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Isaias Hernandez started his organization "Queer Brown Vegan" with a mission to provide young people with free educational resources on climate change

As a student at UC Berkeley, Isaias Hernandez realised that education around climate change is highly inaccessible and so Isaias started Queer Brown Vegan to change that.

Video transcript

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ISAIAS HERNANDEZ: The climate crisis is going to affect our daily activities, whether you're someone that loves to go to the outdoors, whether you're someone who loves to shop for certain foods. And something that we need to recognize is that if we truly want to have a sustainable future, then we need to extend ourselves to community care.

My name is Isaias Hernandez. I'm an environmental educator and the content creator of Queer Brown Vegan. And my mission is to provide free educational resources for people because, as someone who struggled a lot in academia and not having access to this information, I never want anyone to feel the same way I did.

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I'm originally from Los Angeles, California, most specifically the San Fernando Valley. And my parents had immigrated from Mexico to California to start a new life. And one of the things I noticed growing up in my environment was the lack of accessible resource, such as the lack of access to clean air, water, and soil. And there was a really long period of time where my parents did not allow me to go outside due to the smog in the area. And I think that really influenced my curiosity to start asking questions.

I eventually went to UC Berkeley to study environmental science. And that's when I realized that education is highly inaccessible.

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Did you know there are edible invasive plants in your area? Let's talk about garlic mustard. You can find these plants all over New Jersey, specifically in the months of April and May.

I wanted to create an online account that distilled all of these topics through an educational graphic lens. And through that, Queer Brown Vegan became an educational platform so people can use specifically when it comes to addressing environmental injustice in their community.

So if you're looking to be an ethical forager this season, I'd highly consider checking out foraging invasive species in your area.

I wanted to make this public and free for everyone. No one should have to feel ashamed not knowing what a term meant. And so as soon as Queer Brown Vegan launched in 2019, it started to explode.

I would say that the reason why so many people resonate with the content is that it's very welcoming. I try to take it a step back and say, you know, for those who just don't know anything about environmentalism or climate change, like, you can come and talk to me, and I'm willing to hold that space for you.

I use a very unique framework to distill environmental issues. I, one, acknowledge Western science. The second component is acknowledging Indigenous science and wisdom. Many of the concepts that we talk about is rooted in a lot of Indigenous philosophies and communities.

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The most important thing I'd love to share is food justice and food sovereignty, and to recognize that the existing systems that we live in today were not designed to serve for communities of color. And as someone who grew up going to food pantries, churches to get foods, and living off food stamps, I try to really push this narrative of localizing your mind and localizing your ethics by getting people involved within foraging.

So I started foraging around a year ago, just because I moved to New Jersey around last year and I found that I really wanted to connect locally with my food system. These are garlic mustard. And I personally love to make some pesto with this. Foraging garlic mustard is actually beneficial to a lot of ecosystems because these plants are invasive species.

The long-term goals I think I have for myself is to just continue creating environmental education, but I want to continue making lesson plans for universities and institutions to adopt these types of environmental curriculum in their respective institutions, and also team up with environmental justice organizations that are pushing for equitable environmental education in K through 12. A lot of teachers have told me thank you so much for creating this because now I can use it for my children and my students, and they can get engaged.

The hope for my generation is that we recognize that we can no longer live in the existing systems that are unsustainable. The way I stay motivated in this climate crisis is connecting with community. People burn out in this movement because of the lack of resources or the lack of community.

I think that a lot of people get really easily swayed with climate doom or thinking about the end of the world is coming soon. But I truly disagree with that. I think that there is so much hope and wisdom that we have yet to learn to inspire them to get out of their beds or to get out there and to create that change for themselves, whether it's a local and small thing or a large-scale institutional change. I think that's my hope.

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