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Why the Climate Movement Must Be Intersectional

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” –Audre Lorde

As noted in YES Magazine, intersectionality is “a way of thinking holistically about how different forms of oppression interact in people’s lives.” It is a more collaborative form of organizing for social change that looks at multiple interrelated issues together, rather than taking on one issue at a time.

For example, the Movement Generation‘s Justice & Ecology Project approach to the global ecological crisis came together by looking holistically at “issues of peak oil, peak water, losses in biological and cultural diversity, climate change, environmental toxins, food security, sustainable agriculture and food systems, as well as new opportunities for the development of local, sustainable, socially-just economies and participatory democracy.” They “include the integration of an ecological lens onto existing work within organizations.”

Maura Cowley, executive director of the youth-based Energy Action Coalition, says “environmental groups across the spectrum are realizing that not only does climate change disproportionately affect certain groups—predominantly low-income people of color—but the same disproportionate impacts that we see in climate change … are prevalent across a whole spectrum of issues.”

EAC’s intersectional approach appears to be partly a generational organizational phenomenon. Cowley say of millennials, “there’s a recognition that “simply advocating on any single issue doesn’t really solve the full spectrum of problems…This is not a generation where people care about one issue or feel impacted by one issue. Millennials don’t join one organization and read the newsletter every month – they’re affiliated with multiple organizations. And, they’re on social media, a terrain upon which ideas converge.”

Bill McKibben’s 350.org asserts that “the climate crisis is about power — but not just the kind of power that runs our cars and keeps the lights on. We believe that the only way we’ll see meaningful action on climate change is if we can counter the power of the fossil fuel industry with the power of people taking collective action.” McKibben has built a global climate movement with only a few paid staffers by using “distributed, grassroots organizing to run adaptive, locally-driven campaigns in every corner of the globe – supporting thousands of grassroots activists running their own independent, loosely affiliated organizations and campaigns in 188 countries.”

Intersectional thinking translates and amplifies global actions through local understanding of complex, inter-related issues.

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