The Crucial Intersection of Feminism and Climate Justice
In the past several years, it has become increasingly apparent that the climate crisis is not an isolated global issue, but is inextricably connected to various systems of power and oppression that transcend national borders. The complexity and inequitable impacts of this crisis require an intersectional analysis that challenges these systems of power and works to find solutions that create a better planet for all. In looking through a feminist lens, it is evident that gender oppression is intricately tied with environmental degradation and the climate crisis through a variety of sociohistorical factors. Women, especially women of color and those in the Global South, are the hardest hit by the effects of the changing climate, but are also uniquely situated as agents of change to combat this crisis. Thus it is crucial that our efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change involve the voices and experiences of these women, and other marginalized identities globally. Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland and climate activist tells us that “climate change is a man-made problem with a feminist solution”.
Ecofeminism encourages us to examine the connection between women and the environment as common victims to the capitalist-patriarchal system that our world currently operates under. Within this hierarchical system, both women and the environment are cast off as an “other” to be used and controlled by the white man. The environment itself is something that has been feminized and objectified; something to be dominated and conquered. The very naming of our planet as “Mother Earth” demonstrates this hierarchical division between man/woman and human/nature. This framework informs the inextricable connection between women and the planet, and helps us to better understand the ways in which women are both disproportionately affected by the climate crisis and positioned to solve it.
The climate crisis threatens agriculture and food security across the globe, posing significant dangers to developing countries that rely heavily on subsistence farming. Women carry a greater portion of the responsibility for producing household food supply, and account for a majority of the agricultural workforce in developing countries. As a result, these women feel the effects of drought and natural disaster the most. Despite women’s crucial role in food supply and agriculture, “only about 10-20% of women in the agriculture workforce in developing countries have land rights” (Daza, Dejusticia, 2019). This poses multiple barriers limiting women’s access to loans and resources that may assist them in reducing the vulnerability of their crops to drought or disaster or adopting more sustainable farming practices that reduce environmental degradation. Additionally, in times of food insecurity, boys and men are given first preference in food distribution, putting women at greater risk of malnutrition and hunger.
As the climate crisis increasingly causes migration and displacement, women are at a greater risk of domestic violence, trafficking, and sexual violence. Even within the current pandemic, there have been increased reports of domestic violence due to stay-at-home orders and isolation. There is a clear connection then, between women’s bodily autonomy and negative consequences of the climate crisis. This same connection is visible in attempts to control the growing population. Women across the world have often lacked proper access to contraceptives and family planning resources, which means more children and a growing population. Rather than affording women the access to such resources, policymakers often focus their efforts in “population control”. These efforts have historical roots in reproductive coercion and systemic racism, and have resulted in mass-sterilization projects aimed at Black, Latina, and other women of color. In addition to the necessity for proper family planning and contraceptive resources, studies have shown that when women have proper access to education, healthcare, and fair wages, they have less children. Women’s autonomy is thus a necessary solution to mitigate population growth.
The aforementioned issues hardly scratch the surface of the intersection between the climate crisis and gender oppression, and further analysis reveals parallel connections with systems of class oppression, white supremacy, homophobia and transphobia, as well as ageism. Therefore, it is crucial that we are intentional in our solutions to help uproot these oppressive systems that are so intricately connected to the degradation of our climate. We must see environmental issues through an intersectional feminist lens, working to uplift and empower those most greatly affected by the impacts of a changing climate. Women and BIPOC must be at the forefront of the efforts to mitigate this crisis, as it is their wellbeing and safety most directly at risk. Therefore, what is necessary is a feminist solution to the climate crisis.
GSBA, Sustainability Chair