Intersectionality is a lens I like to examine just about every topic with. Using this approach, we can understand that people will experience events differently based on their layers of privilege, oppression, and how they are recognized by society. Looking at climate change intersectionally, we can recognize that climate change has a disproportionate affect on people based on race, gender, and socioeconomic status.
When discussing climate change, it is important to recognize the social obstacles that come out of the physical environmental changes. These social threats come in the form of infrastructure, health, political institutions, and personal livelihoods. Within nations, communities of color, women, and socioeconomically disadvantaged people have more vulnerabilities to the negative impacts of climate change. People with a lower socioeconomic status not only are more vulnerable to climate change, but they lack the influence in environmental policy-making. Without being represented in policy-making decisions, their interests are therefore not necessarily being met and addressed.
Race is also a factor in addition to socioeconomic status when addressing susceptibility to climate change. Looking at the United States, black Americans are more likely to be subjected to higher levels of air pollution than white Americans. A lot of harmful air pollution comes from the burning of fossil fuels and contributes to disease and premature death. People of color are more likely to be exposed to air pollutants because toxic emission facilities are typically located in low-income, communities of color. We can tie this all back to “The Racism Behind American Suburbia” article I wrote a while back, as it talks about the strategic segregation of white people from those of color. With this legal segregation in place, it is easier to place harmful industrial facilities in communities that consist of people of color.
When continuing the conversation of the unequal affects of climate change, it is important to integrate and discuss gender issues. On average, women still have less economic and political status which makes them more exposed to the negatives of a changing climate. Women who live in areas where they are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods, are most affected. Due to women having on average, a lower socioeconomic status and more likely to live in poverty, they have less ability to respond to natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes. Women also have unequal participation when it comes to policy-making decisions and are not able to fully contribute to climate change related policies and implementation.
With all that being said, climate change is something that affects everybody but disproportionally more towards people of color, the socioeconomically disadvantaged, and women. Even if we don’t feel the adverse effects yet, does not mean we shouldn’t care. We cannot let capitalism and corporate greed run this world any longer. Taking action means changing our individual lifestyles and promoting policy change by getting involved in environmental groups and letting your voice be heard. Climate change is real and if we don’t take action soon, we will reap the consequences. I have provided some resources on where I got all my above information as well as resources that discuss the contributors of climate change and what you can do to help. Just remember; a single person can make a huge difference. Let’s change the world.
EPA Finds Black Americans Face More Health-Threatening Air Pollution:
Introduction to Gender and Climate Change:
Overview of linkages between gender and climate change:
Race, Class, Gender and Climate Change Communication:
Kayla Nessmann is a third-year student at SCSU. She studied abroad in Australia last year and is majoring in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Writing and minoring in International Relations. Kayla is very passionate about writing, environmentalism, and violence against women’s issues. She wants to use her degree to combine writing with politics, to help make a change in the world. In her free time, she is writing her first novel, doing outdoor activities, interning at the Women’s Center, and being a Human Relations teaching assistant.