I consider myself someone who definitely understands the importance of feminism and the role of women in societal and environmental movements. Even so, I have recently realized that there has been a whole host of information that I have been overlooking! Women are absolutely essential to combating climate change.
Last week, I was able to attend a lecture on “Reversing Global Warming: Women’s Leadership.” During the lecture, Katharine Wilkinson, who works for Project Drawdown, a coalition of individuals in support of finding climate change solutions, discussed the necessity of women in the project’s efforts. Here, I review a few of her key points—and why they should matter to all of us, as individuals.
“Climate change is not gender neutral.”
There’s currently a large focus on the exacerbated impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, particularly minority and low-income communities. However, much of this attention ignores the role of girls and women as a vulnerable population.
This vulnerability is apparent through indirect impacts. For instance, girls are more likely to suffer from droughts because when food and household resources are scarce, girls are more likely to be sold for marriage. But even more direct impacts, like the fact that studies show natural disasters lower the life expectancy of women more than that of men, are not given full consideration. During events like floods, women may not have learned how to swim like many of their male counterparts have.
“Equity is good for all.”
The role of women in mitigating climate change is critical; like any other individual’s efforts, any advance that women make to prevent global warming is one that benefits all populations. For instance, many women are smallholders. By providing women with the resources and education they need to make each plot of soil more productive, they will be able to produce more food, and, as a result, fewer areas of forests will need to be deforested to create more farmland to feed a community.
“There’s a whole host of barriers to education for women. But education is an intrinsic right, and we know how important it is for laying down a base for vibrant lives.”
Education for women is correlated with an increase in the number of women who choose to have fewer children. Overpopulation is adding to the issue of climate change because each individual uses more fossil fuels, creates more waste, and has more anthropogenic impacts on our planet. I’m not suggesting that we should take direct action to prevent the population from growing. But if educating women gives them the knowledge that they need to make informed decisions that might be beneficial to both them and the environment, there may be reason to support it.
Also, in terms of adaptation, more educated women are less likely to be harmed during natural disasters and are better equipped to cope with shifts in the environment. Through literacy, they have the information necessary to adapt to changing environments, and if we continue with the current trends in climate change, it will be critical for everyone to learn to cope with environmental changes.
“We need to bring gender equity into all aspects of global warming solutions – not just sections of global warming solutions that focus on gender equity.”
I personally believe that an investment in one area is also an investment in another. As leaders, women can help us learn. From improving renewable energy sources to responding to climate risks and leading policy changes, women are just as critical as men to environmental movements.
Just like this political cartoon by Joel Pett conveys, there are still uncertainties regarding climate change. But even if we take excessive actions against climate change, we’re still making positive changes for the environment and our health that we should be making anyway. After all, if social equity is the direction our world is beginning to head towards anyway, why not support it so that it can help combat climate change too?
“Leadership skills come from long-term efforts, so we need to start thinking about them now.”
With all of this information in mind, it’s vital that we actually utilize it. It’s not enough to talk about why we should recognize the inequalities women face due to climate change. We need to recognize that by giving them equal rights, we can give them the leadership roles they need to make a positive change.
Women have the opportunity to play a strong role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. However, educating and developing leaders is a process that occurs over one’s entire lifetime, and even across generations as societal changes must be made. That being said, the world needs to start making these changes as soon as possible if they are to have any tangible effects before climate change grows worse.
Need some inspiration? Here’s a video of some strong, activist women from around the world who are taking charge in fighting climate change: