(Un)learning with Eco-Educator Isaias Hernandez of Queer Brown Vegan

Meet Isaias Hernandez

Isaias Hernandez is an Environmental Educator and creator of Queer Brown Vegan where he creates introductory forms of environmentalism through colorful graphics, illustrations, and videos.

He seeks to provide a safe space for like-minded environmentalists to advance the discourse around the climate crisis.

Show Notes

In this episode, we chat about Isaias’s journey to the empowerment education space (Queer Brown Vegan), how we can all un-learn together, and advice on how we can step off of social media and start to take action!

Isaias’s journey

Through his upbringing in LA, also known as Tongva Land, Isaias shares his story about what it was like to live nearby toxic facilities and freeways as well as being in a community at the forefront of the climate crisis and environmental injustice. Isaias forced himself to critically ask questions about why things were the way they were and to understand why injustice was present in his environment.

“I had to stay curious to understand more”

Isaias continued to ask himself and others these critical questions about the environment and injustice, which lead him to study at UC Berkley and earn a degree in Environmental Science. He says he had a desire to understand the corrupt systems that build environmental inequality. But his work didn’t stop there. Isaias wanted to put an end to the gatekeeping of information he learned in his formal education so he decided to make break down what he learned into accessible and consumable digital content and thus, Queer Brown Vegan was born.

What is an Environmentalist?

Queer Brown Vegan is a space for like-minded environmentalists, but Isaias remarks that not everyone is going to agree on what he puts out into the world – and that’s okay. He wants to push people to become more critical environmentalists. And an environmentalist by his definition is, “not based upon your degree or how much you know, it’s more based upon your lived experiences – we all have different intrinsic relationships with the land.”

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“When it comes to determining yourself as an environmentalist, I think that we need to disrupt this notion of you have to have an educational degree or you need to be an expert, but rather someone that (says), “I care about people and the planet and the animals and that’s what I want to fight for”

His vision is to get people on board with that common idea in order to push people to extend themselves to learn more about critical topics like environmental justice and environmental racism.

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The Process of Creation

Learning and presenting information through a holistic lens can be a challenge that Isaias willingly takes on. He makes sure that his content is holistic, “in the view of it’s an intersectional lens, not just a singular lens” If you’re trying to learn about a new topic and wanting to look through a holistic, intersectional lens, you can follow in Isaias’s footsteps:

  • Try to look at different articles.
  • Make sure there is data behind the information.
  • Challenge yourself to learn more about biocultural conservation

OnePlanet defines biocultural conservation as, “Working to empower indigenous and traditional communities to develop community-based solutions to effectively manage and conserve their biological and cultural resources for long-term sustainability.

Creating a Safe Space for Growth

Isaias creates content that is empowering and educational. He defines it as “more of a self-empowerment tool …rather than an educational hub resource.” When you come to any space that is created dubbed Queer Brown Vegan you can expect to be encouraged to think and ask critically.

“Critique allows people to challenge themselves and to be challenged.”

He wants you to be willing to grow with him and to feel empowered rather than disadvantaged when it comes to environmental topics.

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Unlearning

What is unlearning? Unlearning is about challenging yourself to be uncomfortable and step outside the thinking of your lived experience. Unlearning as defined by Psychologist Mariana Plata is, “the process through which we break down the origins of our thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, feelings, and biases.”

“Unlearning requires you to be ready to be wrong than to be right. When you’re ready to be wrong that means that you’re ready to be challenged in your theory… I think that really helps people become better learners because if you’re only learning what you want to learn when you’re right – you’re really doing a disservice to yourself….It’s actually a dimension of accountability” – Isaias Hernandez

To start unlearning, ask yourself critical questions such as:

    • Why have I ignored these issues?
    • Why haven’t I stood up and done anything to help or to learn?
    • Why aren’t I actively talking about this issue now?
    • Where does the root of this issue stem from in history?
    • How am I actively being anti-racist?

“Learning is really beautiful, but unlearning helps people to captivate themselves to think critically.”

Relearning

Relearning is the stage that follows unlearning. Relearning is implementing new structures of thinking and behaving through a more critical lens. Isaias says it’s about, “Positioning yourself in a growth mindset rather than this degrowth(mindset)” The cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning a continuous cycle that will challenge your relationships and allow you to form new ones. It will help you to leave behind the ingrained mindset of “this is the way things are” to make way for new and more effective ways of being. Including taking action in your own community.

Taking Action

Liking, commenting, and sharing on social media has value. But it’s the conversations that matter to Isaias, and how he measures his success. He wants people to connect with him to discuss the topics he’s sharing and then take it to their community. “If I’m able to change one person’s mind…I’m happy. My mission is to take people and shift them over to more conscious critical thinking.” When asked how to individuals can step off of social media and take action, Isaias suggests that you try to learn more and understand concepts by talking it out with a friend or family. Talking it out will help you to see how things are connected and will increase your investment and confidence in those issues. After you talk it out with your friends and family you can then take it to your community.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND ADVICE

Since starting Queer Brown Vegan, Isaias has grown a vast community, which means showing up and staying consistent with learning. His biggest takeaway since starting the account was the realization that online work takes a lot of emotional energy, and involves learning with others, not above them.

It was learning that you don’t always have to be right and that’s ok. Through social media, you can connect and collaborate with other environmentalists that you never would have thought of. And through that collaboration, you can learn more about these topics and yourself.

He also advises to love yourself sustainably. This means finding healthy practices to understand and love yourself so that you can do work that is regenerative without burnout.

For more information on Queer Brown Vegan and to download a free Eco-Education book visit the link here: https://queerbrownvegan.com/educational-content/

Environmental justice

The three pillars of Queer Brown Vegan are Environmental Justice, Zero-Waste, and Veganism. When explaining environmental justice, Isaias says,

“The easiest way I always tell people is saying, No matter who you are regardless of your race, your class, your gender, everyone deserves healthy air, water and soil. That is the simplest form.”

environmental justice

If you’re looking to get involved in environmental justice work, the best step would be to get involved with local organizations in your community. If you know your community, you can interact thoughtfully in the work.

“If we’re going to be really advocating for healthy air, water, and soil that we really team up with these communities and see how we can leverage our time, whether it be through social media, through writing, through activism, through educating. These are the core fundamental things we can do.”

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