‘Save the Earth’ highlights the importance of intersectionality in environmentalism

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A new podcast called “Save the Earth” premiered Monday on WHUS, the student-run radio station at the University of Connecticut. The episode consisted of a conversation about intersectionality in environmentalism, moderated by UConn PIRG members Ben Albee and Monet Parades. 

The first episode featured Mason Holland, president of the UConn chapter of the NAACP, and Brittany Diaz, president of UConn Collaborative Organizing.  

Holland and Diaz discussed why it is important for environmentalists to be active in other causes such as the Black Lives Matter movement.  

“I think that with environmentalism and a lot of things within STEM, a lot of BIPOC people are missing from that conversation and that’s very harmful,” – Brittany DiaZ

“I never really took an in-depth look at environmental activism until the COVID-19 pandemic and I realized the disproportionate effect it was having on Black and Brown communities and I began connecting the dots between food insecurity,” Holland said. “More so, where people live and the quality of the environment there. Through the environment is how we’re oppressed and through the environment is how our bodies and our health and our psychological spaces are affected,” he said. 

Diaz agreed and mentioned that working toward preserving the environment tends to have a larger impact on people of color and Indigenous peoples than other ethnic groups.  

“I think that with environmentalism and a lot of things within STEM, a lot of BIPOC people are missing from that conversation and that’s very harmful,” Diaz said. “Because it’s a lot of folks and scientists making decisions for land that they don’t know anything about or making decisions for folks that [are] negatively going to harm other people.” 

Diaz also noted the importance of environmentalists speaking on other issues in order to achieve their goals and do the work necessary for their field.  

Both Diaz and Holland agreed that the inclusion of people of color is vital to the progress that needs to be made in environmentalism. 

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg stands outside of Swedish Parliament. In ‘Save the Earth’, students talk about the lack of visibility for environmental activists of color. (Photo by Andres Hellberg/Wikimedia Commons)

“We know who Greta Thunberg is. We know who non-BIPOC folks are that are in environmentalism, but we don’t talk about the faces of color,” Holland said about the current state of the field of environmentalism.  

The podcast also included a discussion of how UConn students can work together to make the university more sustainable and equitable, especially in the way of uniting the smaller groups on campus toward a larger cause.  

“We don’t want to think in a binary lens,” Diaz said. “The more voices and the more perspectives we have, the more issues we’re going to cover.”  

Holland said that just because an organization is large does not mean it is the only source of information on the topic. It is important to include smaller groups because it further ensures the issues of as many people as possible are being considered.  

Diaz mentioned that although activists like Thunberg are very important to the movement, they cannot speak on issues that affect people of color like her. Diaz used her Puerto-Rican heritage as an example. 

“She [Thunberg] can’t speak about the environmental crises and environmental colonialism in Puerto Rico, etc. so that’s why we need to collaborate because people can’t speak for everyone’s experience. That’s why we need so many people,” Diaz said. “And it’s like if you only address one part of the environmental issue, you’re not really addressing anything at all because ultimately this is the issue that affects everyone.” 

“The more we expand our networks [and] we create these relationships, the more we’re going to be able to talk about these things in a wide-reaching way to be able to focus on everything,” Holland said. 

The next episode of the podcast will feature Alexandra Houdeshell, the managing editor of the Daily Campus, and Scott Wallace, a journalism professor at UConn. They will be discussing how environmental journalism may be seen as a form of activism.  

According to Albee, the podcast is expected to continue through next semester and branch out to more statewide organizers and scholars. 

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