Climate Change: a Feminist Issue

This post was edited on March 22nd, 2023 by bubblebeez.

When thinking about feminism, climate change isn’t usually one of the first things people think of. In fact, it likely isn’t thought of at all. Regardless of this, it’s a problem that requires the feminist perspective and attention, as it is increasingly getting worse. Acts and bills like the IRA and Paris Agreement Act are being signed to fight it, and marginalized groups like women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), and people whose incomes are below the federal poverty threshold are all disproportionately impacted by climate change.

If you did not already know, in 2022 President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which commits to spending $369 billion, “in clean-energy tax credits and funding for climate and energy programs, including efforts to ramp up manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure,” according to Grist. Of this, about $60 billion is used for clean energy projects in low-income communities and cleaning air pollution.

This bill, which focuses federal spending on lowering carbon emissions, is considered the most significant clean energy and climate legislation in the history of the nation. What is unique about this bill is that not only will it provide money to environmental causes and lower carbon emissions contributing, but it will also lower health care costs, increase job growth and provide opportunities for new technologies. Most relevantly, according to The Nature Conservancy, it will, “address the disproportionate effects of air pollution and climate change on historically marginalized or underserved communities.

What is the relationship between marginalized and underserved communities and our climate conditions? Women, people of color, and people whose incomes are below the federal poverty threshold experience climate change harsher due to previous disadvantages.

In regards to how women experience climate change at a disadvantage, due to things like patriarchy and gender hierarchy, Global citizen says, “Heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme storms disproportionately affect women. That’s because women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less access to basic human rights like the ability to freely move and acquire land, and face systematic violence that escalates during periods of instability.” Underprivileged women, whether that be because of socioeconomic status, gender identity, ethnicity and or nationality, or all three (facing intersectionalities), are given less resources to fight or resist climate change, with some more so than others. The government recognizes these inequalities and in cases like the Paris Agreement in 2015, an international treaty on climate change aiming to limit global warming through legal binding, these issues are addressed along with climate. The Paris Agreement specifically states within it that climate change is a concern of humankind. This means that when addressing it, it is also appropriate to promote, “the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

Black, Indigenous and People of Color, have also disproportionately experienced climate change, as they have wrongfully been made the dumping site for pollution numerous times. According to United Nations, these dumping sites are called Global ‘sacrifice zones’, or, “regions rendered dangerous and even uninhabitable due to environmental degradation.” In reality, these zones are racial and ethnic sacrifice zones. United Nations, in better words, says, “It is the peoples and territories who have been subject to the worst forms of historical and contemporary racial and ethnic subordination that are the primary inhabitants of these sacrifice zones.” Structural imbalances have led to these sacrifice zones, which are typically zoned amongst these communities of color.

A prime example of this is Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. The name for this region comes from the cancer risk, which is among the highest in the Unites States, due to a chemical plant zoned there. NBC News says, “Denka Performance Elastomer plant in LaPlace, Louisiana, along the Mississippi River, is the only facility in the U.S. that produces chloroprene, a chemical used in the production of neoprene. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber found in products such as wetsuits and adhesives.” What is most notable is that 93 percent of the residents within a mile of the Denka plant are Black.

Representation in climate change is an issue as well. We learn about how climate change affects these groups but then don’t always see them involved in it, which can cause an unjust shift of blame in the media. What is being failed to recognize is the fact that many marginalized groups affected don’t have the resources to fight what is happening to them because of what is happening to them. Teach the future says, “Many (not all) of the faces you see representing the climate justice movement are from a middle-class background. This is due to the fact that these people have the means and support to take on opportunities.” These opportunities include the money to travel to different places or having the time available to join an organization. For instance, there are income barriers which affect ones availability of attention, especially when meeting basic needs are already posing a timely challenge. Having the money and time to take part in matters like this are a privilege that not everyone has.

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