your White Privilege to Film Cops Harassing People"

"Want Solidarity? Give Solidarity to Others"

"Oppression Takes Many Forms; Learn about All of Them"

"The Neuroses of Awareness are Worth the Expansion of the Heart"

On the other hand, I question whether someone would really "get" these unless they already "got them." But I also think that when we finally "get" something, it might be because partially because we have encountered it before and not gotten it. I think of the Intercultural Communication class I took at Butte. Many of these concepts or related ones were presented in that class, but I didn't really get them at that time. Is that because I wasn't ready, or because the teacher didn't communicate them effectively, or both? I think it has something to do with the academic structure of learning, in which teachers are not mentors, who take the time to learn where each student is at and help guide them to their next stage of learning. Instead there is set curriculum that may be too easy for some, too hard for others, and not right at all for even more.

And on that note of mentoring, I am deciding to publish this primarily because of a recent altercation I had with someone I collaborate with on some activist projects. I have realized that the material I needed for that conversation already exists, I have been sitting on it waiting for this day to come. Go forth words, and ripple in ways I may never know.

The Necessity of Social Justice Work in Climate Activism, Part One: Reflections on Pulse

Even knowing (thinking? wondering if?) I am apparently more likely to be massacred in a queer club, I feel safer in queer clubs than in straight bars. (Clubs. Whatever. I'm using them as synonyms.)

I thought about this in the days and hours after the Pulse tragedy, as I had already been considering going out to a queer bar here in Medellin. I questioned for a moment, in that irrational way humans do, applying something with similar characteristics to our own lives, however distance and removed, if this could happen where I am.

Here's why: Even if there is some kind of hate crime at a queer club every night in a thousand, I experience harassment and lack of consent practices in straight clubs any time I go out and try to socialize.

If I go and don't make eye contact with any male-presenting people, I can maybe get away without being harassed. Not always.

But I want to go out to socialize, and yet the sad fact is that in straight bars people don't know how to respectfully ease into consensual interactions.

I am one to wear my love and lust on my sleeve. When I like someone (blush), I tell them. Often through text messages, drunk or no, because then I can get all my thoughts out at once, without interruption, and be sure that I am saying exactly what I want to say.

Some people think this is weird. I met up with a fellow traveler yesterday who was surprised by this, calling it brave. I have gotten the gamut of responses to my strategy, from "brave" to "awkward and dorky / not smooth." Even "desperate" (probably mostly in my head).

But my question is, what is the alternative? If I am attracted to someone, and I don't just put this out there, what do I do? Well, the alternative given to my by this culture (and I certainly have participated in this as well) is to wait for some chance moment to swoop in for a kiss. Sometimes accompanied by liquid courage. But as the song goes, a kiss is not a contract. What do you think that kiss means?

Anyway, THIS REALLY UPSETS ME. I am so sick of the swoop-kiss, in real life and in media. In TV shows, it is portrayed as romantic. I have even seen, repeatedly, that some character, often male, kisses a female character who is in a monogamous relationship. She doesn't stop him right away, out of surprise and/or enjoyment. Then, she feels guilty, and sometimes her male partner even gets mad at her for cheating. She will often say, "I kissed so-and-so." Um, no, they kissed you. It is not your job to go around fending off kisses. And, for me, an unasked for kiss can be just as violating as lots of other unasked for sexual contact. You can't take it back once your lips are planted on me.

All of which is to say, this is the meat-and-potatoes of straight culture and straight bars, I think. And straight culture in general. Not to say it isn't present in queer culture - as portrayed in media as well. I got mad when, in Pretty Little Liars, Paige swoop-kissed Emily while Emily was upset about Maya. How insensitive could she be? (And I recall times when I tried to swoop in, especially in my high school days, on someone I liked who had just broken up with someone.)

I am probably spoiled. I get to spend parts of my summers surrounded by magical community where consent is a top priority, the norm, the expectation. But this shouldn't be spoiled, I want this to be the norm everywhere. Because once I knew how much safer, healthier, it felt, I can't deal with this violation culture all over the place. I want to be able to go into any bar, straight or not, and have a conversation with someone, drunk, and trust that they won't try to swoop-kiss me. I was at a club a few months ago and danced with a cute girl. Even amidst the loud noise, I was able to easily, and gracefully, lean into her ear and ask, "Before we leave tonight, would you like my number, a kiss, or both?" And she smiled and said both!

Consent is one of my biggest values. It is why I am so distraught over what is going on in the world. We have a disaster going on in the world in terms of consent. Last year, while being trained for my job advocating for climate legislation, I connected my value of consent to the problems of the world, again. If we valued consent as a culture, nobody would build nuclear power plants, coal plants, or fracking operations, because they would have to get the consent of those who live there - including the plants, animals, rivers. And they would never consent to that! It's absurd! I know it is an overused, perhaps even desensitizing term, but this is why the phrase "the rape of the Earth" emerged.

I am wondering how we can, at this moment in time when so many are increasingly betting on worst-case scenarios, bring consent into climate activism. This is how we can make the climate movement feminist. These issues are not silos, as ecofeminists have been aware of for decades. It is all connected. Just as Pulse is connected too (and thank you forever, 350, for acknowledging this).

There has long been a divide between social justice activism, and environmental activism. That is why these days, I talk about and social and environmental justice. Bring these things together. as a global organization is making strides in this department. But I still hear folks in my community, sounding like myself not so many years ago, saying "The environment is more important than human social justice, because we all need it (the earth) to live any life, even a horrible one." I am not going to name any names. I love you, fellow activists. I understand your reasoning, because it was once my own. It is a seductive line of thought, especially for those of us who are White enough, or rich enough, or educated enough, to have some distance on any social problems except the environmental ones.

I no longer think this is true. For some people, they say, we don't have time to be distracted by social justice causes, because we need to put all of our energy into fighting climate change. Slowing it down, whicever. I say, we don't have time to not think about social justice. It is an emergency that we bring our movements together, as some already know. I want to see this happen in my community. It is important for two reasons, that I can name in particular.

One, I don't think humans are inherently greedy and selfish. Some may have their empathy turned down quite a bit. But in general, when we humans have our basic needs cared for, it is easier for us to make decisions considerate of others. Take plastic bags as an example. Here in Colombia, I am using way more plastic bags. This happens because they are offered to me constantly, and it is much harder to turn them down when I don't have an alternative to offer, as I often do at home. When I am grounded at home, and have enough food to eat, options for what to eat, food from my garden, I am more easily able to avoid plastic bags. My mom, who lives off grid, finds plastic bags incredibly useful. When you are poor and may not even have running water or a fridge, plastic helps keep things separate, clean, dry. Another example: when I am here, walking around in the heat, and feeling dehydrated, if I can't find water or a place to get a juice in a glass, I much more readily accept a plastic container of juice, because my more basic needs aren't met. Again, this is a matter of physical priorities. Our organisms must be fed, watered, protected from the elements, before we can effectively reach beyond ourselves to care for the rest of life.

The second reason is that to have an effective movement, we need all hearts and minds in the problem of climate change and stopping capitalism's assault on life. And we aren't going to have all hearts and minds on the problem if some people keep reiterating this claim that it is the only cause that matters. We need solidarity. We need mutual aid. This has all been said before. I am not the first, or the most eloquent. But I hope some people I know will listen to me when I say that I will be able to be more present and bring my whole self to my climate activism if my straight climate activist allies care just as much about ending heteronormativity. I feel alienated when I see environmental activists seeming to ignore the Pulse tragedy, stuck in our issue-silos. I know we are all experiencing compassion fatigue; there are plenty of events in the world I can't always bring myself to act on. But I can still look, I can still breathe into my heart and acknowledge this is happening.

Can we all care about consent together, the consent that stops the rape of human bodies as well as bioregions and ecosystems, and our whole biosphere? I know it is overwhelming, but will you breathe into this with me, and we can share our hearts, and act from here?