“Climate change is a man-made problem with a feminist solution” – Mary Robinson 

One principle that keeps me going in the day-to-day realities of working to halt the climate crisis is the firm belief that if we succeed, not only will we limit greenhouse gases, but we can also solve multiple social plagues. If we truly look at the roots of climate change, then we see how its destructive base is woven together with so many toxic forces. 

92.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are male. Men still hold 75% of seats in national parliaments worldwide. The leadership of the UK’s COP26 team for the upcoming climate negotiations is predominantly male. Since 1970, global carbon emissions have increased by around 90%. If we look at the remedies needed to heal the planet, then we must stop relying on patriarchal and neo-colonial systems that only want to implement band-aids that perpetuate their hold on power. The way that these destructive systems treat natural resources are synonymous with how they treat women. Years ago, Vanadana Shiva and Maria Mies in their pivotal text Ecofeminism stated clearly that “Wherever women acted against ecological destruction…they immediately became aware of the connection between patriarchal violence against women, other people and nature.”  Western Enlightenment taught men to see the environment as an “other” – similar to how women or people of color were viewed. If something was an “other”, then it was more acceptable to be abused. If we want a new path forward, we have to disrupt this outdated and horrific way of thinking.  

Women from flood affected communities lead the Climate Strike march in Satkhira. Photo: Shahin Billah

 

Years ago, I worked with Dr. Valerie Hudson on the WomanStats project that, through rigorous research, found that there is a direct correlation between how peaceful a nation will be and how it treats its women. The data clearly showed that “What happens to women affects the security, stability, prosperity, bellicosity, corruption, health, regime type, and (yes) the power of the state.” Building connections between the treatment of women and the treatment of the environment is not a far stretch. I would wager that there is a strong likelihood that countries with abysmal policies to protect women also do little to respect climate commitments. 

It has been reiterated time and time again that women bear the greater weight of climate disruption. The UN estimates that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. The facts can go on and on. From being most at risk during climate disasters to losing incomes and facing higher rates of violence. I recommend reading this piece by my colleague Natalia Cardona, “Gender Justice is Climate Justice” – in it she says For me, as a woman of color, the struggles to protect water, food, and land against the fossil fuel industry are the struggles for the rights of women and girls. These struggles are tied to our calls for autonomy over our bodies, lives,  livelihoods, and our right to live free of violence.”

Women though are also at the forefront of building solutions – real, lasting, deep solutions. Women are ripping up systematic roots full of rot and helping to plant new visions of pathways forward. In order to do this, we need an intersectional feminism that recognizes necessary connections across struggles. In a powerful recent essay, Dr. Chelsea Mikael Frazier says, “Black Feminist ecological Thought has always been whispering to us—urging us to understand the interconnected points of our unwell society as a first step toward restoring our environments.” Racism, colonialism, patriarchy and the climate crisis are deeply affixed, which means our solutions must also be. 

Bangkok, Thailand — Sept 8, 2018. Photo by Pongsit Nopmaneepaisan l Survival Media Agency

 

There are no set-in-stone principles of feminism, but beyond beliefs in gender equality lie core understandings around valuing cooperation, diversity, and also valuing the importance of care. 

We can look to women like Melina Laboucan-Massimo and Eriel Tchekwie Deranger from Indigenous Climate Action. They’ve worked relentlessly to protect their communities from the devastation of the Alberta tar sands. Alongside so many others, they’ve also worked on the issue of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women which has been so horrifically prevalent. Moreover, Melina Laboucan-Massimo has helped build Sacred Earth Solar which is providing renewable energy solutions to Indigenous communities. 

When Noelene Nabulivou steps up to a microphone, I attentively listen. She is someone who digs deep with her truths and intersectional wisdom. She is part of DIVA for Equality, a grassroots organization in Fiji that “fights for the human rights & social, economic, ecological & climate justice of ALL PEOPLE – especially accompanying women, femme, lesbians, bisexual, transgender men & gender non-binary people in Fiji & the Pacific in justice struggles.” Their  work encompasses an incredible spectrum – from assisting at-risk communities during climate-fueled disasters, to running skill shares to  workshops, to multi-level political advocacy. DIVA’s work around “Women Defend the Commons” is an ongoing movement that spotlights the crucial role women play in protecting natural resources. DIVA spaces are rich with laughter, wisdom and creative solutions. 

There are so many women out there who are humbly doing incredible work to protect their communities and build new realities. There are the women who you will never see in any ‘top 10 climate leaders’ article, but they are doing the necessary organising day in and day out. And most likely, they aren’t doing it alone – but with a cohort of supportive sisters, aunties, colleagues and  friends. They are protecting their lands from ongoing encroachment from extractive industries. They are fighting for their rights. They are delivering care to those most in need. 

When we say the Future is Feminist, what I hope it means is a future where we honor our relationships more than we venerate commodities. I want a future where women have autonomy over their bodies and where Indigenous communities have control over their lands. A lived reality where the wisdom of our grandmothers and mothers is honored and respected. A present that is rich with a diversity of languages, seeds and ways of being. A space where our protestations are respected, and where there is freedom to grow healthier ways of connecting. 


You can listen to Vandana Shiva, Eriel Deranger and Noelene Nabulivou at the upcoming Global Just Recovery Gathering. There will also be the following workshops participants can attend. Pre-register today:

  • Just Society, Greener Future: The Road to a Feminist Economic Recovery
  • Feminist Action for Climate Justice: Synergies in the Generation Equality Form Action Coalitions and the Global Climate Movement
  • Building Radical Futures with Young Climate Feminists
  • Equity, solidarity and collective care for people and nature: Gender-just community-based systems and practices for a just recovery.
  • Questioning Green Recovery – Feminist Critical Pathways to Just and Equitable Transition
  • Feminist climate solutions for a just transformation
  • Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines
  • Mobilizing Around a Feminist Climate Justice Agenda: the Feminist Green New Deal Coalition
  • Gender perspectives in climate justice
  • Ecofeminist Direct Action: Let’s be careful so we can be dangerous together
  • General Burn out Radical Change

Pre-register today

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