Eco ableism: a phrase that not many of us have heard. Simply a form of ableism, eco ableism is a failure by non-disabled environmental activists to recognize that many of the climate actions they’re promoting make life difficult for disabled people. Aleyna explains further.
Since October 2021, plastic straws have been banned in the UK as single use plastics are at risk of being swept into the ocean and broken down into microplastics. This issue has been dumped on the consumer without considering the effects this has on disabled people. Many disabled people rely on plastic straws and other various single use plastics. However, the lack of intersectionality in this movement has failed to recognise the guilt that has been put on the shoulders of disabled climate activists.
we need to stop labelling accessibility as wasteful
A similar issue surrounds plastic packaging of readily chopped fruit and veg. An initial thought could be that this is unnecessary packaging contributing to the overwhelming issue of single use plastics. What climate activists failed to acknowledge in their attacks on supermarkets is that many disabled people need and benefit from the availability of plastic packaged pre-cut/pre-peeled foods.
Preparing food with limited mobility can be potentially dangerous and tools to help can be very expensive. We need to stop labelling accessibility as wasteful.
Even schemes to encourage less driving and more active living can be harmful. Some disabled people can’t walk or use a bike and rely on specially modified cars or vehicles to go about their day to day lives: going to work, socialising, and generally enjoying life. Again, this creates a bubble of shame around those who have no choice but to partake in these activities.
the world has been designed to erase their needs and existence
Disabled people are everywhere and the world has been designed to erase their needs and existence. Instead of acknowledging how disabled people are disproportionally affected by climate change when creating solutions, they are made to feel shame and guilt for being excluded.
The problems are broader than just exclusionary proposed solutions. Disabled lives are valued less by society, seen as disposable, and often left behind in discussions and forgotten.
Climate activism spaces are also very inaccessible, with the movement often centred around white able-bodied voices. We need to create inclusive spaces to uplift and listen to disabled voices to educate ourselves and unlearn our biases.
Ableism is everywhere. Systemic oppressions will always be reflected in social movements unless active efforts are made to unlearn our ableism. Of course, there is ableism in the climate movement but it is not unique to the climate movement. Ableism is everywhere and intertwined in every aspect of our lives.
Is the world worth saving if only the privileged able-bodied people can stay?
This article is part of Impact Nottingham’s COP26 series. For more articles on the conference check out the link here.
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