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Sustainable Futures are Rooted in Choice
I often joke that I was born into social justice work, that I was reared alongside picket lines and roadsides waving signs. My first protest was against Red Lobster's industrial swordfish fishing that was endangering the lives of sea turtles—it was just my sister and me and some construction paper signs. When George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, I wrote a letter pushing him to overthrow The Global Gag Rule. I was positively livid to receive a signed photo of his dogs—Barney and Miss Beazley—in response, but I suppose they weren't sure how to respond to a 13-year-old.
I cut my teeth on direct service at a community-centered abortion clinic during high school. The clinic was housed in a proud “green” building, certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and was known to raffle off compost at community events. When I was 17, the clinic connected me to a program in DC that trained young activists in joint advocacy on behalf of the environmental and sexual rights movements. I learned skills that I use every day, and developed a network of friends and allies who I continue to call upon.
The work I do each day at IPPF/WHR builds upon that interwoven foundation of environmentalism and feminism. Day in and day out, our staff is nose-to-the-grindstone focused on connecting individuals across the Americas and the Caribbean with the life-saving, life-changing sexual and reproductive healthcare they deserve. Earth Day offers a chance to zoom out and see how our work is building a more sustainable world.
Nowhere is a better case study than Honduras. In addition to its 33 clinics, our local partner, Ashonplafa, operates 14 mobile health units that provide care to the rural, isolated, and predominantly indigenous communities that are often those most deeply affected by climate change. This effort becomes all the more perilous given the country’s high rates of violence. A 2015 study by Global Witness found Honduras to be the most dangerous country in the world for environmental activists, a stark recognition in a region home to nearly 75% of the world's environmental activist deaths.
Fighting for sustainability for yourself and your community can quite literally be a death sentence, yet people across the region continue to advocate for better futures for themselves, their communities, and their countries. The only plausible approach for them is an intersectional one—working on multiple fronts to tear apart the roots of the many injustices they face.
While contraception is only one of the many concerns people in Latin America and the Caribbean must address, we know that, when people have the power to plan their families, they are able to make informed choices for a sustainable future. In fact, a scholar at the London School of Economics found family planning to be five times cheaper than conventional green technologies in combatting climate change. Investing in reproductive healthcare is a rising tide that lifts all our boats because a truly sustainable planet only happens once all people have the power and the freedom to build futures rooted in choice rather than circumstance.