In the midst of Thanksgiving and Black Friday this week, much of the US is deep into traditional meals, gatherings, and shopping but the camps and water protectors in North Dakota are still standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline. These protectors are frequently met with violence and intimidation from police and others. Just a couple days ago, those on the ground were sprayed with water cannons in the middle of the night and in North Dakota at this time of the year, that can be fatal. One medic shared his story about that night and many others countered the police’s narrative and shared that the protectors have been nothing but peaceful.
By now, you have probably heard about the protests and fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline lead by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota. The pipeline is proposed to run near the tribe’s land, through a sacred burial ground, and through the Mississippi River. Many have cited not only environmental concerns (particularly over potential leaks to surrounding rivers and water supplies) but also concerns over treaties with and the right to self-determination of the indigenous peoples and tribes here in the US.
Today is Earth Day – an annual event started by grassroots organizers in 1970 in the US and Canada but is now celebrating in many cities and countries all around the world. There are so many different things happening today, including the fact that the Paris climate deal is being officially signed by 170 nations.
But it seems like now more than ever, Earth Day and year round environmental justice needs to happen because there are still so many threats to the environment. Scientists now say that 93% of the Great Barrier Reef is now bleached; National Geographic has had to make major changes to its atlas because of the shrinking ice caps in the Arctic; many politicians in the US, including presidential candidates, are avid climate change deniers despite the overwhelming scientific evidence. And those are just some of the issues currently at play.
Feminist theory tells us that research and application must be intentional and considerate of the lived experience of those involved. It is important to understand that the environmental justice movement has intersections just like any other movement. For example, environmental injustices happen to the differently abled, women, indigenous communities, low-income communities, and in communities of color. In most cities, power plants and oil refineries are in the lower-income side of town. In turn, working class families experience the backlash of poor regulation, including polluted water and air. We then must look at health care equality and accessibility. In most cases, Native American reservations deal with problems associated with toxic water and water including asthma and bronchitis.Maribel Hermosillo, Earth Day 2013: 3 Important Reasons Environmental Justice is a Feminist Issue
I love animals so the rare chance of going to the zoo was always so much fun when I was growing up. Like so many others, it was my only chance to really see many of the animals in the flesh rather than on a screen or in a book. But on my last trip to the zoo a few years ago, I remember looking at a caged bald eagle and just feeling sad. Here are these amazing animals – caged in part for the entertainment and profit for people.
At this point, I have been a vegetarian in some form for most of my life. I started when I was 10 years old after I learned how people cook lobsters and while my diet has varied some over the years, I have mostly stuck to the vegetarian eating habits. (I do occasionally eat local seafood now, mostly salmon from the area but that’s not 100% the point right now.)
I often get a few questions when people find out I’m vegetarian – am I vegan? Is the rest of my family vegetarian? And when people find out that I’m actually a bit of an odd duckling in my family (because I am the only one who doesn’t eat meat), they often ask how and why I became one.
Today is Wildlife Day – the anniversary of the signing of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and a day to raise awareness for wildlife. This year, the focus is on the world’s elephants – animals that face various issues like poaching and abuse.
There are other animals that are in danger for various reasons and some of these animals include: red pandas, sea otters, and gray wolves. In the US, it’s under the Endangered Species Act that the federal government has responsibility for endangered and threatened animals, along with critical habitats. In addition that and other legislation, there are humans that are working towards slowing the impact of humans (like in the Galapagos) but it would take a lot of time and resources to save every endangered species.
Support for endangered animals can come in various ways, like supporting different organizations that work on conservation, environmental justice, and anti-poaching. Plus, talking about these issues online is important to increasing understanding about what endangered wildlife face. Another way (and there are many more) is to not put animals in danger for things like selfies, (and yes, there have been several cases of people putting sick or endangered animals at risk for a selfie).
When we talk about environmental justice, organizations like Greenpeace or protests like #sHellNo might come to mind. Or at least that’s what comes to my mind. But with these conversations, we also need to be talking about environmental racism (which is the placement of marginalized communities, especially communities of color, in proximity to environmentally hazardous places or effects).
Last Saturday, the two week climate change talks in Paris ended with 196 countries approving an agreement to try and prevent the global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees (Celsius). There are many lauding this agreement as historic, especially after things fell apart at the last global attempt to resolve climate change in Copenhagen 2009. In a way, the fact that this agreement was signed and approved is historic because as Fiona Harvey wrote in her piece about the deal:
Saturday night was the culmination not only of a fortnight of talks, but of more than 23 years of international attempts under the UN to forge collective action on this global problem. Since 1992, all of the world’s governments had been pledging to take measures that would avoid dangerous warming. Those efforts were marked by discord and failure, the refusal of the biggest emitters to take part, ineffective agreements and ignored treaties.
There are people who’d argue that overpopulation is the biggest threat to climate change and it’s definitely something to look at. The population has come close to doubling since 1980 but the discussion of over population and climate change, in my experience, tends to focus on the population growth in developing countries – putting the blame of climate change on those living in poverty with large families. (When in actuality, those in poverty are more likely to feel the brunt of climate change than those who are actually most responsible.)