Let’s talk about environmental activism. What actually is it, and how can you become an activist in your own life? Join us as we dive into the history of activism, the role of sustainability in social justice, and ways you can get involved.
What is environmentalism?
By definition, environmentalism is a “social movement that seeks to influence the political process by lobbying, activism, and education in order to protect natural resources and ecosystems” (thanks, Wikipedia!) The three key pieces here are lobbying, activism, and education – with the end goal overall being changes in public policy, corporate actions, and individual behaviors that support the health of the environment. Seems simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. The role of politics, economics, land rights, inequality, and social justice has made what seems like a simple concept – protecting the environment – into a complex one. This is where environmental activism comes into play. Acting as stewards of the environment is more complicated now than ever, and there is no one solution to mounting issues like climate change, plastic pollution, loss of biodiversity, and other crises. Sustainability activists aim to educate communities, while also inspiring real change at a local, national, or global level.
Sustainability and Activism
Small, continued actions can have a huge impact when it comes to activism. The world cannot be changed by any one person or any one action. Things like volunteering at community non-profits, voting, taking space at demonstrations and peaceful protests, donating money to causes you care about, signing petitions, calling your local representatives, and educating your network make more impact than you may ever know. “Think global, act local.”
There are many activists in the environmental space who are actively making a difference – and we always recommend seeking out these leaders who are doing the work to get multiple perspectives. Many activists dedicate their lives to specific missions, so when you engage with them, you are learning from the experts. You can also be an activist by listening to people with different backgrounds and experiences, then taking what you have learned from them, and spreading it within your own network. Listening, learning, and sharing knowledge can be its own form of activism!
In terms of the sustainability space, there is no shortage of activists that we at EarthHero turn to. EarthHero is only one part of the sustainability world, and it is our duty to share our platform with the activists who are leading the way in their respective spaces. Check out some amazing activists and non-profits to engage with below, and leave us a comment with activists you look towards:
- Founder Leah Thomas, co-founder Phil the Fixer, co-founder Sustainable Sabs, and Intersectional Environmentalism: A climate justice community and resource hub centering people of color and historically excluded voices
- Ashley Renne Nsonwu: animal activist, POC activist, sustainability educator, and vegan health expert.
- Quannah Chasinghorse: climate warrior, model, indigenous rights advocate, and land rights activist.
- Dominique Drakeford: sustainability and cultural justice vanguard, sustainable fashion educator, and eco activist.
- Xiye Bastida: climate justice activist, youth leader, social justice advocate.
- Pattiegonia: queer environmentalist and drag queen building community for queer people, allies and our planet.
- Earth Guardians: non-profit that trains and empowers youth to be effective leaders in the intersections of environmental and climate justice.
- Global Greengrants Fund: global network of activists and donors that supports communities to protect their ways of life and our planet.
- 1% for the Planet’s List of Non-Profits in the Social & Environmental Justice Space
Looking for more? BlogHer has created an amazing list of their Eco Impact Warriors for 2021 here, and a short Google search will help you find activists across all missions that you may be interested in.
Being an activist is not just Instagram posts and peaceful protests. Many environmental activists across the world are putting themselves in danger to create change. In 2020, Global Witness recorded 227 lethal attacks against land and environmental defenders – the highest number to date. As the climate crisis intensifies, so does the fight against deforestation, land grabs, social injustice, and more.
Your Sustainability Journey & What’s Next
No matter where you are on your personal sustainability journey, there is room for activism at different levels. Your journey is just that – your journey. We suggest you engage with and uplift activists that have similar passions as you, and get involved with environmental activism as much as you can. As we said before, small actions can have a huge impact! Here are some ways that you can become an activist today:
- Find events or demonstrations, of any size, and show up! Taking up space in person sends a strong message. Seek out local events, tell your network, and find safe ways to participate.
- Join an online community! By supporting and sharing the work of other activists, you are amplifying their impact.
- Educate yourself, and your network! Podcasts, movies, books, social media – these are all amazing ways to seek out new knowledge. Take this knowledge and spread it to your community. Look for different perspectives, as well!
- Vote! Do your research, and vote for political candidates, and legislation, that directly supports environmental and social justice movements.
- Volunteer and donate! Find non-profits that speak to your values, and donate money when possible, and time when possible. Non-profits work every day to make an impact, and your support helps them reach their goals.
- Sign petitions and reach out to your local representatives! Both actions allow politicians and representatives of the people see what their communities want so they can make informed decisions.
- Become a global citizen! While acting locally is important, we recommend deep diving into global issues whenever possible. This allows you to learn what is going on in other parts of the world, to give you understanding on how to apply their knowledge and actions to your local communities and vice versa.
- Accept imperfection! Being an activist does not mean you know everything, and are able to act on every issue. Activism is all about the desire to learn more, and make an impact in a rapidly changing world. Sometimes, this means you may say or do the wrong thing. Always accept new information, do what you can, and find where you can make the most impact.
Activism will look different for everyone. Where you are on your personal sustainability journey also plays a role. No matter how you are showing up as an activist, know that you are making an impact – and by being a part of the larger sustainability community, you are leading the way towards a more just future.
How do you show up as an environmental activist in your community? Share your story with us in the comments below!