On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, it is worth observing that a recent survey demonstrates that LGBT adults lead the nation in awareness of, and concern over, global warming.
The LGBT sector is leading America in “green” consciousness, and has already embraced ideas that green organizers hope the rest of the nation will endorse and act on.
An Echelon Magazine 2009 online survey reports that “two-thirds (66%) of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender adults, say that it is important to support environmental causes, compared with 56% of non-LGBT adults. Three-quarters (75%) of LGBT adults (compared with 53% of heterosexuals) believe global warming is happening right now, and by more than two-to-one proportions, 39% of LGBT adults say they have seen or read Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ while only 20% of heterosexuals say they have seen or read it.”
Apparently our LGBT community also cares about the environment and the future of next generation, whether we have children or not.
“Most significant,” said Bob Witeck of Echelon, “is the measure of global environmental stewardship. Although LGBT households are not parenting as frequently as our non-gay counterparts, 51% say they are concerned about the planet we are leaving behind for future generations – compared with 42% of heterosexual adults. This signals a very high sense of community and cooperation that many LGBT citizens know first-hand.”
What does it mean to say we understand global warming? It means that we understand that human civilization, our planetary ecosystem, and our companion species are all in great peril, as we reach, or may be now surpassing, carbon-induced climate tipping points and the warming of the earth’s land, sea and sky.
Two moral issues: equality and global warming
Dr. Jim Hansen, a NASA climate expert (and the first scientist to warn Congress about global warming 20 years ago at a hearing held by then-Sen. Al Gore), recently declared in The Huffington Post: "The predominant moral issue of the 21st century, almost surely, will be climate change, comparable to Nazism faced by Churchill in the 20th century and slavery faced by Lincoln in the 19th century. Our fossil fuel addiction, if unabated, threatens our children and grandchildren, and most species on the planet."
Hansen is right about the moral implication of continued dependence on carbon energy to fuel our lives and economy. There is also another moral struggle going on by which this generation will be judged. That is the continuing dehumanization, discrimination, hate and violence directed at LGBT people.
Our own hampered civil and personal lives mirrors a disregard for our home planet, which is in crisis from a century of abuse. The mentality that allows desecration of the ecosystem is the same mindset that continues to allow the second-class citizenship of LGBT people everywhere. Ironically, we who are wronged by today’s social norms are the very folks standing on the moral high ground when it comes to the planet and the future of society.
Rebuilding the LGBT and Green alliance
Harvey Milk was a master strategist in terms of alliance building, and 40 years ago, included the environmental movement in the big tent of the fight for LGBT equality.
"The plaque” covering Milk's ashes reads, in part: “[Harvey Milk's] camera store and campaign headquarters at 575 Castro Street and his apartment upstairs were centers of community activism for a wide range of human rights, environmental, labor and neighborhood issues.”
Alliances are good politics in general, as Milk and others have shown in the pursuit of full LGBT equality. Many Greens have also moved beyond eco-purism to embrace alliances with labor, business and other sectors, so the time is right to join forces on issues that matter to both groups.
The time to act is now, as neither Equality nor Greening our society can wait.
It is also appropriate that Greens, clean energy entrepreneurs and a host of other eco-mavens openly welcome the LGBT community to the clean tech revolution and support our equality as well. We are already present at the solar job forums, adopting energy efficiency, leading Green organizations.
We can be seen reliably voting as a block for Green candidates like Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is a leader of climate legislation in the U.S. Senate and is running for re-election in California.
We also need to create our own Green groups within our community.
Ultimately we will need to be at the ballot box for one another, whether the issue is No on Proposition 16, an anti-energy choice bill on the ballot this fall, or a future vote to overturn the gay marriage ban in California.
After all, a world worth living must be both equal and green.
Kathleen Connell, M.A., is from San Francisco. She is a sustainability consultant in San Diego, with a career background at NASA. She is a founding member and current board member of The Sustainability Alliance of Southern California. She blogs about LGBT Equality and Green issues at www.EqualityGreen.blogspot.com