Planting the Seed for Women in the Climate Conversation

Some of you may have heard the term 'ecofeminism' being used increasingly in the media or conversations with others over the last few years. Still, many of us may not entirely understand the term or the movement behind it. Mary Mellor, an economist at Northumbria University, defines ecofeminism as a "connection between the exploitation and degradation of the natural world and the subordination and oppression of women."

Now, that's a lot of words, so let's break them down. Essentially, ecofeminists believe that patriarchal societies similarly treat women and nature. Such a culture tends to overexploit and oppose the independence of both women and nature. For example, just how society clears forests and fields to build factories and houses, they also tend to undermine women's voices regarding topics of importance. The tragedy of Love Canal is an excellent example of this intersection when school officials refused to believe mothers who claimed that their children were becoming sick due to toxic waste under the school.

Although the topic has come into the spotlight more recently, ecofeminism first emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s. Both the Feminist and Green movements noticed the parallel between the way nature and women were being treated and decided to take action. The first ecofeminist conference occurred after the nuclear meltdown at 3-Mile Island. Women around the country began to meet and discuss ways to combine feminism and environmentalism to promote better treatment of women and nature alike.

Humankind and nature have always been codependent; however, women and nature perhaps have a much deeper bond due to the role of women in family dynamics. For example, Climate change disproportionately affects women as they are primarily responsible for producing food for their families. In droughts or floods, it makes their job that much harder to provide for their family. When nature is at harm, so are the women living in it.

When it comes to tackling the climate crisis or solving any environmental issue, organizations and governments must include women in the discussion because they are the bearers of change. Unfortunately, the voices of women are often underrepresented in many local and national governments. Across 100 countries, the representation of women in local governments stands at only about 26%, and that number isn't much better at the national level.

Women's voices are pivotal to bringing about change. Countries with more gender-equal representation report lower levels of deforestation and air pollution and utilize better methods for tackling the climate crisis. Despite this knowledge, a lack of access to political spaces leads to a scarcity of women in the decision-making process.

It is clear that if we want to fight climate change effectively, we need to include women in the conversation. They are a force to be reckoned with. Although we have activists like Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate, and Xiye Bastida, who are spearheading the movement for feminism and environmentalism alike, we need to provide more opportunities for women to step up. They are the untapped resource that can help us fight climate change if we give them the proper resources to succeed. Let's work towards making a better future--for both women and our Earth--for generations to come.