Women & Climate Change in the U.S.
Like the rest of the world, the United States is already profoundly affected by our warming planet, with more to come. Unlike most, we in the US also collectively bear significant responsibility for contributing to the conditions producing global warming and the extreme weather events arising from this.
Thinking about disasters from a climate perspective highlights the importance of gender analysis for effective, sustainable, and just adaptation strategies as well as what women and men, respectively and together, might bring to mitigation work.
Why US GDRA and climate? Taking an all-hazards approach to disaster risk is essential as is the integration of gender into all dimensions and facets of climate work. We have a long way to go!
This is a space for articulating the gender dimensions of climate change holistically, and strategizing together about how we in the United States might work together to address the challenges of climate and extreme weather events that already affect our own country and others.
We support the work of our colleagues who take the lead globally around gender justice and climate justice, and look forward to partnering with them, with women and men taking the lead in US-based environmental justice work, and with those in the disaster field who also see there links clearly.
See Useful Links to connect with terrific work underway on gendering climate change adaptation and mitigation globally, and when you learn of climate justice work in the United States that is sensitive to gender as well as race/ethnicity, sexuality, social class, age, ability and all the other ‘lines that divide,’ please let us know. We are keen to learn and share more of men's gender-sensitive work around climate in the United States.
The GDRA and Climate Change
Recognizing women as agents of change in the United States, too, around climate change and the need for integrating gender into all relevant US work on climate, opportunities abound for action on our home front and in support of women and their families globally.
Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP Climate Justice Initiative Director, is the lead webpage coordinator.
Jacqueline’s work on climate justice before engaging with NAACP was through Women of Color United’s participation in a Movement Generation for Change Ecology Justice Retreat and partnership with the Women’s Environment and Development Organization on the From Katrina to Copenhagen Initiative. Last year she facilitated a partnership between NAACP and Women of Color United to engage in the “Women of Color for Climate Justice Road Tour” to uplift stories of differential impact, community local self reliance, and community resistance of women of color and communities of color. Read more about the NNACP Climate Justice initiative here: http://www.naacp.org/pages/climate-justice-initiative-about
New gender and clmate change poster available, with thanks again to Stacia Sydoriak, whose work focuses on the gender dimensions of fracking. Please enjoy and circulate this new GDRA poster that strives to connect gender and climate change work here at home. Thanks in advance for circulating the poster through your networks, especially our colleagues in environmental studies, environmental justice, sustainability work, and of course the US community of practice around disaster risk reduction and climate justice. These are excellent beginning points for more dialogue and potential collaboration. Click here for the pdf.
The 4th gender and disaster webinar co-sponsored by GDRA and our colleagues at EPI Global was conducted April 10,2013, on the Gender and Climate Change. The presentation featured a discussion in English (click here for slides by Elaine Enarson) which focused largely on the US, followed by a discussion in Spanish offering a perspective from Mexico (click here for slides by Cecilia Castro ). For background information and translations, please visit EPI GLobal here: http://www.epiglobal.org/webinar-4-gender-and-climate-change-materials-for-presentations. This first-ever bilngual presentation was a technical challenge but well worth doing. Sincere thanks to our friends at EPI Global and to Roxane Richter for facilitating.
Gender-Sensitive Climate Change Organizing in the US
Women of Color United
“The Women of Color for Climate Justice Road Tour and Mobilization is a national, awareness-raising and movement building campaign will give insight into how climate change is impacting the lives of women of color and their communities. In each city, women of color will describe the changes and challenges they face, as well as actions of community resistance and local self-reliance.” For more, check out the website of Women of Color United: End Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS. The guiding principles of the Climate Justice tour are explained here: http://www.womenofcolorunited.org/?page_id=511&preview=true
Visit Women of Color United here: http://www.womenofcolorunited.org/
Formally, this event was billed as the “Central Appalachian Women’s Tribunal on Climate Justice,” and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy was one of the co-sponsors. The day’s program stated that the aim was to be “Raising the voices of grassroots women… in the United States, and around the world; exposing the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining and its role in climate chaos. Event presenters included the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the Loretto Community at the United Nations. The Loretto Community was founded in 1812 by two women who taught children in Kentucky and wished to expand their spiritual, environmental, and educational outreach. Similar gender and climate justice tribunals have taken place in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The tribunal planned to highlight how women living in persistent poverty areas and impoverished communities are being affected by climate-related issues.
The audience included women of all ages, one 6 weeks old, some 7 decades older. It was especially gratifying to meet a group of enthusiastic students from Xavier University.
The format was that of a legal proceeding, with “jurists” listening to testimony in four “cases” by “witnesses,” and “experts”. WVHC’s mining chairperson, Cindy Rank, presented expert testimony in the case of “Damages to Air, Land, and Water.” Actually, the vital nature of clean water was stressed by all participants in each of the cases. Following each presentation the jurists made responses.
The expert testimonies were detailed yet succinct and the stories told by the witnesses were heartfelt and often heartbreaking. Many attendees were moved to tears. One jurist termed the effects of mountaintop removal mining as “climate Holocaust.”
Near the end of the session, the jurists read a list of recommendations they’d compiled based on the testimony they’d heard. These recommendations will be taken to a United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro next month. There are also plans to present the list to women in positions of power here in this nation.
Just after the session ended word came that sponsors of the tribunal had won a coveted spot as an officially recognized event as part of the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June. Results of this and other women’s group tribunals on issues around the globe will be part of that presentation.
Mining chairperson, Cindy Rank, from West Virginia Highlands Voice presented expert testimony.
Learn more about this initiative here: http://wvhighlands.org/wv_voice/?p=5087
Erie Rising: Elevating the Way We Live
Erie Rising is a grassroots, mom (parent) powered organization, dedicated to protecting our children, our health, our environment and our community, as well as those beyond our reach. Founded by accomplished women, mothers and business owners, Erie Rising is quickly becoming the an effective grassroots mom-powered organization bringing awareness to the issues related to hydraulic fracturing and concerns for children’s health in Colorado and beyond.
Erie Rising is a grassroots, mom powered organization, dedicated to protecting our children, our health, our environment and our community, as well as those beyond our reach.
Erie Rising specializes in empowering moms with education and action outcomes, to make effective change. Founded by accomplished women, mothers and business owners, Erie Rising is quickly becoming the most effective grassroots mom-powered organization bringing awareness to the issues related to hydraulic fracturing and concerns for children’s health in Colorado.
To help protect and advocate for the well being of the families in communities affected by natural gas operations. We seek information and education on the health and environmental issues that affect us all so that we can take actions and seek governmental support to keep our children safe and healthy, if and when necessary.
Erie Rising Believes:
We all have the unalienable right to live in a town with clean air, safe water and a healthy environment.
It is the duty of our publicly elected officials to uphold and protect these rights and keep us safe.
It is our duty as committed members of the community to raise our voices and exercise our rights to protect ourselves, our families, and our future.
Erie Rising’s Position on Natural Gas Drilling and Mining Using Hydraulic Fracturing:
"We believe the onus lies squarely with the gas companies and our elected officials to prove that natural gas drilling and mining by fracturing is safe and does not pose a real or imminent threat to our children, our health or our environment. We are seeking scientific studies and other information to prove we are not at risk from this activity. We pledge that, in the absence of that proof, we will take action to keep it out of our community and away from our schools until such proof is available."
Visit the website here for more information: http://www.erierising.com/
Womens Earth Alliance Southwest Environmental Justice Initiative
United Methodist Women members and leaders from the U.S. faith community delivered a red flag message on the environment to the Obama administration and the Senate during a public witness in Washington, D.C., Nov. 5, part of the countdown to the December Copenhagen climate change summit.
The message called for Senate Environment and Public Works committee members now grappling with markups to the Clean Energy bill to forgo differences and agree on a strong and binding climate bill. The message to President Obama: Be in Copenhagen and have evidence of commitment in your pocket.
The collective Climate Witness took place on the Capitol lawn and called for accountability by U.S. leaders for the sustainability of the planet and protection of those most vulnerable. Immediately following, participants personally delivered nearly 14,000 postcards to Senate offices and Obama administration officials. A majority of participants in the witness were United Methodist Women members from across the United States.
Speakers at the event included Harriett Olson, chief executive of the Women’s Division and Inelda González, president of the Women’s Division.
Ms. González read Isaiah 32 in Spanish, which implores leaders to govern with justice. “A fool will no longer be called noble, nor a villain said to be honorable … but those who are noble plan noble things, and by noble things they stand,” the passage says. Ms. Olson appealed for immediate action, noting that United Methodist Women has a history of acting for justice, not waiting. “We are here today to speak for the most vulnerable, especially women and children,” she said. “We need to act, speak and stand now in favor of the environment instead of waiting for someone else.”
Other faith leaders lamented the disproportionate suffering of the poorest due to climate change even as the richest cause most of its problems. “Developed nations are least responsible [for climate change], but are bearing the greatest burden of its effects,” said John McCullough, head of Church World Service. “To do nothing is a sin, a moral outrage.”
Leaders addressed climate change with moral imperative as people of faith. “Interrelatedness is part of our world. What happens elsewhere is a domestic issue,” said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches.
▲ Inelda Gonzalez, president of the Women's Division, walks toward the Russell Senate Building to deliver letters from United Methodist Women members. Photo by Leigh Rogers.
United Methodist Women members came from Georgia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Wisconsin as voters to call on their senators to “reduce climate change emissions” and “support vulnerable communities,” an event statement said.
Sabrina White, president of United Methodist Women’s Northeastern Jurisdiction, organized two vans from the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church to visit their senators, Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin of Maryland. Counsel to Senator Mikulski, Teri Curtis, met with the group. Ms. Curtis, a United Methodist, told them that it is important to invest in climate change initiatives. A job growth component for engaging the economy is vital, she said. Eddi Mae Tisdale, a United Methodist Women member and a district president from Baltimore-Washington Conference, came with the group because everyone has the responsibility to take care of the environment. “I came down on the Metro instead of driving to do my part,” she said.
Supporters of climate change legislation at the Climate Witness make a circle facing the Capitol building to pray. Photo by Leigh Rogers.
United Methodist Women members at the Climate Witness in Washington, D.C. Photo by Leigh Rogers.
Sabrina White, a United Methodist Women jurisdictional president, speaks to Teri Curtis, Counsel to Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland on environmental issues. Photo by Leigh Rogers.
Sisters on the Planet: Sharon Hanshaw and Coastal Women for Change
As explained on the website: “The mission of Coastal Women for Change is to make a difference in our communities through securing and revitalizing our neighborhoods. We do this by ensuring that our communities have adequate information in a timely manner so that we can both influence and make informed decisions about the recovery process and community development, now and in the future.”
Executive Director Sharon Hanshaw adds:
"It is often said that just an encouraging word can make the difference. I want to foster among our women the willingness and openness to be encouraging to each other and those around us. Hopefully the words you find here will always have the ability to do just that. And as often as I am led here is where you will always find the desires of my heart for CWC and the community we serve.”
To learn more about how this global campaign can be useful for US organizers: http://www.austineconetwork.com/content/sisters-planet-film-screening-and-discussion
Conference Talks and Reports
Durban COP 17 Gender Advocacy, 2011
Check here for a report from GDRA friend and geographer Dr. Beth Bee, who wrote, in part: “ As was reiterated time and again, incorporating women into adaptation and mitigation projects is insufficient. Only through a concerted effort to sensitize everyone to the gendered nature of climate impacts and responses will gender justice be realized.”
Rio+20 Gender Advocacy, 2012
In advance of the Rio+20 meetings in Brazil, and under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Convention to combat Desertification, and the United nations Framework convention on climate change, an important document was drafted. The The Rio Conventions: Action on Gender 2012 can be found here: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/publications/roi_20_gender_brochure.pdf
The introduction to this document reads in part (p. 5):
The integration of gender into actions against biodiversity loss, climate change impacts and desertification will maximize the results of interventions, efforts and resources spent and will hopefully lead to gender-sensitive policymaking with optimal outcomes. We should, therefore, take a closer look at the goals, objectives and opportunities relevant to the integration of gender into each of the three Rio conventions .
The authors of The Rio Conventions: Action on Gender, echo the sentiments of so many who have worked on these issues in disaster contexts previously, writing of women as “agents of change” (p. 10)
Women should not be regarded solely as victims of climate change, since they have a strong body of knowledge that can be used in both mitigation and adaptation approaches. . . Notwithstanding their body of knowledge, women tend to be underrepresented in national and local-level decision making on climate change, including the allocation of resources. This means that their ability to contribute and implement their solutions and expertise is severely limited. And it also means that climate change policies need to be increasingly gender-based.
2012 Climate Adaptation Futures
Gender Justice, Climate Justice (G2C2) Network
This new network of gender and climate researchers was initiated through a grant from the World University Network and is based at Pennsylvania State University. For more about this project:
- http://www.wun.ac.uk/research/gender-and-climate-change (World University Network)
- http://rockethics.psu.edu/climate/g2c2/index.shtml (Rock Ethics Institute, Penn State)
Visit the G2C2 website to join the network with links to archived webinars from and about the United States and countries around the world.
In addition to a webinar series, the network sponsored an international conference held in September 15, 2011 in Prato, Italy in collaboration with Monash University. Check out the proceedings and abstracts here.
Look, too, for the forthcoming publication arising from the conference, edited by Australian academics Margaret Alston and Kerry Whittenbury, titled Research, Action and Policy: Addressing the Gendered Impacts of Climate Change. Presentations from an earlier Monash forum on Leadership and Climate Change are also available here: http://www.med.monash.edu/glass/women-leadership-forum/powerpoint-presentations.html
Gender and Climate Change: An Introduction, edited by Irene Dankelman, Zed Publishers, 2010
Although climate change affects everybody it is not gender neutral. It has significant social impacts and magnifies existing inequalities such as the disparity between women and men in their vulnerability and ability to cope with this global phenomenon. This new textbook, edited by one of the authors of the seminal Women and the Environment in the Third World: Alliance for the Future (1988) which first exposed the links between environmental degradation and unequal impacts on women, provides a comprehensive introduction to gender aspects of climate change. Over 35 authors have contributed to the book. It starts with a short history of the thinking and practice around gender and sustainable development over the past decades. Next it provides a theoretical framework for analyzing climate change manifestations and policies from the perspective of gender and human security. Drawing on new research, the actual and potential effects of climate change on gender equality and women's vulnerabilities are examined, both in rural and urban contexts. This is illustrated with a rich range of case studies from all over the world and valuable lessons are drawn from these real experiences. Too often women are primarily seen as victims of climate change, and their positive roles as agents of change and contributors to livelihood strategies are neglected. The book disputes this characterization and provides many examples of how women around the world organize and build resilience and adapt to climate change and the role they are playing in climate change mitigation. The final section looks at how far gender mainstreaming in climate mitigation and adaptation has advanced, the policy frameworks in place and how we can move from policy to effective action. Accompanied by a wide range of references and key resources, this book provides students and professionals with an essential, comprehensive introduction to the gender aspects of climate change.
“Natural Disasters, Climate Change Uproot Women of Color,” Tuesday 17 November 2009 by Jacqui Patterson in On The Issues Magazine. Access it here: http://archive.truthout.org/1117094
Hypatia: Journal of Feminist Philosophy–watch for the special issue edited by Nancy Tuana and Chris Cuomo (forthcoming)
Women and Climate Change syllabus, undergraduate class, University of Denver, 2011, E. Enarson (see Teaching Resources elsewhere on this site)
Teaching Gender and Climate Change: Selected Resources compiled by Dr. Barbara Sutton, University at Albany, SUNY.
Some Useful Links
Some Useful Links
Wonderful efforts are underway around the world to build a more gender-responsive approach to mitigation and adaptation to global warming. To access the most current reports and learn more about recent initiatives, we recommend the following links:
· GenCC: http://www.gendercc.net/
· Groots/Disaster Watch: http://www.disasterwatch.net/
· WEDO/Global Gender and Climate Change Alliance: http://www.wedo.org/
· Energia: http://www.energia.org/
· Gender and Water Alliance [GWA]: http://www.genderandwater.org/
· Sisters on the Planet/Oxfam: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/whoweare/sisters-on-the-planet
· Code Pink: http://www.codepink4peace.org/section.php?id=354
· Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management [WOCAN]: http://www.wocan.org/
· Women’s Earth Alliance http://www.womensearthalliance.org/
Women and Climate Change, genCC: Women for climate justice ( http://youtu.be/j1JdAmCJF5o)
A great introduction to frame any pubic presentation and readily adaptable to conditions and inititives in the United States.
Mandisa Moore, New Orleans ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wtCFiA2HBMI)
Mandisa describes how climate change affects her life and community and how the issue of climate justice is intersectional with racial justice. She particularly organizes around violence, reproduction, and sexuality of women of color.
Women and Climate Change U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero (http://www.youtube.com/v/ZZ74iFLoA-E&hl=en_US&fs=1&)
Otero discusses women's role in climate change at COP15 (Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Copenhagen, Denmark December 10, 2009. Go to http://www.state.gov/video for text transcript and more video.
Women's Earth Alliance Southwest Environmental Justice Initiative (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQArxKHGG9A j )
The first phase of a long-term partnership among women public interest attorneys and Native American women leaders in the Southwest United States. In September of 2008, a group of remarkable women lawyers from across the United States, WEA staff, and Native American women grassroots leaders joined together for a profound journey of dialogue, witnessing and action. From the high desert of Northern Nevada to the lush U.S./ Mexico border region, and from the alpine highlands of Northern Arizona to the flat, sun-drenched expanses of the Four Corners region, our journey laid the groundwork for an alliance to be born, whereby lawyers and Native American leaders partner over the long-term to address the pressing environmental and human rights abuses affecting Native communities. September, 2008
Sisters on the Planet, Sharon Hanshaw (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHLBXeaOJjc&feature=player_embedded&noredirect=1)
Sharon Hanshaw helps women speak out and prepare for future storms in post-Hurricane Katrina Biloxi, MS. Find out how you can help at http://www.oxfamamerica.org/sisters.