My grandmother actually passed away a long time ago, but I’m imagining what she’d think of our fourth-quarter attempts to reverse all the damage we humans have done. I mean, we’ve come a long way considering her generation built houses with asbestos, threw trash out car windows, and put lead into everything for some reason. But she also was of an era where clothes were made to last forever, when meat was only eaten a couple times a week because it was a luxury item (and the quality reflected that), and plastic did not encase every single inch of every single thing in every single store. Still, I’d love to watch my grandmother roll her eyes at the chicness of the current environmental movement.
Plenty would rightly argue that low-income communities that are plagued with crime, higher rates of disease, and housing and food insecurity must first, rightly, focus on sustaining life before dealing with any types of environmental issues. My grandmother would say that we who grew up without money were environmentalist well before a bedazzled Reduce, Reuse, Recycle shirt on organic hemp was a glimmer in some greentrepreneur’s eye.
When you grow up with very little money, you are already reducing and reusing just by freaking necessity. Wasting anything or flippantly overconsuming was not an option and it was just downright disrespectful to our money and how hard we had to work for everything. If we lost something or, oopsie, left our shit somewhere, that was it. It was gone. Nobody had the money to just replace things. We got things handed down to us and we were stoked about it. We had to share stuff. Sure, we fought over whose turn it was to play with the football or whatever, but our parents and grandparents didn’t care; fight all you want. We still were not going to get more. We made huge, watered-down pitchers of Tang; we weren’t given tiny individual bottles. I don’t even remember plastic bottles when I was younger especially when we coveted most those huge cans of Hawaiian Punch where you had to punch two triangle holes in the top to let it flow.
Not every person in the family had a car – or at least a car that worked. I used public transportation and a bike to get everywhere. And don’t get me started on how we reused things. My grandmother reused EVERY gd container to our constant frustration. YES! I found a tin of dutch sugar cookies! Nope, it’s a tin for needles and thread now. Oh, thank god there’s margarine for my toast …. Nope, that Country Crock tub is actually filled with leftover rice from three days ago – and you betta eat it! Oh, I need something to put my wet bathing suit in after swimming for hours at the community pool … Here’s an old english-muffin bag – and bring it back!
Recycling was not on our minds, I know that much. But my earliest memory of anyone recycling was when folks trying to make extra money fine-combed the trash bins for discarded bottles and cans. Even with the current movement toward recycling, the folks who still diligently go through the bins in my alley leave with full bags. Sure, I make a point to pick up plastic off the street, good for me, but that’s because it’s right in front of me. I’m not going out of my way. These recycle legends are turning over rocks to do things we ignore easily even when we consider ourselves green. Yes, they are incentivized monetarily to recycle, but they are still recycling way more than the new, mainstream movement appears to do.
Ok, maybe back in the day none of us were thinking about the planet and the environment with all these accidentally environmentally-friendly practices. But poor folks have always been environmentalists by necessity. Even if you argue that it wasn’t on purpose, all of the above still lessened the impact. Not being able to over-consume or treat ev-er-y-thing as disposable still contributed to less damage to our earth.
My grandmother would like all the new, swanky environmentally-conscious products out there, but once she’d see the price tag she’d probably conclude that the current environmental movement was not meant for her; it’s not meant for the poor or lower middle class. She would think all the science and panels and summits where experts and scholars get together to politic the next move were a good idea yet wonder why everyday people are left out of the conversation. Again, she’d assume the movement is not for us. She might remind us that the only people that made local change to better the environment were everyday activists encouraging us to think differently about things and to take matters into our own hands. She’d say: back then politicians didn’t care about our dilapidated environment, and now it seems environmentalists really don’t either. Why doesn’t anybody hold the greedy people’s feet to the fire? She’d ask. Mainly, she’d say: If anyone is on track to make money, human beings are an afterthought; the poor and people of color at the bottom of that list.
And as important as environmentalism is to me, I’m afraid of a classist divide.
To me, environmentalism is not separate from a social-justice movement. Of course I want the pureness of nature to stay as pristine as possible. I want the trails and mountains and oceans to be clean and unchoked by pollution and litter. But if I’m not as concerned with the fact that metropolitan cities do not have clean water or that poorer neighborhoods that are disproportionally inhabited by people of color are dumping grounds for trash and toxins or that lands of native people are still ripe for drilling and siege or that corporations profit off the backs of the under-served then I also deepen this divide; then my environmentalism is shallow and not developed enough.
Sometimes it’s all overwhelming, isn’t it? I’m heartsick thinking too much about it all. Looking into the subject of environmental justice is an exhausting exploration of historical missteps where under-served communities have always been a second thought, if any thought at all. And here we all are, a decade or two away from serious, irrevocable consequences, divided.
What would my grandmother say? She’d rub my forehead with her scratchy, calloused fingers and say, Keep going. Have hope. She might also say, Stop thinking about your goddamn self all the time, which, really is an excellent start to mending divide and damage, isn’t it? Mainstream environmentalism is doing a lot of good things to advance the green conversation towards new solutions, and it is extremely important. A mainstream, normalized awareness of waste and over-consumption is certainly needed even if it has been limited. And realizing that the most basic of needs of under-represented people are in real jeopardy because of big and ignored environmental issues will deepen your own green conversation, not to mention your empathetic one. Our sense of justice and our call to action cannot just be for an ailing earth, but for all her inhabitants who suffer most from the consequences of non-green, greed-driven actions.
(Articles to consider: Argument on USING WAY LESS STUFF and REUSING as opposed to recycling – it’s a billion-dollar dirty industry that effects poor communities
Another argument to use less stuff – world trash crisis)
10am Class with Coach Hackelman!
A) For quality:
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of:
B) In teams, for max distance in 15 minutes:
Ski Erg + Rowing Erg
Strategize as you wish!
Parter WOD – He/She Got Game
Max Cal Ski Erg
DB Step Ups – (DB WEIGHT 50/35) (BOX HEIGHT 24/20)
DBALL Ground to Over Shoulder (100/70)
Max Cal Assault Bike
Score = TOTAL REPS