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Book Review

The Intersectional Environmentalist
by Leah Thomas

Thomas, a Black environmentalist, was motivated to develop intersectional environmentalism by the alienation and racism she experienced in white-led movement spaces. Working for various nonprofits, Thomas had a front row seat to orchestrated arrest scenario planning, and her observations that these actions would turn out very differently if the participants were Black and Brown activists instead of older, white people fell on deaf ears, even as organizers continued to lament the absence of people of color from the movements. After the police murder of George Floyd in 2020, Thomas’ grief and anger crystalized into action: “I wouldn’t do it anymore; I needed to immediately depart environmental spaces that ignore the urgent need for social justice reform.” She started Environmentalists for Black Lives Matter and positive feedback she received helped her develop the intersectional environmentalism framework.

“The Intersectional Environmentalist” is for anyone looking to deepen and broaden environmental activism with a racial justice lens. In fact, she effectively posits that the only way to be an environmental activist is to be an intersectional activist. Thomas assembles documents, weaves different voices together, provides side bars, FAQs and short chapters on the environmental struggles and victories of Chicana, Indigenous, Black, feminist, Asian and queer activists working intersectionally.

In a sobering and instructional section, she calls out the green energy projects from Thailand to Mexico to Chile that multinational corporations are perpetrating on Indigenous land that jeopardize their livelihood, territory, and autonomy. She writes, “within an intersectional approach to environmentalism, we must acknowledge the dark side of green energy and the harm these initiatives have caused to marginalized communities.” The theme of debt comes up again as she points out that “those who are least responsible for the climate crisis are often the most impacted and burdened by it.”

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