Why climate change is a feminist issue… and what you can do about it.

By Sarah Lux-Lee

August 23, 2017

Climate change is a global challenge that burdens all humanity, but not equally.

When ocean levels rise, when harvests fail, when natural disasters disrupt communities and claim lives, we are all affected. So it might seem unusual to talk about climate change as part of the global women’s rights agenda. Delve a little deeper, though, and it is impossible to deny that climate change is an issue that uniquely affects the world’s women – and one where we are uniquely empowered to have an impact.

A 2015 report by Georgetown University found that “climate change is a global challenge that burdens all humanity, but not equally.” Women are disproportionately affected by environmental changes for many reasons.

UN Photo/Martine Perret

For one thing, women make up the majority of the world’s poor and are responsible for most of the agricultural work and food production in many countries. This increases their personal and economic vulnerability to lost harvests, which result from changes in temperature, floods and droughts. In many countries, women also bear primary care responsibilities for families and communities, and when resources become scarce, the burden of this (often unpaid) care work increases. Because women often have lesser access to resources, they are also likely to be the last to leave when a natural disaster occurs – a 2007 study by the London School of Economics found that natural disasters are more likely to kill women than men.

What’s more, even though the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) now formally recognizes women’s unique vulnerability to climate change, in many countries they are still excluded from the seats of power where decisions about environmental sustainability are made.  In the European Union, for example, it is estimated that women hold only about a quarter of climate change related decision-making positions.

Each of us is empowered to make a difference – and as people committed to protecting and promoting women’s rights and safety, we must.

Despite these challenges, women are banding together around the world in grassroots efforts to protect and preserve the environment and mitigate the impacts of climate change. In the developing world, women are collaborating on seed-saving initiatives, sharing traditional ecological knowledge, and engaging in skills-sharing and development programs within their communities.  In OECD countries, women are more likely to be “sustainable consumers,” committed to recycling, buying organic produce, and choosing energy-efficient public transport options. 

Climate change affects all of us, but its impacts on women are especially pronounced. We can all do more to mitigate our own impact on the environment, and to rally our communities around big change. Will you choose the bus over a car?  Volunteer for a community garden?  Write to your local representative to demand clean energy commitments?  Donate to sustainability projects in the countries that need them most?  Whichever course of action you choose, each of us is empowered to make a difference – and as people committed to protecting and promoting women’s rights and safety, we must.

Take Action Challenge

  • Change starts with us! Check out these actions (large and small) that we can all take to become climate activists via the Climate Reality Projecthttp://bit.ly/2iq36jp 
  • Based in New York? Join Mindr on September 6th to talk climate change and gender with Eleanor Blomstrom, Co-Director and Head of Office of WEDO, a global women’s advocacy organization that promotes gender equality and sustainability. Eleanor will share some of the ways in which WEDO is witnessing the power of women’s organizing and leadership for change​​​​​​​​ in protecting and promoting a healthy, peaceful planet. And as with all Mindr events, the snacks will be on point, and crying babies are welcome. 
  • Join the Mindr community! You can find them on Facebook and Instagram

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