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Intersectionality and Climate Change: Lessons from London Climate Action Week 2021

As the largest independent climate event in Europe, this year’s London Action Climate Week (LCAW) was held between 26th June and 4th July. In addition to leading climate experts, communities across London and beyond were brought together to find solutions to the climate crisis. From discussions regarding the future of the sustainable city and the fintech revolution, to showcases of art installations and community gardens, LCAW 2021 covered just about everything.

Poster that says "Love & protect our beautiful earth" at Marble Arch, London

Photo from Unsplash

Discourse surrounding climate change is usually reserved for the input of a privileged few. However, this year’s LCAW saw a major focus on diversifying the voices in these crucial conversations. Under the category “Whole of Society Climate Mobilisation”, 72 of the 274 events held during the week delved into the socio-cultural aspects of climate change and climate action.

On a global scale, talks such as “The Climate Crisis and War” explored how the environmental destruction of modern warfare is inextricably linked to oppression such as classism, racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. In a similar vein, a talk called “The Emotional Burdens of Oppression and the Climate Crisis” built upon the role of oppression as a tool that divides and ultimately constrains our collective ability to tackle climate change. While the talk “Subversive Catwalk: Women, Fast Fashion and Climate Justice” compellingly navigated the disproportionate plight of women, in both the global north and south, at the hands of the fashion industry - claimed to be the second most polluting industry in the world. Underpinning these talks, among many, is the severe need for a spotlight on intersectionality on the world’s climate change stage.

More locally, talks such as “Supporting the next generation of female climate pioneers” explored how start-ups in the London climate innovation space benefits from investing in female students and researchers. And, “How to nudge everyone to be an environmentalist” enlightened us with the innovative ways different groups can be targeted to transform consumer habits in the UK.

Beyond the near-endless talks, were also workshops and art installations from London-based communities and organisations. Many of the workshops concentrated on how best to teach climate change in UK schools, highlighting the importance of arming future generations with the knowledge and impetus to engage in climate issues. While local artists, such as Atul Kumar and Fatma Kadir, creatively forced all audiences to confront the realities of climate change. In illuminating the work of UK climate action pioneers and the plague of single-use plastic, for example, such art facilitated deeper conversations on the power of collective local action.

The need for a holistic, multi-disciplinary, and importantly, multi-cultural approach to addressing climate change is plain to see. Diverse perspectives are needed to nurture diverse solutions for one of the biggest problems facing society today.

It’s easy to view climate change as this looming, inescapable force. No matter how much we ditch single-use plastic, use public transport, or remember to switch off the lights - it feels like any effort is dwarfed by the sheer enormity of the issue. Of course, we need to hold governments and multinational corporations to account. But, for me, the biggest takeaway from LCAW 2021 is that intersectional, community-driven change is the key.


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