Environmental Observations

What makes a good landscape design? Are those flowers edible? What grows best where?

Monday, June 15, 2020

Learning about Intersectional Environmentalism

Trail through northern rainforest in Alaska
Trail leaving the northern most point of the 
Pacific Temperate Rainforest in Girdwood, AK.
When I see acres of rainforest burning, or the scarred mountainsides of clear cut forests clogging streams, and bull-dozed parcels for yet another strip mall, my heart breaks. When I see troops ordered out against people protesting the XL pipeline, fracking, and nuclear waste dumps, I cry for those who will be polluted, and the beautiful earth we are abusing. I am screaming out “It’s 2020 for &hit% sake! Why do white people, old white men in particular, still think they have to dominate other groups and the earth!!!” And really, don't we have better ways to create the products we need, or, reduce our use.

Mountain top removal eastern US.
This month as my heart breaks for yet more lost lives at the hands of dumb-4ss white police officers, I found refuge in a few writers I will be learning from and want to share here. 

Leah Thomas’s article “Why Every Environmentalist Should be Anti-Racist” appeared in Vogue on June 8, 2020. vogue.com

Open vista trails in the Chugach Mountains, AK.

Leah, an environmental scientist, discusses the effects of environmental pollution and politics against people of color and lower economic status. Her article references studies showing black neighborhoods carry a burden of suffering from 1.54 times the particulates in the air they breathe than the general population. This leads to higher disease rates in affected populations. Leah’s article in Vogue introduced me to the term Intersectional Environmentalism. 

Burning forest Appalachians, eastern US.
This effect is something I have seen in many places I have lived, and in many photographic documentary artworks, yet did not realize it had a name and should be called out. I just thought people lived in areas of degradation because they were lower priced due to the poor quality of the environment. But that is no excuse for why someone should have to live in a polluted environment, it is not an excuse to make polluted environments. Leah can be found on Instagram at @greengirlleah

High desert trail lower NM.
I grew up on the Gulf Coast were I saw many poor communities, especially around refineries, ports, and chemical plants. I was in the generation of school kids after segregation so my classes were mixed and I saw that as normal. I did not realize BIPOC had relatives, and generations going back for decades, that lived in degraded conditions. As I matured, I realized toxic manufacturing was placed in certain areas for a reason: the white men in power saw the communities as lesser-than. 

Militarized police Anchorage, AK.
As a nature-lover, it is painful to see any species taken advantage of, that is why I have become a writer, to hold up that which we should cherish. But I need to keep learning from forceful writers and advocates in regards to the US heritage of dumping and pillaging without regard to the environment or human life. Another series that brings this problem to light is the Guardian’s “Cancertown Louisiana” a year-long series from Reserve, LA where cancer rates are 50 times higher than the national average. And despite the awareness, LA recently approved a new plastic manufacturing plant in the area. 

Let's build bridges. Garden Seattle, WA.
See also this Guardian article by Megan Mayhew Bergman, “‘They chose us because we were rural and poor’: When environmental racism and climate change collide.” Her research is about her home state of North Carolina choosing to build a toxic PCB waste dump in Warren, a small predominately African-American town.

Riverside industry, Oregon,
but could be anywhere across the US.
As a hiking enthusiast, I am most interested in Carolyn Finney's June 3, Guardian article, “The perils of being black in public, we are all Christian Cooper and George Floyd.” She is responding to the utterly shameful and racist actions of Amy Cooper against Christian Cooper in Central Park, NY. Finney was not surprised due to the way she has been treated as a black woman. I will be reading Finney’s book, Black Faces White Spaces, Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. Find more about Carolyn at her website: 


Come to the outdoors, it soothes. Walden.
The continued appropriation of land from Native Americans for resource extraction; the institutionalized theft of property from black and poor neighborhoods through imminent domain used to bisect cities with highways, bridges, and train tracks, are embarrassments to a country that claims to be the best on Earth. A country that pretends to have the best health care, the best jobs, and the best housing on Earth, news flash - does not. 

It will be a hard row,
but we can make it,
we have so much to offer each other,
and so much to treasure.
Come on, can’t we learn from history? This kind of behavior does not end well. Can’t we learn from nature? Partnerships and mutualism create a thriving environment. Mycorrhizae and plant roots, pollinators and flowers. Just look at lichens. Half the being is from the land of sunlight, the other is from the land of dark and damp. Yet when they met, and realized a partnership where one feeds the other and one houses the other, some stunning life forms were created. Those lichens not only are fascinating to look at, they are food, housing, and decomposers helping to recycle the environment where they grow. 

I selected the photos illustrating this article purposefully. They don't necessarily match the paragraphs they are with, the photos are kind of an essay on their own. These photos are places I have seen, and but few examples of beauty, and damage. I am hopeful all who want to enjoy these places can, and I will do what I can to learn, defend land, and bring attention to communities plagued by pollution in the name of capitalism.

Learning about Intersectional Environmentalism

Trail leaving the northern most point of the  Pacific Temperate Rainforest in Girdwood, AK. When I see acres of rainforest burning, or the s...