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Advocated: How Disabled Activists Are Shaping Climate Justice

An illustration featuring a black silhouette of a wheelchair user rolling along a natural landscape, with the black silhouettes of leaves visible. There are black silhouettes of birds, butterflies and other winged creatures flying up from the wheelchair user. The background of the illustration fades from light yellow to dark green moving from left to right, and the words "Embodied Advocated" are in the upper left hand corner of the illustration.
Charnel Hunter

People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by climate change yet are often sidelined from policy conversations. Three disability activists share their stories of resilience and wisdom in the face of the climate crisis.

The effects of climate change have come into sharp focus: 2023 was officially the hottest year on record; in addition, extreme weather events and natural disasters have increased in the last 20 years. Environmental activists have been rallying to promote climate research, laws and emergency response initiatives. However, one demographic has not been included in key climate change discussions: people with disabilities. In honor of Earth Day, host Anita Rao meets three disability activists who are working to change that.

Anita speaks with Daphne Frias, a disability activist who views global warming and its effects through a public health lens. Daphne unpacks how environmental racism in her West Harlem neighborhood inspired her to join the movement for change. Anita also talks with activist Germán Parodi, the co-executive director of The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, a group that is centering the needs of disabled people after disasters. He shares his on-the-ground experience providing aid in the immediate aftermath of hurricanes and other climate crises.

Anita rounds out the conversation with activist and scholar Julia Watts Belser. Julia founded the Disability and Climate Change public archive, creating a space for people with disabilities to share their perspectives on climate change. Julia shares some of her favorite stories from the archive and details how she merges disability culture with environmental justice

Special thanks to Naomi Ortiz, Áine Kelly Costello, Michael Stein and SébastienJodoin for sharing their poetry and thoughts with us.

Read the transcript

Paige Miranda is a producer for "Embodied". Previously, she served as WUNC’s 2023 AAAS Mass Media Fellow.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.