Celebrating LGBTQ+ Climate Leaders, Influencers and Organizations
The climate crisis affects all of us who live on planet Earth. But, it doesn’t affect us all equally.
According to the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), marginalized populations — including the queer community — will experience the greatest impacts of climate change.1
Research shows that marginalized communities are more susceptible to discrimination, exclusion, and violence, which too often leads to homelessness or inadequate housing in areas more likely to feel the impact of air pollution or flooding.2 A report by Princeton also found that low-income and minority communities are more likely to live near industrial facilities, and therefore are at a higher risk for chemical exposure.3
As we work to combat climate change, we must also work to fight the hatred and stigma the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) community faces every day. So this Pride Month, EcoWatch has chosen to highlight some of the individuals in this community that are using their platforms to do both of those things.
LGBTQ+ Environmental Leaders and Influencers to Celebrate
Fortunately, there are hundreds of LGBTQ+ environmental activists working hard to eradicate these inequalities and work toward a more sustainable and equitable future. While Pride Month may only last 30 days, these climate leaders work 365 days a year to better the planet and all those who inhabit it.
Rose Marcario: Patagonia
Rose Marcario (she/her) served as the CEO of Patagonia for more than a decade and is credited with leading the outdoor retailer through record profits and new environmental commitments.
She left the company in 2020 in an effort to pursue more direct ways to fight climate change, including becoming a board member for Meati Foods (a plant-based meat-alternative company) and Rivian (an electric vehicle company). Most recently, Marcario became a partner at RenGen Ventures, a company that funds “regenerative technologies” — or innovations that work with nature instead of against them.
Speaking of Patagonia…
Wyn Wiley: Pattie Gonia
If you didn’t think it was possible to rock climb in heels, Pattie Gonia will prove you wrong. Drag Queen and environmentalist extraordinaire, Pattie Gonia first rose to fame on TikTok in December of 2020.
She’s known for bringing attention to environmental mistreatment with clever quips on everything from climate change to littering while strutting in beautiful dresses made out of trash, leaves and other zero-waste items. Out of drag, the gay man behind Pattie is Wyn Wiley, a photographer and self-proclaimed intersectional environmentalist from Nebraska.
Deseree Fontenot: Queer Ecojustice Project
Deseree Fontenot (she/her and they/them) is the co-founder of the Queer Ecojustice Project (QEP). The platform creates collaborative projects focused on ecological justice and queer liberation to catalyze culture, consciousness and community.
Fontenot is a queer black organizer, farmer and grassroots ecologist with a passion for land and liberation, climate justice and ecological education. Before co-founding QEP, Fontenot was a co-organizer of the People of Color Sustainable Housing Network and is currently part of the staff collective for the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project in Oakland, California.
Vanessa Raditz: Queer Ecojustice Project
Vanessa Raditz (they/them) co-founded QEP alongside Fontenot and they, too, have an extensive resume. Raditz is a queer biocultural geographer, educator and storyteller. They’re dedicated to community healing, opening access to land and resources, and fostering a thriving local economy based on ecological resilience.
Raditz co-organized the Queers4ClimateJustice movement, serves on the board for OUT for Sustainability and directed a documentary called “Fire & Flood: Queer Resilience in the Era of Climate Change,” after their own experience with the 2017 Tubbs fire.
Oh, and Raditz is also currently working toward a Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, so that’s soon to be “Dr. Raditz ” to you.
Joseph Toolan: Chesapeake Bay Trust
Joseph Toolan (he/him) is a Guatemalan-American who raises environmental awareness and stewardship in his role at the Chesapeake Bay Trust — a nonprofit grantmaking organization in Annapolis, Maryland. Toolan leads the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice work for the Trust and focuses on the management of conservation and youth environmental education.
Toolan’s advocacy goes way beyond the Trust, though. He’s also Chair of the Board of Annapolis Pride, Chair of Maryland’s LGBTQ Affairs Commission and is involved in several other organizations, including OUT for Sustainability.
Rachel Kyte: Tufts University
Rachel Kyte (she/her) made history as the first female dean at the Fletchers School at Tufts University after teaching as a professor in sustainable development. She’s also the former CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), an international organization that works in partnership with the United Nations and leaders in the private sector, philanthropies and other organizations to create equity around sustainable energy.
Paul Getsos: United Today, Stronger Tomorrow
Paul Gestos (he/him) is a New York-based environmental activist who is focused on encouraging others, especially marginalized communities, to join the climate movement.
He served as the national coordinator for the People’s Climate Movement and co-authored the book “Tools for Radical Democracy: How to Organize for Power in Your Community.” Currently, Getsos is project director for United Today, Stronger Tomorrow, an organizing project to help improve inequalities that were brought forward by the COVID pandemic.
Isaias Hernandez: Queer Brown Vegan
Isaias Hernandez (he/him) is a Mexican-American environmental educator and founder of Queer Brown Vegan — an Instagram account with more than 100,000 followers aimed at teaching others about environmental justice, veganism and how to live a zero-waste lifestyle.
Hernandez has grown beyond the social media platform, attending climate summits and speaking at events about how environmentalism and sustainability have helped him with his identity. Growing up in a low-income household, Hernandez uses his platform to bring awareness to climate inequalities faced by low-income and marginalized communities.
Dean Jackson: Hilltop Urban Gardens
Dean Jackson (they/them) is a Black, trans, non-binary farmer who founded Hilltop Urban Gardens (HUG), a community-based urban agriculture, justice and equity organization based out of Tacoma, Washington.
HUG is focused on food independence, partnering with community organizations to produce and distribute fresh, affordable, healthy, sustainable and culturally appropriate food to lower-income families. Through HUG, Jackson has also hosted a Black Earth Day event and worked to build a Food School to teach minority communities how to garden.
Christine Hallquist: Vermont Electric Cooperative
You may recognize Christine Hallquist as the first trans majority-party candidate for governor in the U.S., but she’s made great strides for climate change outside of politics.
Hallquist served as the CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative for more than a decade, helping to transform the energy company into a leader in the renewable electricity space. She continues to work to fight climate change and bring more sustainable energy solutions, including solar energy, to her home state of Vermont.
LGBTQ+ Climate Organizations
Looking for ways to support the LGBTQ+ community in the fight against climate change and inequalities? Here are a few organizations dedicated to the cause, some of which are founded and/or supported by the climate leaders mentioned in this article. We’ve included their mission statements below and encourage you to get involved.
- OUT for Sustainability: “A platform for co-creating climate resilience and environmental justice by and for LGBTQIA+ communities. We do this through advocacy, training, fundraising, and relationship-building.” (Read our article on OUT for Sustainability)
- Queers x Climate: “An international organization dedicated to unite and support climate and LGBTQ+ activism to develop and implement solutions for our common global climate crisis.”
- Queer Ecojustice Project: “We are storytellers weaving together the threads of a complex, multidimensional story of queer survival and collective ecological futures through collaborative projects that aim to catalyze culture, consciousness, and community.”
- Our Climate Voices (OCV): “Our mission is to humanize the climate disaster through storytelling, contribute to a shift in the climate change dialogue that puts the voices of those most impacted at the forefront of the conversation, and to connect people with ways to support the community-based climate solution-making work that frontline and vulnerable communities are already doing to combat climate impacts.”
- Queer Nature: “Our program envisions and implements ecological awareness and place-based skills as vital and often overlooked parts of resiliency-building and enchantment-tending for populations who have been marginalized and even represented as ‘unnatural.’ Our curriculums strive to go beyond recreation in nature to deep, slow, and thoughtful engagement with the natural world to build inter-species alliances and an enduring sense of belonging for all.”