The youth voices of intersectional environmentalism

type - big idea
Big Idea
category - black lives matter
category - gender
category - society
category - sustainability
sector - diversity & inclusion
sector - youth
With one-size-fits-all sustainability goals excluding people of colour, Generation Z are combining social justice with environmental activism

Leah Thomas, US

The connection between racism and environmental issues became clear to Leah Thomas while studying environmentalism at university. It led the 21-year-old to identify as a black environmentalist and pursue jobs at eco-first companies such as Patagonia. But it was only in May 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, that she and fellow activists put their efforts into launching the Intersectional Environmentalist platform.

The initiative introduces Generation Z to the correlation between the climate emergency and marginalised communities. She hopes to introduce these interconnections in a way that young people find accessible by using aesthetic-driven Instagram posts.

Thomas even has plans to expand the platform into a media hub with short- and long-form video content. 'Environmentalists tend to be well-meaning, forward-thinking people who believe in preserving the planet for generations to come,’ she explains. ‘However, many are hesitant to do the same for endangered black lives, and might be unclear on why they should.’

Isaias Hernandez, US

Isaias Hernandez founded Queer Brown Vegan as an educational outlet and safe space that provides simple explanations of environmental and sustainability terminologies with an emphasis on intersectionality and justice.

As a Mexican-American growing up in a community that faced environmental injustices, Hernandez became interested in learning about his environment, and pursued a degree in environmental science at University of California, Berkeley where he worked with student organisations to amplify the diversity of voices in the environmental movement.

As a queer, brown and vegan environmentalist, Hernandez is using his platform to prompt discussions about intersectionality and justice in the environmental movement. Before Queer Brown Vegan was launched, he co-created environmental magazine Alluvia that highlights BIPOC environmentalists through climate justice storytelling. His work now focuses on three main topics: veganism, zero-waste and environmental justice. 

Published by:

11 January 2021

Author: Lydia Caldana

Image: Lua Couto


The Greens Girl Co x Takoma by Leah Thomas

Lua Couto, Brazil

Ancestral knowledge researcher Lua Couto co-founded Futuro Possível, a platform that aims to encourage healing through decolonial education for planetary regeneration. Futuro Possível invites people to think beyond sustainability and create regenerative cultures by producing courses, workshops, reports, communication strategies and fostering online communities.

With ancestry and Global South perspectives at the core of what she does, Couto investigates alternative economies, regenerative design, biomimicry, collaboration and localisation, among others. Futuro Possível anchors this research in accessibility through a magazine and its associated Instagram and Telegram accounts.

'Earth is an expert on regeneration, but society is pushing all limits. We have issues that are too complex for individuals to solve. We need collective engagement and collaboration to promote the change we want.'

Howey Ou, China

Eighteen-year-old Howey Ou is a climate justice activist in the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world: China.

She grew up in Guilin, a small southern town surrounded by nature. Ou's passion for preserving the natural habitat of her childhood led to an involvement in local and tactical activism. From demanding that her school canteens ban plastic tableware to organising documentary screenings and planting trees in her hometown, she also campaigns for a drastic reduction in the country's carbon emissions (10.357bn metric tons per year, according to Global Carbon Project).

Even though her activism has been welcomed by the international community, with Greta Thunberg retweeting and praising her, in China she has been banned from school and the government has tried to impede her voice and actions.

‘It made me question how a country like mine, with a population of more than 1.4bn, did not have a single young person who was willing or brave enough to stand up and speak out against horrible environmental destruction thats taking place,’ explains Ou.

‘We need collective engagement and collaboration to promote the change we want’
Lua Couto, co-founder, Futuro Possível

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