Women and climate change

// 10 July 2006

Climate change policy should be changed to reflect the greater impact it will have on women, argues Bojana Stoparic over on AlterNet.

The argument goes like this: in a natural disaster, women are more vulnerable than men, at least in the developing world. Bangladesh, which is widely expected to experience catastrophic flooding, being a prime example:

For Bangladeshi women, this is particularly bad news. In some past floods–such as in April 1991 following a Category 4 cyclone–the death rate for women was five times that of men.

And here is why:

“Women are particularly vulnerable to adverse impacts from climate change because they are disproportionately poor and lacking in access to clean water, adequate nutrition, health care and shelter,” said Neil Leary, who directs a project assessing the impact of climate change for the United Nations Environment Program and the Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training, a Washington-based environmental research organization. “The livelihoods of women are often highly dependent upon resources that are strongly influenced by climate.”

Women–by tending livestock, growing vegetable gardens and cultivating subsistence crops such as rice–are responsible for between 70 percent and 80 percent of household food production in sub-Saharan Africa, 65 percent in Asia and 45 percent in Latin America.

Collecting water and firewood also often falls to women. As crop yields are reduced and resources become scarcer, women’s workloads will only become more time-consuming and burdensome, jeopardizing chances to work outside the home or attend school.

At the same time, women’s traditional knowledge and skills have helped communities cope with severe weather. During a drought in Micronesia, for instance, local women, familiar with island hydrology, found new water sources for their communities.

Now, I have some sympathy for the argument being put forward: climate change talks have focused almost completely on the science and policy instruments designed to avert climate change. Much less attention has been given to how the world’s poorest citizens, who will also be hardest hit, will cope. However, you might say, this is a problem that transcends gender. Of course, it does, except that women tend to suffer the ill effects of poverty more than men: sexism exacerbates poverty.

It seems fair enough to me: especially as we know that global warming is so far gone that we will feel its effects in the next century even if we stopped polluting tomorrow.

What a shame that Stoparic chose to include this then:

Many scientists attribute global warming to the release of greenhouse gases by industrial processes and the burning of fossil fuels.

No, it’s not many scientists. It’s every single scientist working in the field except those paid off by the oil industry or total charlatons. I am so tired of reading this tripe in every US story about climate change. Get over it: it’s real. This is like including a ‘pro-racist’ point of view in every story exposing racism. Why am I going on about this on a feminist blog? Well, if nothing is done because the media conspires in this kind of BS, then as the article points out women will be the ones to suffer. Any miniscule progress we’ve made in combatting world poverty will be wiped out.

When World Changing finally gets its ‘climate change sceptic response post’ up, I will be happy. In the meantime, I suggest everyone goes out right now and buys energy efficient lightbulbs: it’s not just climate activism, it’s feminist activism.

Also: if you’ve not seen it yet, the latest Carnival of Feminists is up on Ink and Incapability.

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