Isaias Hernandez (he/him) is an Environmental Educator and the Creator of QueerBrownVegan, an educational platform that seeks to provide introductory forms of environmentalism through graphics, illustrations, and videos. His interest for environmentalism started when he was growing up in Los Angeles, California where he faced environmental injustices that eventually led him to earn a B.S. in Environmental Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
Indy Howeth (IH): Why did you decide to start your “@queerbrownvegan” account?
Isaias Hernandez (IHz): QueerBrownVegan is an educational platform and blog where I discuss introductory forms of environmentalism through a more personal and cultural nuanced lens that validates people’s lived experiences. I created QBV back in 2019 after recognizing that I wanted to continue to educate people but without going through an institution which led me to be in online digital spaces. I believe that most of my environmental educators in academic institutions have always failed to emphasize the importance of lived and cultural-based experiences in environmental curriculums.
IH: Has your goal for the account changed since starting it? How and why did you make this shift?
IHz: My work is always evolving and changing, just as my personality and outlook in life continues to be challenged. I believe that at first, I wanted to stay anonymous of who I was, but then realized how much more of a community I was meeting by connecting with other like-minded environmentalists. I believe in collectivized vulnerability and accountability to strengthen my relationships in the environmental community. I made this shift easily but posting more photos of myself, talking more about the injustices I face and why I love environmental education.
IH: Do you believe environmentalism should be decolonized? Why?
IHz: I think it’s important to recognize how we frame “decolonization” and what specific settings we are talking about because I believe that when we partake in environmentalism, we create a disillusion that we are not connected when many of us are Earth. As a non-Indigenous person, I do not use “decolonization” because I recognize how the word has become highly popularized without truly understanding what the word means which I am still actively learning.
The modern environmental movement that is publicized on social media has glorified White environmental activists and celebrities that do not truly have the vision to protect the planet, rather than their own economic growth. So, I see why some people frame that we decolonize environmentalism because it has often centered White voices and this is still seen today with many White environmentalists co-opting theories from Black, Indigenous, and Brown activists and revolutionaries.
IH: What does veganism mean to you and why is it an important part of the larger environmental movement?
IHz: Veganism for me is a lifestyle that creates a circular relationship with both humans and non-human animals. Veganism allows us to understand how oppression is interconnected to sentient beings and if we want liberation, we must think about total liberation for all living species. It’s important for me because industrial agriculture and aquaculture have created global environmental injustice by harming migrant farmworkers and animals. Not only that, but industrial agriculture and aquaculture are large contributors to GDP growth which is unsustainable for our ecosystems. Rural communities that live nearby these industries are facing the highest rates of pollution and are victims of environmental racism. We must understand that if we have the chance to divest from these industries, we can stop harming humans and non-human animals in industrialized settings.
IH: Can individuals really make a meaningful impact in combating climate change? How?
IHz: Yes — not everyone wants to enter the influencer industrial complex. I think it’s about leveraging power, resources, and tasks because in reality, not everyone wants to be known or simply wants to exist while doing environmental work. We must recognize that we are not always radicalized at young ages because we have either been indoctrinated or fed different narratives to assimilate in imperialist countries. To create change is to do self-help for yourself and recognize what skills and passions you want to do. We must be fearless and confident in who we are and individual change provides that self-help.
To create change is to do self-help for yourself and recognize what skills and passions you want to do. We must be fearless and confident in who we are and individual change provides that self-help.
IH: Roughly 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of global greenhouse emissions. What power do consumers really hold?
IHz: I recognize that corporations at the end of the day are focused on economic growth. As consumers, we have the power to unlock thousands of dollars for people who have been exploited in these industries and fight for redistribution models that share the wealth to those who have been the most impacted. We can protest, stop buying, or have conversations with these companies. However, the most important thing we want is that consumers realize that at the end of the day, corporations are rooted in wealth and we have the power to shift our money to other small-owned BIPOC businesses.
IH: What does the zero-waste movement mean to you and why is it important? Is it really possible for people to go zero-waste?
IHz: The zero-waste movement for me is one that is focused on environmental justice, not about individual consumerism. For me, I have always framed zero-waste as a human rights issue. Plastic itself has created a global environmental injustice in many countries having large amounts of plastic due to Western countries. I believe that many communities, most specifically Indigenous People’s have always lived plastic-free lifestyles. In the life of the West, I truly think that zero-waste is framed as not generating any waste which is rooted in perfectionism that upholds white supremacy. I don’t think it’s possible to be truly zero-waste in Western countries and to have the option to buy plastic-free is a privilege.
IH: Many eco-friendly products are expensive. How can you be eco-friendly on a budget?
IHz: I believe that many eco-friendly products already exist in our homes and we need to repurpose what we have. I think the idea of eco-friendly products is often presented as these new shiny objects when in reality we already have some of them in our house from cloth rags that can be unpaper towels, silver spoons to reusable spoons, and Ziploc bags to be reused multiple times. I would argue that to be eco-friendly on a budget is to take time to do the research of what you have in your home that can be reused again.
IH: Does the production of eco-friendly products focus the movement on capitalist solutions rather than policy solutions?
IHz: I think it depends on the company, some do support policy efforts. I do think though that many people that do sell eco-friendly products understand that it’s not the end all be all solution and this is just for people wanting to get started.
IH: How can we be conscious consumers while remaining anti-capitalist environmentalists?
IHz: Supporting small-owned businesses that are focused on mutual aid efforts in your community. To be anti-capitalist is to find businesses that are ethically aligned to justice-oriented values. To recognize how Black, Indigenous, Brown and People of Color are at the forefront of movements and we need to continue fighting for their liberation.
IH: Infographics have gained huge popularity on Instagram. As someone who uses them yourself, why are they, and social media education as whole, useful tools for the border climate movement?
IHz: I think infographics are so awesome — they explore creativity and I do understand that they are not the key to liberation. I use them because I’m able to pour my thoughts into words rather than making art that is something that is difficult for me.
All photos courtesy of Isaias Hernandez.
Answers may have been edited for length.
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