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April 19, 2023


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LGBTQ Students and Environmental Activism

April 19, 2023

The Earth Day theme for 2023 is “Invest in our Planet.” This is a call to dedicate our time, resources, and energy to solving climate change and other environmental issues.

Point Foundation Scholars across the country are taking action to reduce environmental harm in their communities now and for the future. These environmental activists are investing in a sustainable and equitable planet. Their commitment to environmental justice involves research, community engagement, and political action. LGBTQ students are building a world where everyone has a healthy environment to live, learn, and work.

What is environmental justice?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities are more exposed to environmental harm due to systemic racism. Legacies of colonization such as zoning and disproportionate debt contribute to the way extreme climate change impacts communities of color and low economic standing in comparison to their white, affluent neighbors. Because of this, many Point Scholars center anti-racist actions and equal access in their ecological service work.

How are LGBTQ students impacting climate justice?

BiancaNunez-web-766x1024Scholar Bianca Nuñez is studying sustainable development at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. This involves learning how systems in infrastructure and technology can benefit the general population. She is currently in the process of co-founding a university organization targeted toward promoting alternative modes of transportation in the Rio Grande Valley. The club will educate students about sustainable urban development and the ways that the community can advocate for the city to be more accessible to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit.

Bianca says she’s reconnecting with her indigenous roots and spreading awareness about climate injustices in her communities. Bianca is achieving her goals through community building and supporting mutual aid efforts.

"I hope to get more involved with my own Coahuiltecan communities to organize and teach others how to cultivate and live with the surrounding land for economic, cultural, and food stability and abundance," Bianca said.

Darid-Prom-DF94DEE1-344B-4D0A-99E4-7DD7B5F8EBE3-1024x1024Point Scholar Darid Prom is also empowering communities affected by environmental injustice. In Fall 2022, they developed Swarthmore College's first Environmental Justice and Community Resilience Program. To create the program, Darid held focus groups with LGBTQ, first-generation, and low-income student communities. They hope to establish a storytelling initiative to discuss people’s experiences of environmental injustice.

“My passion for wanting to include storytelling as a framework emerged as a culturally relevant way to acknowledge the way in which social, political, and economic forces, as well as violence, are intersecting to produce environmental inequalities,” Darid said.

How do I get involved in environmental activism?

Think locally. Creating a world where everyone has fair access to resources and healthy environments starts with making changes at home. Recently, Bianca joined the UT Austin Environmental Awareness Club to raise awareness about the construction of the Texas LNG pipeline. She optimized her efforts to engage potential petition signers by focusing on affected areas in the upper Rio Grande region in Texas.

Research environmentally-invested organizations to find out how you can volunteer. Potential volunteer opportunities include maintaining community gardens, running pay-what-you-can markets, farm equipment workshops, tree-planting events, and more.

Engage and connect with people from different communities. By bringing diverse voices together, we can create a fuller picture of what climate justice looks like.

Sovandarid hopes to create a blend of the perspectives of multiple disciplines at Swarthmore College to create a holistic understanding of what environmental justice looks like. They are planning to bring together different speakers, community partners, faculty, and students for a Spring symposium about plants, healing, and environmental justice.

Like Darid, you can build a community that blends everyone’s insights on ways to pursue environmental justice.

LGBTQ students like Bianca and Darid are putting in the work to create a fair future for everyone this Earth Day and beyond! For more ways to join them in environmental activism, see the official Earth Day 2023 action toolkit.

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