Monday, April 26, 2010

Some Thoughts on Community

This is an explication about my feelings about Earthy Day. There is a lot to be said about its origins and current effectiveness in actually changing public consciousness around environmental concerns. That is a good conversation but there are other issues too. Some of those issues are the reason why the Environmental movement stumbles so often.

It all comes down to politics. Maybe you remember PETA using models (scantily covered by leaves of lettuce) to advertise that they would rather be naked than wear fur. This is a noble sentiment, but it trades off the exploitation of animals for women.

Recently while attending an Earth Day celebration here in Portland I was able to experience this first hand, again. First the good things. The Earth Day celebration was put together by City Repair which focuses on sustainable community building. There were a lot of great booths there, with tons of good information, and it made me really want to push my ‘green’ boundaries. We saw some friends, chatted with everyone, and March Fourth played (eventually). A good time.

But for as much as a love that community of hippies, neo-luddites and primitivists, permaculture activists, back-to-the-landers, urban farmers, and all things sustainable, I am not welcome into that community. So my excitement for these topics is always tempered by the knowledge that my body and my identity aren’t as warmly welcome.

To out myself, I am a queer gender-queer transdyke. I do not try to pass, and so I often do not. Perhaps my sense of unease in this community is caused by their own unease with my identity. And that is the problem. They may have good politics around environmental concerns but are bad on issues of diversity.

On Saturday I saw a crowd of white, mostly young, middles-class, cisgender, and heterosexual people claiming to try to save the world and all its inhabitants. So there are issues around cultural appropriation (see emphasis on Native American culture and Eastern spirituality); around race (Portland is a white city unfortunately, and that crowd was whiter); around gender and sexuality (this includes stumbling attempts around my gender including being asked outright).

In a sense this is a call to all environmentalists to check their politics and their privilege. If you hope to save the world you need to include everyone, and most of the world is not white. If you want allies and progress everyone needs to be included, accepted, and welcomed. Simply diversity statements do not cut it. Unless you can make a culture that is inclusive Earthy Day will remain an event for the privileged.



  1. It always amazes me how closed minded people are. I'd gladly have you as you are on my side fighting the fight to make things better. Come on over sometime the door is open.

  2. thanks for sharing this. very sorry that you didn't feel welcome! race and gender issues are very important to the folks at city repair, if you have any thoughts or suggestions as to how we could improve our ability to embrace and appreciate diversity at our events, let me know!

    ps: so true about peta! pisses me off! >:O