Why Climate Justice is a Feminist Issue
This week’s U.N. climate report was alarming but not surprising. As Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement said,
“The IPCC report is apocalyptic, catastrophic, and nothing we haven’t been screaming from the rooftops for years. Our politicians shouldn’t need a report to tell them how bad things are. We’re already living it.”
The climate crisis has uneven, unequal, and long-lasting impacts on women that highlight the systemic inequities of our economy and society.
According to the U.N., “Women are increasingly being seen as more likely than men to endure the negative impacts of climate change, mainly because they represent the majority of the worlds poor and are proportionally more dependent on threatened natural resources.”
We also know that the climate crisis disproportionately impacts women of color.
The top two drivers of climate change are carbon dioxide and methane emitted by toxic facilities like coal-fired power plants and incinerators that dump dangerous amounts of mercury, arsenic, lead, and other contaminants into the water, food, and lungs of communities. The placement of these poisonous toxic facilities is equally as important because race is the No. 1 indicator of where they are located in this country.
Black neighborhoods and communities are frequently located closer to high levels of industrial chemicals, air pollution, and poisonous heavy metals. Indigenous communities are constantly struggling to protect their ancestral homelands as they continue to be stolen for development or from climate change creating a significant loss of natural resources and traditional gathering areas for food and medicine. The racial disparities in changing environmental conditions, exposure to pollutants, and discriminatory housing policies demonstrate how inexorably linked environmental justice is to our civil rights.
Additionally, proximity to pollutants, extreme heat, and weather significantly affect our health, especially maternal health. Exposure is linked to premature birth and low birth weight, maternal diabetes, and stillbirth. The Center for American Progress issued policy recommendations to improve maternal health by addressing the effects and impact of climate change. President Biden is being urged to make the risk to maternal health a central focus of US climate policy.
We refuse to let the world burn and must find alternative clean energy sources and reduce harmful emissions. We must prioritize the lives of women and historically marginalized groups – and that means prioritizing climate justice. Now is the time for us all to call on local, state, and national activists, organizers, and policymakers to take this crisis seriously and help find solutions that include all communities impacted by the climate crisis and phasing out fossil fuels.
For all of us and our future generations, we must get more serious about climate change. It couldn’t be more urgent.