Land conservation seeks to protect the interconnected ecosystems that preserve biodiversity and the beneficial services ecosystems provide for non-humans and humans, including climate resilience. From extreme temperature and flooding events to increasing cases of childhood asthma diagnoses, the evolving climate crisis reveals how the most underserved communities are disproportionately experiencing the most severe consequences. Stigmatized and low-income populations face structural challenges and are least able to prepare for and recover from severe climate change impacts, and LGBTQ+ people are among these marginalized groups.
Climate-related natural disasters combined with structural barriers will displace more marginalized people and leave them vulnerable to further harm. It is estimated that 40% of the total unaccompanied and homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ+ and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago published a study finding that LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ young people. Despite severe and exacerbated issues like poor health outcomes, resource scarcity, and housing instability, a 2018 study by Arizona State University’s New College details the finding that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to engage in environmental change movements than heterosexual identifying people.
Climate resilience and action and the intersecting social, environmental, and health issues therein can only benefit from the perspectives and solutions of those most affected by structural inequalities and injustices. Our friends at Mass Audubon are flying the Progress Pride flag at their sanctuaries across the state, and hosting events for members of the LGBTQ+ community in celebration of Pride Month. In addition to MassAudubon, meet 8 organizations leading the way for a more just and whole environmental movement building climate resilience in and for their LGBTQ+ communities and beyond.
1. Rock Steady Farm
Rock Steady Farm is a “queer*-owned and operated cooperative vegetable farm rooted in social justice, food access, and farmer training.” Located in New York, the farm applies regenerative and sustainable farming practices while increasing food system equity.
In 2021, Rock Steady Farm launched POLLINATE! a paid training program for beginner queer and trans farmers focusing on removing the barriers to experience in the agricultural field. Through their Food Access Fund, the farm works with donors to provide free and subsidized produce to low-income people in their community and those living with serious health conditions.
2. Out In The Open
Based in Brattleboro, Vermont, the nonprofit Out In The Open connects rural LGBTQ+ people locally and regionally through community care systems. They envision “a resilient community of communities that works toward the transformation of our economic, social, and political relationship” through collective projects, including the We Feed Eachother: Rural LGBTQ Food Traditions zine.
3. Chiltern Mountain Club
Founded in 1978 by Sturgis Haskins, Chiltern Mountain Club (CMC) is a volunteer group that organizes outdoor-related events for LGBTQ+ people of all abilities and backgrounds. Featuring trips across New England, CMC aims to create community-building outdoors experiences that are safe and inclusive.
4. Venture Out Project
The Venture Out Project leads outdoor and wilderness trips for LGBTQ+ people to develop outdoor and leadership skills while building community. The nonprofit organization offers multi-day trips in New England and the western U.S. as well as day hikes, youth trips, service project programming, and provides trans-affirmative community workshops.
5. OUT for Sustainability
Since 2008, OUT for Sustainability (Out4S) has been a leader in the LGBTQ+ sustainability movement. Through advocacy, training, fundraising, and relationship-building, Out4S advocates, trains, fundraises, and builds relationships across the connections between LGBTQ+ communities, sustainability, and justice. As of June 2022, Out4S is growing its QReady initiative, a disaster-preparedness resource specifically designed for the LGBTQ+ community.
6. Queer Nature
Based in Washington state, Queer Nature is a trans-led nature-based/naturalist education project and facilitates place-based survival and self-sufficiency skills lessons for LGBTQ+ and QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) people in affinity-based learning spaces. Another essential aspect of Queer Nature is a framework that elevates the messages of non-human life while promoting ecological awareness and healthy environmental stewardship practices. They see ecological awareness combined with outdoor and place-based skills as vital to resilience building for populations who have been marginalized and silenced.
7. Brave Trails
In 2015, Brave Trails began as a youth leadership camp and is now a national nonprofit organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ youth leadership by offering accredited summer camps, family camps, mentorship, facilitated meet-up groups, consulting, and a mental health program. Brave Trails operates camps in California and Maryland and is beginning to build its “forever home” on a 54-acre site in California’s Angeles National Forest.
8. Our Climate Voices
Founded in 2017, Our Climate Voices (OCV) is a youth-led storytelling platform sharing the perspectives of people and communities most impacted by the current climate disaster. Through their web-based platforms, podcasts, workshops, and on-the-ground actions, OCV storytellers offer frontline perspectives and link listeners to grassroots solutions for a more equitable and sustainable world.
Listen to OCV’s inaugural episode of IN CONVERSATION: An Episode on Climate Justice & Queer and Trans Liberation, and hear from queer and trans climate justice organizers as they discuss the connections and imperatives of prioritizing queer and trans solutions in an everchanging climate situation.
For this article, we use the term LGBTQ+ and recognize that sexual orientation and gender identity are complex. The following definitions are adapted from the HRC Foundation’s Glossary of Terms.
LGBTQ+ – An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning” with a “+” sign to recognize the limitless sexual orientations and gender identities, including but not limited to two-spirit, intersex, asexual, and pansexual.
Queer – A term people use to express identities and orientations that are counter to the mainstream culture. Queer includes many people, including those who do not identify as exclusively straight and/or people who have non-binary or gender-expansive identities. Although previously used as a slur, the term has been reclaimed by parts of the LGBTQ+ movement.