A Green Opposition to a Colorless Proposition

Eco-activists Rachael Carson and Henry David Thoreau didn't call for cleaner air and water for gay people - they raised their clarion call to ignite a flame under all people.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Most of us want what's best for the environment - green jobs, eco-sensitive housing, clean energy, mindful technology, lower or zero emissions, and thoughtful environmentally-conscious industry standards in the hopes of solving Global Warming and creating a healthy planet.

In an ever-growing collective effort, most of us have taken up the mantra "Think Globally, act locally." We feel good about ourselves because of the good that we're doing by recycling plastic, paper, aluminum, glass, scrap metal, fabric and electronics. We're demanding more from our elected officials, and whether "red" or "blue" every candidate was talking "green."

We're getting much savvier, and seeing past the industrial greenwashing around us - calling to task hypocritical polluting companies who've jumped onto the enviro-bandwagon to heighten their image (and profits) while not really doing anything to substantially change their toxic habits or products.

We're slowly but surely altering our behaviors to see towards a brighter, healthier future because we all want what's better for the planet and the individuals and creatures that walk, crawl, swim, hop and fly across its surface--for our and future generations.

The "green" movement was and still is a wonderful and distinctly authentic American development. For generations, authors, organizations, visionaries, activists and great thinkers like Rachael Carson (The Silent Spring), Henry David Thoreau (Maine Woods), Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth), John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, and institutions like the National Park Service, The Sierra Club, Clean Up America (remember the crying Native American!) and the Environmental Protection Agency collectively created what has now blossomed into today's green movement - saving the spotted owl has moved past being just a mere "tree-hugger" issue...because of the callousness we've shown our planet, particularly over the past 50 years, we are finally beginning to see that we reap what we sow, and to understand that our world is a very connected and fragile system. The old story of the flapping of a butterfly's wing on one side of the planet building into a monsoon on the other seems less metaphoric than it once did.

And as it becomes more and more mainstream, perhaps it's time to re-imagine our vision for our environment to include not just the air, water and soil, polar icecaps and polar bears, but our attitudes towards human inclusivity as well. If sustainability is the collective "green" goal, we're already in the mindset of "weaning" behaviors and attitudes to reach that greater collective goal. We're weaning ourselves from plastics. We're weaning ourselves from waste. We're hoping to wean ourselves from foreign energy dependencies. But we have rarely imagined weaning ourselves from our self-made separation of "us" and "them," when the truth of the matter is that we are all in this together--we breathe the same air, we drink the same water, we consume the same fruits of the earth, etc.

But, I have to admit that in the midst of all my joy, excitement and sense of renewed hope last Tuesday when we elected Barack Obama to be our 44th President, I was also cut off at the knees because what at one moment felt like unity was instantaneously smashed by the same electorate.

On May 15, 2008, the Supreme Court of California had overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage, declaring it un-Constitutional. But at the same moment Barack Obama was elected the 44th President, the nasty, mean-spirited, hateful Proposition 8 (the "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act") was passed, and amended California's Constitution to limit the meaning of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. By overriding the Supreme Court decision to recognize same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, Proposition 8 exterminated those rights for same-sex couples. And because if it, California, now sadly has a revised Constitution that once only denied rights but now actually takes rights away. Instead of liberty and justice for all, it excludes. It treats first class tax payers as second-class citizens. Those in the minority will once again be "separate but equal." The same people who made history and elected Mr. Obama in California, while in the privacy of the same voting booth, opted to deny marriage equality and the over 1,000 rights state-sanctioned marriage tiautomatically grants.

As history tells us, both Rachael Carson and Henry David Thoreau both had significant relationships with individuals of the same sex. We still embrace their words and acknowledge them with gratitude as founders of an earth movement and not as gay and lesbian contributors. When they, like every other eco-activist, wrote their groundbreaking theses on the destruction of our perfect planet, they didn't do so calling for cleaner air and water for gay people - they raised their clarion call to ignite a flame under all people. Similarly, Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" didn't consider the sexual orientation or gender identity of those who are affected by climate change - he knows too well that a rising tide raises all boats; and Teresa Heinz Kerry's annual conference, "Women, Health & The Environment" is inclusive of all women and addresses their particular concerns as women, not as straight women, and the risks they are exposed to from eco-toxins.

When I take my reusable shopping bag to the grocery store, I don't think, "Great, one less plastic bag for gay men to have to contend with" and when my twin sister purchased her new highly energy efficient washer and dryer, she didn't say, "Great, more energy for straight people!" So perhaps "green" is where "red" and "blue" and "purple" can meet on the spectrum of human decency. With heartfelt "green" work by many - gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual or transgendered - in an attempt to make an environment that's livable for everyone, hopefully we'll create a political environment that's healthy, meaningful and inclusive for us all along the way.

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community