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Photo: Rosalie Haizlett/Provided

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Welcome to the second edition of my June newsletter takeover for 100 Days in Appalachia! Last week, I introduced you to four amazing Black Appalachian artists who inspire me. Today, I’ll be sharing a fun collaborative endangered species project that I just completed, along with an article I discovered this week that gave me important insights into why environmentalism and human rights activism are more connected than I previously thought.

But first, I’d like to share with you a two-minute film that my friend Braiden Maddox of Lady Mountain Films created that captures the “why” of my nature illustration practice. Braiden is a Fayetteville, West Virginia-based videographer, a small business owner and a fellow Appalachian creative. She shot this video at one of my favorite hiking spots in the state, Blackwater Falls State Park. 

Video: Braiden Maddox/Provided
As you probably learned from the film, I am passionate about using my art to help people foster a deeper connection with the natural world and to promote conservation efforts. Recently, I collaborated on a painting with fellow West Virginia illustrator, Logan Schmitt, to raise funds for bog turtle conservation on Endangered Species Day, which was May 15th. 
Photo: Rosalie Haizlett/Provided

First, Logan and I chose two endangered species that we wanted to feature. Logan chose the bog turtle — the smallest turtle in North America — and I chose the mountain sweet pitcher plant. Then, we went back and forth on a sketch until we settled on a composition that we both liked. Logan did the amazing ink line-work, then delivered it to me to finish with watercolor. 

Photo: Rosalie Haizlett/Provided

Once the piece was completed, we hosted a 24-hour Instagram auction to raise funds for the Nature Conservancy, who facilitate vital initiatives that help conserve bog turtles and other endangered species worldwide. Through this project, we were able to raise $500 for bog turtle conservation, and we had so much fun along the way! 

Throughout my young career, my illustration work has been centered around the conservation of plants and animals. But this past week, I gained a deeper understanding into the ways in which many environmentalists, including myself, have been missing out on a key component in our efforts to protect our planet: the protection of our fellow human beings.  

I stumbled upon this compelling Vogue article by environmental activist Leah Thomas that explores the interconnectivity between environmentalism and anti-racist activism. In her article, entitled “Why Every Environmentalist Should Be Anti-Racist,” Leah writes:

“Environmentalists tend to be well-meaning, forward-thinking people who believe in preserving the planet for generations to come. They will buy reusable cups, wear ethically made clothing and advocate for endangered species; however, many are hesitant to do the same for endangered Black lives, and might be unclear on why they should.” 

Photo: Rosalie Haizlett/Provided

In this piece, Leah provides statistics that reveal the fact that Black, Indigenous and people of color are most often living in the communities that are hardest hit by environmental denigration, like air pollution and diminished water quality from fracking waste sites. She introduces an idea called “intersectional environmentalism,” which is a more holistic approach to environmentalism that advocates for the protection of our planet and her inhabitants:

“It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the Earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the Earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality.”

I’m excited to be guided by this more inclusive approach, and I am thankful for Leah’s words and perspective. If you’d like to continue to learn from Leah, you can follow her on Instagram. Looking forward, I will seek out creative ways to not only protect the plants and creatures around us, but also the humans who surround us. By keeping human rights at the forefront of our minds, every living being who calls this planet home will have a better chance to thrive. 

Thanks for reading, 

Rosalie

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