Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

The Intersections of Our Stories Create the Narrative

Insights + Opinion
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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Penguins are seen near the Great Wall station in Antarctica, Feb. 9, days after the continent measured its hottest temperature on record at nearly 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Xinhua / Liu Shiping / Getty Images

By Richard Connor

Scientists have recorded Antarctica's first documented heat wave, warning that animal and plant life on the isolated continent could be drastically affected by climate change.

Read More Show Less
The Athos I tanker was carrying crude oil from Venezuela when a collision caused oil to begin gushing into the Delaware River. U.S. Department of the Interior

A case that has bounced around the lower courts for 13 years was finally settled yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision, finding oil giant Citgo liable for a clean up of a 2004 oil spill in the Delaware River, according to Reuters.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The buildings of downtown Los Angeles are partially obscured in the late afternoon on Nov. 5, 2019, as seen from Pasadena, California, a day when air quality for Los Angeles was predicted to be "unhealthy for sensitive groups." Mario Tama / Getty Images

The evidence continues to build that breathing dirty air is bad for your brain.

Read More Show Less
Wave power in Portugal. The oceans' energy potential is immense. Luis Ascenso, via Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown

The amount of energy generated by tides and waves in the last decade has increased tenfold. Now governments around the world are planning to scale up these ventures to tap into the oceans' vast store of blue energy.

Read More Show Less
Yellowstone National Park closed to visitors on March 24, 2020 because of the Covid-19 virus threat. William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images

When the novel coronavirus started to sweep across the country, the National Park Service started to waive entrance fees. The idea was that as we started to practice social distancing, Americans should have unfettered access to the outdoors. Then the parking lots and the visitor centers started to fill up, worrying park employees.

Read More Show Less