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The Power of Mobilizing Women to the Climate Crisis

The Power of Mobilizing Women to the Climate Crisis

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It is crucial that women are at the top of our government and agricultural systems in order to survive the climate crisis.

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A woman in Mumbai, India, participates in a ‘Global Climate Strike’ demonstration on March 26, 2022, to raise awareness about the environmental issues affecting the world. (Ashish Vishnav / SOPA Images/ LightRocket via Getty Images

Last fall, I launched the first season of the climate justice podcast “As she Rises,” and as expected, people asked me why I chose to open each episode with poetry from Indigenous and Black women poets. Or why I featured small-scale, local stories. But the most common question I received was, “Why are you speaking with Only women?”

My personal aversion towards discussing climate change was the reason. I’ve always found the topic to be very overwhelming, and engaging with it at all left me despondent. I was tired of Bill Nye-looking men who spoke only through a slew of incomprehensible facts. It felt so impersonal to discuss the most intimate issue of our times.

So, I felt a strong desire to change the messenger and asked myself, “Who could make this issue finally accessible and even more importantly, digestible and uplifting?” I believed that those closest to the problem should be the ones speaking about the real-life impacts on the ground to paint a portrait of what it’s actually like to live through the climate crisis. It was logical to place women of color and native voices in this discussion. 

Women are the most affected by climate change. They are often left out of the global conversation about climate change. The United NationsAccording to estimates, 80 percent of those affected by climate change are women and children. 30 percentVarious national and global climate decision-making bodies. 

Those closest to the problem should be the ones speaking about the real-life impacts on the ground to paint a portrait of what it’s actually like to live through the climate crisis.

This disproportionate effect is caused by a combination of several socio-economic variables. Climate change is a Threat multiplier—meaning it intensifies existing disadvantages. On average, women make up the majority in impoverished people around the world. Culturally, they are more likely than men to be caretakers, and thus have less independence. Their role as caregivers often requires them to do more resource-intensive tasks like harvesting food or gathering water. Consequently, they’re not able to pick up and leave their homes as easy as their male counterparts.

Not only do women lack the monetary resources, they typically are caretakers of children and elderly people who also lack the means to pick up and move at a moment’s notice. Women are more at risk from the devastation caused by severe weather events that are influenced by climate change. Sri Lanka was struck by a tsunami in 2004. It was later assessed that it had caused the following. four timesAs many as tens of thousands of women died in the storm’s wake. 

Aside from a lack of mobility, there’s another reason women are less likely to evacuate in the case of a climate-induced emergency. Migrant women often have no documentation to help them move. They may need to navigate a language barrier or just try to provide for their families. This puts women’s physical safety at risk around the world. It’s been well documented that when women are displaced the Possibility of experiencingSexual assault, harassment, and human trafficking have skyrocketed. 

Women are more at risk from severe weather events caused by the climate crisis, as they are more frequent.

While producing the latest season of “As She Rises,” I dove into the intersection of migrant labor, climate change and sexual harassment with an incredible activist, Lupe Gonzalo, who is a senior member of The Coalition of Immokalee Workers. She immigrated from Guatemala in 2000. She spent more than a decade working on Florida’s tomato farms in inhumane conditions. She shared with me that she had been subject to sexual harassment at work and that she witnessed many similar and worse incidents among her female coworkers.

These stories are shocking and frightening. But it’s these firsthand accounts that shed light on just how destabilizing the climate crisis can be for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Gonzalo is one of the most affected women and they continue to fight. Gonzalo works now with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in order to transform the experience of American farm laborers. The coalition’s Fair Food ProgramThe program has raised wages and implemented enforceable human right standards on farms. Plans have also been created to improve conditions for farmers facing extreme heat exposure. This program is widely regarded as a model for others around the world. Part of Gonzalo’s work includes leading educational seminars so that more people like her can continue the fight. 

We see progress when women take on the climate crisis around the globe. According to the Brookings InstituteCountries with higher levels of social and political mobility than their contemporaries emit 12 percent less carbon dioxide. Female heads of state, like New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda ArdernThey have been incredibly effective in combating climate change. In fact, New Zealand’s 40 percent female cabinet aims to have their public sector carbon neutral in just three years. The U.N.According to research, female farmers are able to increase their production by as much as 30% if they are given the same resources and tools that men have. 

The existing, extractive systems much of the Western world has in place were put there by—largely—white men. It’s time to take a different approach. We need to change the guard. It is vital that women are at the helm in our government and agricultural systems if we are to survive the climate crisis. While we wait for the world’s leadership to catch up, there are already incredibly powerful grassroots environmentalists who are making progress in addressing climate change and our extractive practices. These were the women that I wanted to talk to for the podcast. These are the people whose names you may have never heard of, but whose work is saving our planet for the next generation. These stories are what inspire me to keep going. 

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Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in Northwestern New Mexico is a sacred ancestral site for both the Pueblos and the Navajo. Julia Bernal (executive director of the Chaco Canyon National Historic Park), was kind enough to speak with me. Pueblo Action AllianceThe, which was instrumental in successfully urging the Department of the Interior towards protecting these sacred tribal lands. The formal decision to preserve the area from future oil and gas leasing came from Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland—the first Indigenous womanTo ever hold a federal cabinet post. 

In my native Pacific Northwest, I feel close to home. Amy TrainerThe Swinomish people were successfully represented in a campaign to stop a proposed mining operation from reaching the Skagit River headwaters. The opposition was so strong and overwhelming that a Binational agreementWashington and British Columbia forged a deal to purchase the tenures to the land from Imperial Metals. The preserved landscape will ultimately be returned to the original stewards of the land—the First Nations people of Canada. Trainer helped to put the importance of land being returned to Indigenous stewardship into perspective. 

“We hear, oh, my family’s third generation, fourth generation. Okay. That is something I respect. If that is to have meaning, then it makes no sense when you hear Native nations or their families talk about how we have been here for hundreds, if certainly thousands, of generations. Let those roots and sense of place sink in.”  

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when thinking about the climate crisis. The work of these amazing women has given me hope and optimism as I march forward into the impending storm. If we’re willing to listen to these women, we might actually be able to make it out of this alive. Dare I say, even more than before. 

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