Sometimes environmentalism is portrayed as its own movement, separate from every other movement to create a better world. But just as no one’s life is defined solely by one influence, no one movement stands completely on its own. Sure, occasionally there are some conflicts, such as a new environmental technology that's unaffordable for lower income communities, or an environmental movement may need to be tweaked to make it more accessible for people with disabilities, but these conflicts are temporary and will be overcome by activists who know the true value in inclusive activism. At Rust and Fray, we are committed to the idea that environmentalism and human rights are fundamentally inseparable.
Environmental Issues are Human Rights Issues
Combating the great environmental issues of our time is a human rights issue at its core. When looking at climate change, it is predicted that it the Global South will be hit the hardest. It is common for mass media Global Warming discussion to discuss the impact that Global Warming will have in western countries, such as the dangers Florida faces from rising sea levels. But due to the interplay of climates, politics, history, and infrastructure, areas like southern China and Bangladesh will be hit the worst by this. Advocating for fighting global warming is advocating for lives and livelihoods of underprivileged workers.
Furthermore, pollution is at its worst in poorer communities. Currently, Latin America is the center of a water pollution crisis. Making our waters toxic free is important everywhere, but if an activist for the environment wants to have the largest impact, they need to be aware of which places are hit the worst. Remember too that this concentration of pollution is not an accident, as right now wealthy western nations like the U.S. export their pollution. If an environmentalist engages in local environmentalism but refuses to engage in a broader movement, all they end up doing is displacing the problem. That is why people looking to make a positive change for the environment need to make sure those big businesses need to stop creating pollution everywhere.
Human Rights Issues are Environmental
The flip side of this is also true, advocating for Human Rights issues is advocating for environmentalism. In the U.S. the Standing Rock protests and ongoing Flint Michigan crisis demonstrate that fighting for the rights of minority communities has to work with environmental impact. In fact, The Movement for Black Lives, an umbrella organization for multiple movements centering around helping black communities (Including Black Lives Matter) has called for divestment from Fossil Fuels, because they know that environmentalism is key to justice for minority communities.
This holds true for the global community as well. For example, plantation style farming is terrible for the environment. The large scale factory farms that coffee and other cash crops are made from are monocrop cultures that destroy the land around them to churn out a quick profit. But farming cooperatives, where a community of small farmers come together to rotate crops, share traditional farming tips, and support each other, produce a much more environmentally sustainable form of agriculture, all while empowering workers. Often, media groups and large business will try and pit environmentalists and workers against each other, but they are not enemies. We have the power to come up with solutions that work for the workers and for the planet earth.
Ultimately we all share this planet. Justice for a part of the global community is justice for everyone, and environmental action to save the planet can only be good for the people who live on it. When working with a solution to help the planet, we need to think about human rights, and vice versa. Rust and Fray is proud to work with both ideas, and we’re proud so much of the sustainability community sees the importance of this as well.