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Why climate change is an LGBTQ issue

Although climate change affects everyone, it affects some far more than others. The ‘some’ includes those living in the Global South, Indigenous peoples and people of colour. But climate change also affects members of the LGBTQ community in distinct, unique and terrible ways.

The vulnerability of homeless people

Homelessness plays a big part in how climate change will affect LGBTQ people. In the US, 40% of the homeless youth are LGBTQ while in the UK it is 24%. Research shows that being LGBTQ is often directly related to why they are homeless in the first place; the primary reasons being parental rejection, abuse within the family, sexual exploitation, mental health issues or being exposed to aggression, violence, bullying and alcohol abuse.

If you’re homeless, you are highly vulnerable to weather changes such as extreme heat, cold, storms or floods. When climate change starts to degrade our food supplies, nourishment and fresh water will be hard to come by as well. And as society frays and people struggle with depleting resources in an uncertain world, violence is likely to rise.

So if a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population are LGBTQ and climate change makes them more vulnerable, then this planetary emergency should be of great concern to the community.

The elder LGBTQ community

Then there are vulnerable members of the older LGBTQ community. Many in this community already feel on the margins of society but that marginalisation can grow as people age. Old age can bring with it a raft of vulnerabilities that compound existing issues, such as loneliness, victimisation and lack of support.

Climate change will bring about freak weather events that can trap already vulnerable old people. If a flood comes, can they get upstairs? If a snowstorm hits, who will dig them out? If the power goes out, will they be safe? If you are marginalised, then these issues are even more dangerous and potentially fatal.

When younger members of society are struggling with their own situation, are they going to have the time or resources to help an old person down the street who lives on their own? It’s a terrifying prospect for many.

 

A future of past prejudice

And finally, there is the fear of a return to the past. Some of the most recent victories for the LGBTQ community rest on a delicate balance. Having fought so hard in these battles, the climate and ecological crisis threatens to destroy it all.

The very worst of climate change is hard to comprehend; mass starvation, mass violence and societal breakdown. We saw what happened when people ran out of toilet paper at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. What will happen when people run out of food?

When this breakdown occurs, relatively new societal values, and the people they impact most, will become prominent and obvious targets.

If this sounds too far-fetched, consider the everyday homophobia that exists not just online and on social media, but within the mainstream media and press. If that sort of prejudice can exist so blatantly now, there is no reason why it wouldn’t quickly leach back into society as we are threatened by the effects of climate change.

So what can we do?

The world is heading towards catastrophic climate change, with likely temperature increases of 2-3C in the next few decades. The impact of this will be felt by everyone on the planet. We therefore don’t have the luxury of time to wait for all of our politicians and corporations to wake up to the emergency at the door. We can take matters into our own hands.

There are practical actions we can take in our everyday lives right now. These may seem like small actions, but when combined, lead to giant political, economic and societal changes.

  • Switch to a 100% renewable energy provider. They are often cheaper.
  • Reduce your meat intake or cut it out all together. This is the single biggest positive impact you can have on climate change.
  • Switch bank accounts to a company that doesn’t fund climate change (click here).
  • Become an activist. You don’t need to glue yourself to anything, but there are practical actions we can all take (click here).
  • Ditch fast fashion. The industry produces more carbon emissions than shipping and aviation combined. (click here).
  • Use your democratic power. Write to your MP and demand urgent and effective action on climate change.
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