9 Intersectional Activists You Should Know About
Plastic pollution. Racism. Deep-sea mining. Gender inequality. Fossil fuels. Poverty. When it comes to tackling the environmental crisis, it’s difficult to pick just one battle to fight.
Not long ago, activists seemed to dedicate their lives to dealing with one (or two) particular issues, making it their tentpole quest, perhaps forgetting that every crisis is the result of a series of situations that need tackling.
Today’s eco-activists are conscious of the multidimensional intricacies that led us to the climate crisis we’re dealing with, proposing a novel approach to solving it: intersectionality. These critical thinkers — most of them still wrapping up their degree studies — are connecting the dots to propose systemic solutions that fuel long-term change. (i.e. Instead of telling you to stop using plastic straws to save the oceans, they’ll lobby against the oil industry through indigenous grass-roots organizations that have been oppressed by a capitalist society based on digital colonialism).
We know it’s a mouthful of elements that must be considered, but it seems the only way to efficiently resolve oppression on all levels, is reinventing or redesigning the foundations of society. And it’s not like the new generation is complaining about the additional work: they very well know that in order to guarantee our species’ survival, we must go the extra mile.
As the year comes to a close, we’d like to honor a few of the intersectional earth warriors who made ripples across the world, aiming to elevate and support their commitment to the planet.
Mikaela Loach /@mikaelaloach
Through her personal and heartfelt Instagram posts, this Jamaica-born, Edinburgh-based medic and antiracism activist sheds light on the need to regard sustainability as an inclusive right where no one is left out of the equation. Mikaela mixes poetry, fashion, DIY tutorials and memes to illustrate her quest for climate justice in a way that’s approachable and easy to digest. But don’t be confused; each of her inspiring and colorful posts has a strong message behind it, addressing the source of our societal problems. “We need to stop saying that the system is broken,” she says. “We need to stop making out that inequality is an accident. The system is not broken. The system works very well for the people it was designed by and for (read: wealthy white ‘western’ cis-het-men). To describe it as broken just allows those in power to evade blame. It prevents us from being able to create real change. We just end up tip-toeing around the real cause.”
Kristy Drutman / @browngirl_green
Leah Thomas / @greengirlleah
From the heart of Southern California, @greengirlleah is shaking the world’s foundations through her own accounts as well as what has become one of the pillar platforms of the movement: @intersectionalenvironmentalist. Although you might’ve seen her attending protests and openly advocating for fundamental changes, Leah recently dropped the ‘activist’ from her bio. “Communications and content creation overall is what really makes me happy,” she said. “When trying to find a word for what I do I just thought of ‘eco-communicator’ which to me basically means: a person that communicates info about sustainability, regenerative living and the climate crisis in an easily digestible and accessible way – because even though I have a background in Environmental Science & Policy, a degree (which in many ways is a privilege) shouldn’t be a barrier between someone learning important information about people and planet.” Her love for nature goes beyond the traditional aspects and includes de-stigmatizing the cannabis plant, work she does through @thegreensgirlco.
Diandra Marizet / @diandramarizet
As an industry, Fashion is one of the main polluters of the world due to chemical treatments that end up in our water systems, as well as the leftover deadstock textiles piling up in disposal sites. It’s also negatively known for fast-fashion companies that pay their workers unfairly. Yet Diandra stands up for those conscious companies that put sustainability first after working in the fashion industry and discovering harmful practices that led to environmental degradation. Not only does she highlight the entrepreneurs and brands doing this differently through mindful garments, she also emphasizes the connection between consumerism, capitalism, climate change and their effect on underrepresented communities. Her voice intersects clothing, race and gender. Don’t think her message is oversimplified just because she highlights environmentalism through style; “A lot of us who have gone down the rabbit-hole of eco-friendly, sustainability, low-waste, or more recently intersectional environmentalism, went from thinking banning straws was the answer to dismantling systems of oppression,” she said. “It’s been a fun ride fam!”
Tori Tsui / @toritsui_
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson / @ayanaeliza
Capitalism has made us think that most of the time, activists are out on the streets, chanting slurs against the government. Some will hold banners, others Molotov cocktails (depending on how propagandistic the misrepresentation). Seldom are activists portrayed as forward-thinking academics. Queue Dr. Johnson, a self-described “marine biologist, policy nerd” from Brooklyn, co-host of the podcast How 2 Save A Planet and co-editor of the book, “All We Can Save”. Although she has a wide range of activities under her belt, her most important work might be the Urban Ocean Lab, a think-tank focusing on implementing science-based solutions for coastal cities facing sea-level rise. If you thought she’d focus only on big data and lab results, think again: “We’ve gotta build the biggest, strongest, smartest team to address the climate crisis,” she says. “We need more climate leaders, everywhere, in all communities. We need to welcome folks in. We need more art. We need a cultural transformation. We need to be able to see and feel what the future can look like if we put in the work and get it right.”
Marie Beecham / @mariebeech
A quick glimpse at her Instagram will make you think it’s all fun and games (Marie’s candid smile populates most of her feed) but when you take a second to pay attention to her text and read her posts, you’ll find that she takes social justice very seriously. The fact that she breaks it down into digestible pieces doesn’t mean her antiracism education is less strong than if she were on a podium; each of her messages prompt us to take action in favor of the oppressed, claiming unity and hope as the guiding principles. Marie also integrates religious thoughts to her work, adding a spiritual component to activism, which she believes is for everyone: “Advocacy looks like different things for different people, and that is A-okay,” she says. “Ditch the idea that we’re all supposed to fit into the same mold. No matter how you go about it — community organizing, art or writing, one conversation at a time — I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing!”
Helena Bennett / @earthbyhelena
Looking at Helena’s CV, one can’t help but wonder: how does she do it all? When she’s not studying for her MSc in Environmental Technology and Global Environmental Policy at Imperial College in London, she’s performing or attending theater plays, sharing eco-friendly tips for everyday activities, or working with European organizations to remedy climate change. All in all, she’s a Renaissance woman, one with many gifts and interests, all pulling together towards the same goal: exerting positive change through political influence. Helena considers herself an intersectional climate and human rights activist but we feel that’s just another way of saying she’ll eventually run for office. One of her recent posts attests to our surmising: “The first thing that’s important to understand is that everything is political,” she says. “Politics governs how we live our lives. It governs our values as a society; the things we want to develop and progress; how we treat others; how we treat ourselves. By labeling something as ‘not political,’ we ultimately create ignorance around the impact that our elected government has.” She’s got our vote.
Kevin Patel / @imkevinjpatel
It’s surprising that someone with so many credentials has a small-but-rising Instagram clout compared to the other activists (go follow Kevin!). But when you’re a UN TogetherBand Ambassador, a National Geographic Young Explorer, part of the Youthtopia_world: Circle of Youth council, the ClimatePower2020 panel, and the Intersectional environmentalist board and a Political Science major, it’s understandable that he’s left with little time to post. That said, you’ll definitely see him on panels (both digital and real-world ones) sharing his thoughts and climate-related experiences which have led him to see activism not as a hobby, but as a “survival tool”.