Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a discussion of a film concerning a critical environmental issue in my hometown. Vicious Women, a film by Jennifer Lee about a couple’s activist efforts to fight gentrification in Atlanta. The couple, Teri and Iris, rebel against attempts to urbanize and renovate Little Five Points, a local area in Atlanta where the city planned to displace a watershed. Lee said these efforts are important in many current environment issues.

Gentrification threatens the environment of many cities. / Urban Landscape – Rising gentrification / Carlos Martinez / Creative Commons

“Neighborhood activism is extremely important, particularly now, when corporations are going to keep getting stronger and stronger,” Lee said.

One strategy to protect against climate change is to mitigate the problem before it has the opportunity to develop even further. And activism against gentrification requires a similar approach; it should happen early in order to stop an issue. The more a city is gentrified, the less they remember the importance of preserving nature, and the less people resist further development.

“People are coming in and replacing woods and forests with condos,” Teri said of gentrification. “Anyone who moves into that neighborhood after that point has ‘landscape amnesia.’ They have no memory that the woods were ever there, and they don’t understand their importance.”

To me, this film exemplifies an example of the grassroots efforts that individuals can take against environmental issues. I feel that climate change is often overlooked as something that we can’t deal with on an individual level. And to some extent, that’s true; climate change is a global issue that must be addressed through national and international policies and efforts. 

Teri and Iris fought gentrification in Little Five Points, a local area in urban Atlanta. / little five points/ Pawel Loj / Creative Commons

However, it is also relevant on an individual level—a fact that is often not discussed. For instance, choosing to eat a vegetarian diet can reduce the quantity of greenhouse gases associated with livestock, and taking public transportation can cut back on carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels for car fuel.

Other efforts, such as those by Constance Okollet’s are more hands-on. Even though she is a woman from a predominantly small, poor community in Uganda, Okollet was determined to play a part in climate change mitigation. She has given speeches both at home and internationally to share climate change stories and tell people that they are not helpless in the fight to prevent global warming. 

Constance Okollet is a leader in the fight against climate change. / Constance Okollet, Uganda / Oxfam International / Creative Commons

Similarly, Irene Barbara Amayo has participated by becoming the chairperson of the Osukuru United Women Network, an organization that focuses on adapting to the effects of climate change. The network educates and prepares its community to care for poultry farms, tree nurseries, and kitchen gardens to combat the changes in agriculture and malnutrition associated with climate change.

Fighting against development is just one method of fighting climate change, but through this method, Teri and Iris exemplify how one can approach an issue controlled by government in order to make tangible change. I found their story to be extremely inspiring, and I urge others to consider their approaches instead of feeling helpless against a larger opponent or issue. As long as one is passionate about solving an issue, he or she has great power to do soa thought that Lee encompassed well. 

“I don’t think this is a time for half-hearted efforts,” Lee said. “This is the time to dive in, and hold on,  and not let go until things finally start to shift.”

 

Read more about how you can fight climate change as an individual. Learn more about Lee’s film, Vicious Women, here.

 


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