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The Intersections of Our Stories Create the Narrative

Insights + Opinion
The Intersections of Our Stories Create the Narrative
Activists in the Netherlands hold sign that reads "Climate Justice." Vincent M.A. Janssen / Pexels

By Cole Taylor

Storytelling is the heart of activism and community building. Part of my story is standing on the Fred Hartman Bridge and blocking the Houston Ship Channel for 18 hours on Sept. 12. Why did I feel compelled to do something like this? It really comes down to the many stories that make up my life, community and passion.


The Houston Ship Channel is the largest fossil fuel thoroughfare in the U.S. and the second largest in the world. While standing on that bridge, I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen in my life. As the sun rose, the stark reality of the oil refineries and smokestacks of choking smoke came into view. Soon after, a rainbow arched over the bridge and dolphins swam underneath it. And still the air was thick with chemical fumes and toxic smells.

The Houston Ship Channel is the largest fossil fuel thoroughfare in the U.S. and the second largest in the world. While standing on that bridge, I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen in my life. As the sun rose, the stark reality of the oil refineries and smokestacks of choking smoke came into view. Soon after, a rainbow arched over the bridge and dolphins swam underneath it. And still the air was thick with chemical fumes and toxic smells.

Prior to standing on top of the Fred Hartman Bridge I hadn't been surrounded by the fossil fuel industry in that way. I didn't grow up next to oil refineries, or coal plants. I was lucky because of the privilege of my skin color and where I was born in Orange County, California. I grew up close to the poverty line but, I was able to afford to live a life where I did not have to worry about the systems of power and oppression, which for the most part, did not affect me all that much.

Being a part of a marginalized community wasn't something I had experienced until I was older. When I turned 18 I came out as a lesbian, and then when I was 33 I came out as a transgendered male. Being a part of the queer community is what sparked my passion and need to stand up against the systems of power and oppression. My viewpoint broadened after years of working within activist spaces, where I realized the people who were getting out into the community getting their voices heard were mainly cis-gendered white people. It was apparent to me that if we were going to enact change, intersectionality needed to be at the forefront. I needed to act, and it needed to happen now.

Black, Brown, Indigenous and Queer folks are the most impacted by climate change. According to author Alexander Cheves on them.us, "trans and gender-nonconforming youth of color — are 120 percent more likely to be homeless than our straight, cisgender peers." Where do these people go when the extreme weather conditions hit, conditions becoming increasingly prevalent with climate change? As extreme storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy become more commonplace, low-income communities will be the most affected.

Now is the time to act! Twenty-one other activists and I have been charged with a federal misdemeanor for obstruction of navigable waters, and a state felony of blocking critical infrastructure. These"critical infrastructure" laws were created to criminalize protests against oil and gas. We are the first people to be charged with this law in Texas and in the country (similar laws exist in around half a dozen states, with many bills coming up in state legislatures across the country each cycle). Along with being criminalized for standing up against the tyranny of the fossil fuel industry, while in the Harris County jail we all went through dehumanizing and unethical treatment. We are out and safe for now, but thousands of people within this system are still being dehumanized.

This is just part of my story ⁠— our story. I ask everyone reading this to create their own narrative that will carry on for decades to come. The time for action has come, and the time for our collective stories to change the world for the better is just beginning.

Reintroducing wolves is on the ballot in Colorado. Gunner Ries / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Tara Lohan

Maybe we can blame COVID-19 for making it hard to hit the streets and gather signatures to get initiatives on state ballots. But this year there are markedly fewer environmental issues up for vote than in 2018.

While the number of initiatives may be down, there's no less at stake. Voters will still have to make decisions about wildlife, renewable energy, oil companies and future elections.

Here's the rundown of what's happening where.

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A health care worker holds a test for patients suspected of being infected with coronavirus at the Center Health Vicoso Jardim on April 30, 2020 in Niteroi, Brazil. Luis Alvarenga / Getty Images

By Alexander Freund

The World Health Organization, along with its global partners in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has announced that it will provide 120 million rapid-diagnostic antigen tests to people in lower- and middle-income countries over the next six months. The tests represent a "massive increase" in testing worldwide, according to the Global Fund, a partnership that works to end epidemics.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on Sept. 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. Scott Olson / Getty Images

The first presidential debate seemed like it would end without a mention of the climate crisis when moderator Chris Wallace brought it up at the end of the night for a segment that lasted roughly 10 minutes.

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Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The wildfires that roared through Eastern Washington in September had a devastating impact on an extremely endangered species of rabbit.

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A protestor in NYC holds up a sign that reads, "November Is Coming" on June 14, 2020 in reference to voting in the 2020 presidential election. Ira L. Black / Corbis / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard

What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.

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