In the past year, we’ve seen wildfires devastate Australia and parts of the United States. We’re seeing cities and islands disappear under rising sea levels, torrential rains flood large parts of Europe, and entire regions drowning in smog. With temperatures soaring to new levels, increasing numbers of natural disasters ripping communities apart, and rising sea levels displacing populations, it is unthinkable to deny that climate change is threatening us all. Despite repeated warnings from scientists and experts, there are very few practical solutions being implemented to combat it and secure life on this planet for all. As governments continue to ignore or water down climate justice treaties and enact policies that cause environmental destruction, few stop to think about how climate change and gender interact with each other.
Climate change impacts those who are the most marginalized–and in most communities, they’re women. Women are more likely than men to be impoverished and they face high risk during climate change-related disasters. In fact, women constitute 80% of those displaced by climate change. Women and children are actually 14 times more likely than men to die during a disaster. With migration expected to increase due to climate change (increased sea levels, inhospitable temperatures, and a loss of arable land), women are be the most vulnerable to violence, exploitation, and other harm. This is already noticeable in current migration patterns, where 50% of migrants are women and girls, facing gender-based violence.
LGBTQIA+ individuals, who already face disproportionate violence and disenfranchisement, are also at risk due to climate change, particularly with shelter and health. Even without climate concerns, many are forced to leave their homes and communities from fear or insecurity about their safety. But in climate emergencies, when housing is destroyed or limited, the need for support increases manifold. LGBTQIA+ individuals who would be displaced in the process of extreme weather conditions would find their marginalization increasing, as might violence toward them and a lack of advisory services.
Climate change has also been a result of extractivist, colonial activities by many global North countries. The drive for increased profits has long been at the expense of communities who find themselves in an unequal power dynamic with corporations and governments. In those communities, where gender dynamics are already skewed and where resource exploitation drives down the quality of life, women face additional or exaggerated burdens. Women, commonly positioned as primary caretakers, find themselves struggling to support their communities and families when the water goes bad, the crops don’t grow, and people fall ill. For this reason, many women human rights defenders are actively agitating for solutions to climate change that involve the dismantling of economic structures that prioritize extractive industries over environmental protection.
Despite all of this, women and LGBTQIA+ communities rarely find themselves afforded a space at the negotiating table to be a part of climate justice solutions. In the European Union, for example, only one-fifth of ministers who handle issues relating to the environment, transport, climate change, and energy are women. This is in line with historical trends, where women have not been included in key decision-making bodies. Many climate justice agreements do not address gender equality, women’s rights, or minority rights. The enhancement of present policies and the building of future ones to effectively reflect gendered realities is vital if marginalized communities are to be served well by climate justice solutions.
A feminist approach to climate justice can lead the way for concrete change. Here are some steps we can take for that:
- Gendered perspectives must be included at every step of the decision-making process, including disaster mapping and mitigation solutions.
- Feminist activists, women human rights defenders, LGBTQ+ activists, and other key leaders representing marginalized communities must be included in the research, review, and policy crafting processes. Their inputs can be based on lived and directly observed experiences, which in turn would increase the efficacy of policy solutions.
- Ensure that climate justice solutions do not pit one marginalized community against another. Intersectionality–the consideration of gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, age, and other factors–must be the foundation of any effective climate justice framework.
As we all struggle to survive in a world where the greed of corporations is hindering the quality of our lives and contributing to climate injustices, let us band together to turn back the clock!
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!