The Queer Green Revolution

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gay-350October 24 marked the International Day of Climate Action on which people in 181 countries came together for the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet’s history. They collectively organized 5200 events, calling for strong action and bold leadership on the climate crisis. Leading up to the one-day global campaign was a huge internet-based momentum-building effort by activists all over the world. What a magnificent campaign put together. And they did it by harnessing the power of online technology and pioneering a new and creative strategy of global organizing. Instead of creating a new organization and wasting time and energy on NGO politics and structure, created a single powerful message and asked the already active groups working on the ground in every country in the world to join in on that message. It created toolkits and shared ideas of different tactics that groups where using, thereby amplifying the power of a single action into a strong link in a global chain of actions, all leading up to the same goal. That one day on October 24 exemplified what the world would look like if all of its people came together to take a stand against the powers that be.  In Beirut, our good friends at IndyACT screened The Age of Stupid, a mesmerizing film that left me with intriguingly paradoxical feelings of simultaneous helplessness and hope. What does that have to do with homosexuals, you ask? Plenty.

What progressive environmentalists are pushing for at the COP-15 Copenhagen Climate Conference this coming December is a treaty that is fair, ambitious, and binding. And they want the world’s leaders to sign it. Through this deal (apparently the only one that can save the planet from disastrous climate effects over the next 40 years), the governments of the world would be forced to work together and share their resources. At the heart of the proposed deal is the idea that every human being must get equal access to the remaining energy resources on earth. It is also, in effect, a campaign against consumerism. To me, the idea that governments of the world would actually sign this (even if they had guns to their heads) seems absurd. I don’t know which planet environmentalists are living on to dream of humanity accomplishing such a feat. And yet, the eternal optimist in me has to admit: if there was ever a time in our human history (except for the sci-fi alien invasion scenarios) where we could all unite, this could very much be it. People don’t understand what’s at stake here: our species. Humanity. Human beings. We, people, would become extinct unless we all stand together and treat each other equally. What stronger argument do we need? I have always envied environmentalists for their straightforward argument: “or else we’re all going to die.” I wish we, LGBT activists, could lobby for our rights by saying “treat LGBTs equally or else we’re all going to die.”

The reason we’re in this big mess to begin with is that people have had the right to have more than others, to take from others, to enslave others, and to oppress others. What activists are calling for from COP-15 is an entire shift in the way we understand economics and politics. They are calling for a world that is fair. My concern is that the analysis of what is fair has not entirely encompassed issues of all oppressed factions of society. Recent studies (such as this one by UNFPA) have shown that gender equality can reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts and that women are uniquely positioned to help curb the harmful consequences. Feminists have picked up on their strong linkage to climate change activism and last week, the F-Word published 9 inspiring examples of women’s climate activism. What remains to be fleshed out, however, is the relation of heteronormativity (enemy of the queers) to climate change. And that’s not in order for us to ride the wave of activist popularity today. It is because we know that true change in power dynamics on a global scale (which is what is needed for our human survival) cannot be achieved if we do not tackle inequity at its roots. And we, as queers, know that heteronormativity and gender normativity sit right there on the same bench as sexism, patriarchy, classism, racism, colonialism, occupation, militarism, fundamentalism, corporatism, and consumerism. We know that all of these ills are interconnected and that they will either fall together or stand strong together. We know that sexual rights of people – women and youth especially – are oppressed by religious and capitalist institutions that depend on the picture-perfect idea of a heteronormative family. We know that we have to radically change the way people understand and think about their power struggles, rather than change a particular manifestation of this struggle, such as grant a certain legal right or raise a certain minimum wage. We need to go beyond the simplistic argument that LGBT activists like Peter Tatchell are using: “There is not much point campaigning for LGBT human rights unless we have a habitable planet on which to enjoy these rights.” Duh. That is not the point. The point is that we have to make it clear that we will not be de-prioritized or left out of the political agenda. Environmentalists are fighting for a healthy and equitable planet. We need to voice clearly what equality means to us.

Otherwise, with or without a fair, ambitious, binding treaty in COP-15, climate change will become the next weapon of terror used by the people in power to manipulate, frighten, impoverish, and eradicate us, as they have done for so long. When climate change is used as a security threat to privatize more of the earth’s resources and energy production, the already-marginalized will be first in line to get knocked off the planet. So if (and hopefully when) this December marks the beginning of a green revolution, let it be a queer green revolution. And let us figure out what a queer green revolution would entail.


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