What is Climate Feminism and How to Tackle It

It’s strange to think about how things can affect other things. Something you’ve probably never thought of- climate affecting feminism. Strange concept, but it’s actually a thing. Loosely referred to as climate feminism. What is climate feminism? Easiest way to explain it is through an example. So back in the fall of 2020, between October 31st and November 18th, two powerful hurricanes, Eta and Iota, hit Central America. The power of these hurricanes caused extreme flooding and powerful landslides that affected millions- primarily in the Honduras and Nicaragua areas. Thousands were ripped out of their homes, and women, especially those with children, were affected the most. The United Nations estimated that 80% of all those people displaced by climate change are women. However, it’s not just hurricanes that bring these effects. Researchers in India have found that droughts too apparently hit women the hardest. 

“The climate crisis is not gender neutral,” says Katharine K. Wilkinson, coeditor of the anthology All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, a book of poems and essays that is written entirely by women contributors. “It grows out of a patriarchal system that is also entangled with racism and white supremacy and extractive capitalism. And the unequal impacts of climate change are making it harder to achieve a gender-equal world… In the face of this reality, the world needs to embrace a feminist approach to tackling the climate crisis”, she adds. “That includes a collective mission to shift who is leading the way on solutions to the crisis, and what the approach will be.”

Climate change developed in a biased world and is now intensifying the inequalities women experience- particularly those who live in rural areas and the global south and women of color. According to Wilkinson, these injustices of the climate crisis also highlight a leadership crisis. What we truly need, she and All We Can Save coeditor Ayana Elizabeth Johnson writes, is a “feminist climate renaissance.” Without this, a just and liveable future becomes impossible. “Research shows that women’s leadership and equal participation result in better outcomes for climate policy, reducing emissions, and protecting land,” Wilkinson adds.

Wilkinson and Johnson see four main characteristics shared by today’s most influential climate leaders- most of which are women. For starters, they prioritize making change over being in charge. “We need to get over ego, competition, and control—all that patriarchal, supremacist, hierarchical stuff that gets in the way, burns a lot of energy, and keeps us from collaborating,” Wilkinson says. Secondly, feminist climate leaders also tend to have a deep commitment to justice and equality. Also, having emotional intelligence is necessary, too. “This is the biggest challenge humanity has ever grappled with, and we’re not going to solve it from our prefrontal cortex alone,” Wilkinson states. “We need to come to this as whole human beings. And that means the grief, the uncertainty, the rage, the anxiety, but also the really ferocious love.” Last, feminist climate leaders recognize that building community is a prerequisite for building a better world. 

It’s not much, but it’s somewhere to start on trying to lessen the inequalities women face.

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