From Sea to Plastic Sea
Perhaps you have seen this picture. A boat sits in the water, completely surrounded by plastic bottles, containers, caps, straws and other items. It is a picture of gross pollution, an unquestionable result of human action. According to the non-profit Ocean Conservancy, single-use plastic bags and bottles are the largest sources of trash today. The famous mantra to get into plastics as a career choice in The Graduate now seems to be more ironic than iconic. Plastics today are a source of destruction and death within the world of nature, both flora and fauna.
Peterson Toscano, an LGBTQ activist from Central Pennsylvania, has taken on the seemingly futile task of educating folks on the need to take better care of the environment in which we live each day. Peterson has been traveling both domestically and internationally, delivering an urgent message of hope for the world.
He shared some of his thoughts with me and I asked him a nagging question that had to be asked of him: How are climate change and saving our planet issues for the LGBTQ community? He told me, in eloquent and passionate terms.
“I am not an environmentalist in any traditional sense of the word. While many see climate change as an environmental issue, I instead talk about it as a human rights issue, one that affects some people more than others. With climate change we are all in the same boat together; just not all on the same deck. That is true of so many issues in the world. I remember a time when I was part of a church where I was a second-class citizen. I had gifts, a calling, and skill, but I was blocked access to minister because the pastors did not see me as a real man—a masculine, straight man. I was a part of the church, but I did not have access to the upper decks of ministry. When I learned that climate change operated in the same way, it made me curious. It affects some far more than others. Therefore, I asked, Does climate change affect LGBTQ+ differently than non-LGBTQ+ people? If so, what are queer responses to climate change?”
In his article Save the Unicorn! LGTBQ Responses to Climate Change, published on Huffington Post in February, 2017, Peterson encouraged us to care for LGBTQ seniors and homeless youth. “The reality is that if on a beautiful sunny day, you are experiencing discrimination and challenges with regard to housing, health care, criminal justice, and mobility, these issues only magnify during extreme weather events. Climate change is a threat multiplier that increases the risks the vulnerable among us face. This is true of LGBTQ seniors, transgender and non-binary people, and LGBTQ people of color.”
While Peterson’s audience members are confronted with the painful reality of the world crumbling around them, they leave empowered to make changes, resulting in positive change.
Peterson says “People are desperate for hope—real hope, not some false sense of security. I am honest with my audiences about the threats we face, and I help them see they are equipped and needed to play a significant part in this new and rapidly changing planet. Just this semester I have presented at universities in North and South Carolina, in the Boston area, and in New York. In every place I hear audience members say things like, ‘Wow, that has given me a whole new perspective. I feel like I am important, and I can do something.’”
If you want to read more of what he has to say, Peterson Toscano has a blog site.
Those who live in the Rehoboth Beach area do not need to look far for reasons to become concerned and engaged. The Town of Dewey Beach has a Comprehensive Plan on the books that sets forth a strategy for addressing issues it will face over the next decade or two. Among the concerns outlined is the rising water level in the ocean and Rehoboth Bay. Can you imagine Dewey Beach being under water, and no longer inhabitable?
Recently, a friend shared with me that scientists can tell sea levels are rising just by the speed of water traveling through the Indian River Inlet. The more water going through the channel during tidal changes, the faster the water travels. The Army Corps of Engineers reports the water speed has been increasing in this inlet over the past five decades.
Since politics are local, what can we do? Each day there are steps we as individuals can take to make a difference. When we go out for dinner, let’s ask for paper straws with our drinks. If none are available, decline to use plastic. When we go to the grocery store, let’s take our reusable bags, and decline their plastic bags. While I admit that it is much easier to just grab a plastic water bottle, wouldn’t it be better if I refilled my bottle with tap water?
We only have one planet to leave to future generations. Let’s all take the time to care for it together. ▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter. Email David Garrett