Independent Living Movement Ireland

Is the non-disabled eco-world worth saving if only the privileged can survive and thrive?

Leitrim Disabled Persons Org. (DPO) was delighted to be invited to deliver a morning’s talk and inter-active workshop with Managers, staff & volunteers at Rossinver Fermanagh/Leitrim border located Organic Centre.

ILMI’s Peter Kearns designed the Disability Equality Training (DET) session to include time to identify the growing recognition by world-wide disabled activists and their DPOs of the concerning nature of Eco-Ableism.

Peter - ECO | ILMI

Eco-Ableism is simply another form of Ableism connected with the contemporary lived experience of disabled people. ILMI’s Peter and Leitrim Organic Centre DET organising staff were keen that Eco-Ableism concerns were part of the well attended workshop at the beautifully laid-out Organic Centre garden. The group-workshop based morning explored how Eco-Ableism has shown evidence of ignoring of the voice of DPOs and enabling of discrimination of disabled people. DPO activists are somewhat concerned that Eco-Ableism doesn’t include the lived experiences of disabled people and favours an eco-led world of non-disabled people. 

Eco-Ableism could be seen to force on disabled people a non-disabled persons eco-only-moral argument led world that has been designed to erase the genuine requirements and existence of disabled people, such as the indiscriminate banning of plastic-straws across Europe. Those who encounter the evolving discrimination of Eco-Ableism are reminded by inaccessible buildings, restrictions in private/public transport or loss of simple household objects. 

The world of Eco-Ableism, as designed by non-disabled people, ignores the concerns raised by disabled activist and their DPOs. Just like sexism and racism, Eco-Ableism could have the affect of marginalising a significant group of citizens and creating a second class citizenry of disabled people. The “eco” in Eco-Ableism comes from non-disabled people, and usually first-world white middle class environmental activists, who, through attempting to save the environment, don’t take into account those with less privilege than themselves. It points to a larger issue within the environmentalist movement – Disabled people are very good at lobbying for change & transformation of a disabling Society and prove that there needs to be more diversity in the voices of environmental leaders.  DPO responses to Eco-Ableism, such as ILMI’s campaign against the sudden banning of access tools like plastic-straws, have shown that non-disabled environmentalists must listen to those who have felt overlooked or even ‘disabled’ by environmental national or European environmental policies. 

If non-disabled led environment activism isn’t social model intersectional proofed by DPOs such as ILMI, which means it ignores access requirements or class or gender or ethnic backgrounds, then Eco-Ableism becomes another disabling systematic barrier created by the State and EU policies.  

ILMI’s workshop with Leitrim Organic Centre Management, staff & volunteers created a local space for activists to explore how Eco-Ableism might create parallel problems for disabled people while attempting to solve genuine general eco-concerns. Peter Kearns, from Leitrim DPO, posed the gathering question of is the non-disabled eco pure world worth saving if only the privileged can survive and thrive? The workshop was only a genuine beginning in how ILMI and Leitrim DPO members can support the Organic Centre with their fantastic work in promoting real local environmental solutions to global eco-concerns with the lived experiences of disabled people. Leitrim DPO members look forward to visiting the Organic Centre’s accessible large new polytunnels and raised gardens. 

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