Queer the Path to Net-Zero — The LGBTQ+ Community & Environmentalism

A shot of a queer climate change protest

Today we face some of the greatest challenges in the history of humanity, one of which is undoubtedly climate change. We’re at a defining moment in terms of global warming, and to reduce the growing threat it poses to our continued existence, it’s becoming imperative to seek out increasingly creative solutions. The most creative solutions to such vast problems are often found in unusual places — and sometimes at intersections we might not initially think to explore.

Seeing as we’re in the midst of LGBTQ+ History Month, it seemed only fitting to explore the intersection of the LGBTQ+ community and environmental stewardship — considering both activism solely aimed at protecting the environment and activism designed to protect the environment and improve equality, diversity, inclusion, and acceptance.

When the LGBTQ+ community meets environmentalism

Plenty of research over the last ten years or so has found that people who identify as queer — who, in some contexts, are hidden victims of climate change — are more likely to care about the environment or to be engaged in some form of environmentalism than the mainstream population. For instance, one 2018 study found that gay, lesbian and bisexual people were more than twice as likely to join environmental movements than straight people.

Comparatively, the LGBTQ+ community appears able to affect change quickly and dramatically — whether the objective is environmental protection or community advancement. Interestingly (and somewhat surprisingly), it has managed to make great strides as a whole by taking little steps in smaller subgroups. In other words, queer people have shaped reform on a global scale through piecemeal action, implementing micro-models that larger populations can emulate.

Back to the Land

Many such models are linked to a single geographical location and the way its creators interact with their surrounding environment. For example, take the evolving feminist, lesbian ‘Back to the Land’ movement. This kicked off back in 1960s America before quickly spreading to other countries, with women across the globe shunning male-controlled, consumerist urban centres in favour of communal, female-only rural living.

The movement reconnects queer women with nature and gives them a chance to redefine themselves away from heteronormative constructs. They lead simple lives with environmental protection at its core, choosing sustainably-sourced and home-made products and produce over those industrially-manufactured and shop-bought. They also reject advanced tech and machinery for basic tools and solar power.

Despite many of the communities established under the movement struggling or failing for one reason or another, these ladies have shown the world how people can come together to live in new, fairer, more environmentally responsible ways. Now, I’m not suggesting we all head out to the country and set up communal smallholdings. As idyllic as it sounds, this would never work. I’m merely using ‘Back to the Land’ as an illustration of what people can accomplish when driven by a shared vision.

The movement galvanises women into action that influences change within their own group, and such change accounts for just a small proportion of the activism happening within the wider LGBTQ+ community today. In this instance, environmental protection is part of the battle against capitalism and patriarchy. However, people and companies and governments don’t need the same motivations to start behaving in ways that curb harmful emissions and reduce global warming. They just have to understand that nature is not something to exploit or mistreat, but is instead essential to our continued survival.

Moving forward

Environmental stewardship seems to come naturally to those within the LGBTQ+ community, perhaps because they have a heightened awareness and reduced acceptance of inequalities. They’ve had a clearer glimpse into the world’s darker side than heterosexuals. For that reason, queer people can act as leaders in sustainability, using their unique experiences to develop effective solutions to climate change. They can take a leaf out of the ‘Back to the Land’ book, supplementing global measures with small, concentrated efforts.

These could help us queer the path to net-zero and save our planet quicker!

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Behavioural psychologist; AI-quisitive; EY UK&I Client Technology & Innovation Officer. Views my own & don't represent EY’s position. catrionacampbell.com

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Catriona Campbell

Catriona Campbell

Behavioural psychologist; AI-quisitive; EY UK&I Client Technology & Innovation Officer. Views my own & don't represent EY’s position. catrionacampbell.com

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