Working for environmental sustainability can be tiring. I am a newbie in the field, and it was weird how quickly I feel like my efforts are not enough despite knowing that the climate movement made several advances already. Some of my peers would share similar sentiments whenever we talk about what we do.

And while there are multiple wins at the community and grassroot levels, looking at the greater scale and pace of ecological destruction is frustrating enough, as if our efforts are irrelevant. And this happens to me most of the time.

Adding to this frustration is being in graduate school as if climate change is not enough to drown us as we swim in a pool of assignments and journal articles; yet this one article caught my attention– “A Fruitless Endeavour: Confronting the heteronormativity of environmentalism” written by Cameron Butler. Without a second thought, I picked this.

And without overexaggerating it, I felt re-energized in having found this. The piece spoke to me as it bravely criticized the failures of mainstream sustainability movement in challenging heteronormative and cissexist practices in it. It appears it found the deep-well idea I cannot even put to words before—queer ecology.

I found queer ecology as an intersectional integration of the climate and LGBT movements (where I both identify to) as a disruption in how we associate nature to only male and female traits. Instead, it reimagines nature, biology, and sexuality devoid of hierarchies, dualisms, and heterosexist notions. 

I appreciate the meta-queerness of the concept of queer ecology as it can be interpreted and exhibited in a lot of ways. As in the original definition of “queer”, it puts emphasis on the “weird”, “different”, or “unconventional” approaches and ideologies on environmentalism. Hence, it allows people to rethink how nature and culture are not contrasting nor mutually exclusive ideas.

An example of a heteronormative idea I think is highly used in Philippine culture is that of reproduction or procreation. In our immediate family circles, we would often hear remarks like “Oh, kelan ka mag-aasawa’t mag-aanak?” or “Dapat magkaanak ka para may katulong ka pagtanda.” It gives us the impression that as human beings, our “essence” is to procreate.

I find that reprocentricity, or the belief that reproduction (or procreation) is central to our lives, limits our way to address environmental problems.

Putting procreation as an essence of our being as humans is being used as a central narrative in mainstream sustainability movement such as “saving the environment for our future children”. This imagined “future children” narrative does not resonate to all younger generations especially those who decide not to have kids, may it be because of a childhood trauma, the current unstable economic situation, or even the impending climate crisis itself—these and other things. 

I believe in queer ecology’s philosophy of putting an equal weight on other forms of intimate interactions, beyond procreation and reproduction, that are also natural and normal.

It also sits well on me how queer ecology is more than the injection of gender and sexuality issues in the environmental discourse. It is also exacting our biases on “Western” solutions to environmental problems.

I for one know that there are efforts on integrating indigenous knowledge systems and practices into environmental conservation, but these are not as popular as new technologies and innovations from rich, Western nations which are considered standard conventional solutions. Our heavy reliance on these technologies and the belief that it will save us from devastation (technosalvation) keep us and our local communities from taking more inclusive and grassroots approaches to environmentalism.

There is a need for paradigm shift in how we govern and implement environmental sustainability efforts in the Philippines. As a queer person in the environmental advocacy, presenting a queer ecological future sheds light to a place where I can see myself thriving, and this might also be true to people like me who lost or are losing their hope in the sustainability movement. The promise of queer sustainability provides more spaces for queer and marginalized identities to be part of the solution to our environmental problems.

Queer ecology is only a part of a bigger sustainability picture. I see it as a great lense to create better connections with different communities in promoting a culture of care and solidarity.

It reinvigorates the tired ecologist in me thinking that we can foster a movement that embraces the rainbow’s diversity and at the same time putting the G in ROYGBIV. A queer ecological future is a just future.