The Voice of @queerbrownvegan
Isaias Hernandez is an Environmental Educator and creator of QueerBrownVegan where he creates introductory forms of environmentalism through colorful graphics, illustrations, and videos. He seeks to provide a safe space for like-minded environmentalists to advance the discourse around the climate crisis.
1. What made you become an environmentalist?
For me, being an environmentalist stems from injustice and recognizing that powerful oppressive structures threaten the justice of life itself. While media often influenced how I thought environmentalists looked like, I wish I had taken the time to recognize my community, especially those in my life that never labeled themselves an environmentalist. An environmentalist, often defined as a person concerned with or advocates the protection of the environment. You don't need to live a particular lifestyle to be an environmentalist, as I am sure that we define ourselves through our lived experiences. To call ourselves environmentalists means fighting to preserve and dismantle a poisonous system that upholds extraction, destruction, and colonization. Indigenous People's still exist today and protect much of the biodiversity.
One thing that I've always advocated for is that people extend themselves to dig deeper than what the term means. Yes, local + system change is so significant, but also realizing that defining ourselves as environmentalists takes a lot of work and understanding of how we position ourselves in spaces. Environmental dimensions exist in various forms, which is why we see so much uniqueness in our work.
When I was growing up, academia often reinforced the idea that you needed to go to higher education to achieve this to be an environmentalist. Dismantling that hierarchy was great for my mind, but I often feel like it manifests itself in many environmental movements. Investing less on the label and reinvesting in the work we do can do in our proximity can hopefully disrupt the change of how we label ourselves environmentalist. Anti-Racism work is integral when extending ourselves to learn more about how environmentalism is interconnected—being uncomfortable isn't about shaming yourself but providing an opportunity to regrow.
2. You often preach about the power and value of imperfections. Can you explain why?
Being an imperfect environmentalist makes you a better environmentalist. Normalize being imperfect environmentalists for your mind, community, and most importantly, your work. Coming in terms with imperfection makes you a better environmentalist than upholding yourself to a higher standard that is not recognizable to you. During my early environmental work, I held people dear to me on pillars rather than treating them as living beings. Whether through education, activism, art, singing, photography, etc., we've all had and continue to have ups and downs. Society reinforces the idea of having specific characteristics is what makes us certain environmentalists. There is no one set image of how an environmentalist looks like and that's the beauty of it. We can define ourselves even without labels as long as we recognize our intrinsic value.
1.) Perfectionism is not natural, but imperfections are organic.
2.) Doing your best of what you can do rather than what you want to do creates realistic versions of how your work can translate into environmentalism.
3.) Recognizing mistakes is not harmful, but instead places to improve on. For example, the first time I went Vegan (early 2018) and was accidentally given cheese, I started over my journey because I felt that I failed my community.
4.) Being better is not about seeking congratulations from others but a form of self-love to undo harmful work.
5.) Speaking about imperfections disrupts the ideals of what it means to be an environmentalist and allows others around you to define what it means to be environmentalists for themselves.
3. How can the environment be racist? Can you explain environmental racism?
Environmental racism is a concept from the environmental justice movement that looks into the policies and practices that discriminate against communities of Black, Indigenous, and POC. It looks into the economic inequalities that communities often face with how they are designated in location based on socioeconomic status and race. These communities are often forced to live in areas that are near landfills, sewage plants, and other toxic facilities.
The environmental justice movements look into the grassroots organizations that have demanded minorities to be represented in political decisions and practices during governmental processes. Regulators often ignore these communities and push their demands to the side. According to Dr. Robert Bullard, "Zipcode is the most powerful predictor of health and all communities. And all zip codes are not created equal." Environmental racism is happening everywhere, especially in the United States, where predominately the cases for environmental racism are in Black / Brown communities. The EPA has the office of Civil Rights but has claimed that it has not found a single instance of environmental racism - which is a total lie! Authorities in the United States are tampering with data sets to ensure the minimization of reports that are sent through. They are literally trying to murder these communities, and this is why we have to continue mobilizing and fighting for Environmental Justice! As someone who comes from a city that has experienced environmental racism, it takes a lot of dedication and community support to mobilize for action. I hope you find this information helpful the next time you talk about environmentalism wherever you may be.