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It’s about Human Rights, Stupid

I am quick to point out to folks that I do not see myself as an environmentalist. Not that I have any beef with environmentalism, but up until now, it has not been my jam. Sure I have wanted clean air and water, and lived much of the last 20 years as vegan (not currently–blame my husband.) But I have not been part of any environmental movement or group. Instead I have been deeply engaged in the worlds of LGBTQ activism and with faith issues and Bible scholarship.

In 2012  I had an apocalypse about our changing climate. This revelation jarred me awake and caused me to change my focus to learn about climate change and speak out. But it didn’t turn me into an environmentalist. I want the earth to be healthy, but I am in it for the humans, namely human rights. Not that I have anything against animals or want any to go extinct (although a world without mosquitos seems appealing.) It’s just that I am concerned about what happens in a planet that is already unjust and unequal, when it gets stressed to the breaking point. Who finds some comfort and relief? Who gets left behind?image

University of Boulder Environmental Center describes Climate Justice this way:

Climate change is fundamentally an issue of human rights and environmental justice that connects the local to the global. With rising temperatures, human lives—particularly in people of color, low-income, and Indigenous communities—are affected by compromised health, financial burdens, and social and cultural disruptions. Those who are most affected and have the the fewest resources to adapt to climate change are also the least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions—both globally and within the United States.

They go on to explain that the environmental justice movement expands the definition of “environment” to be more than those places where people hike and fish, to the very places where people live.

One key tenet of the environmental justice movement is that it operates from a broader interpretation of ‘environment’ than has historically been used by the environmental movement; one that includes human habitats: places where people live, work and play. To someone involved with environmental justice, your home, office, or school playground is just as much a part of the environment as rivers, forests, National Parks and remote wilderness areas are.

We can then broaden these terms to consider island nations in the South Pacific and nationals in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the coffee growing region in Central America.  Climate change will disproportionately affect those earthings more than than many is North America and Europe. Looking at it that way we see that global warming is not just about science or research or weather, but about people. We are also connected to the other specicies on the planet, so for our stability, peace, and security, we need to address climate change.

On Saturday I will co-present a workshop called, A Queer Response to Climate Change, in Denver for the Creating Change Confernce. My primary hope is to communicate that climate change is not simply an environmental issue, part of the green movement. No it has everything to do with human rights.


Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

This post has 3 Comments

  1. Jen O'Brien on February 5, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    This is exactly the point I make when teaching my high schoolers about climate change. Yes, the science is important, but what really shakes them to the core is seeing the effects of climate change on the people who have done so little to create the problem… those in developing nations, people with little political or economic power, etc. Thanks for this piece that will become a key reading in my classes!

    • Peterson Toscano on February 9, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      Jen, ah, good I am glad. I think they will like Ep 21 of Climate Stew in which I share some of my own story of how I got tangled up in climate action. I am not an environmentalist, not in any traditional sense, but it was the sens of injustic in this crisis–how climate change is so sexist and racist and classist in that it affects a world that needs to address these very issues or risk seeing them magnified when harder times come.

      Thanks for the comment. I always get giddy when someone comments.