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Women and Global Warming

April 17, 2009

As Wangari Maathai who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her campaign to reforest Africa and Jody Williams, who was honored in 1997 for her work to ban land mines, have stated, global warming disproportionately affects women. The 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh killed 71 of every 1,000 women versus 15 of every 1,000 men. Women produce 65 percent of the food grown in Asia and 75 percent of it in sub-Saharan Africa. For this reason, women suffer most when crops decline or fail due to drought or otherwise erratic weather: this story from the Philippines is a good example.

Indeed, the same pollutants that cause global warming harm women even before they reach the atmosphere. Consider this New York Times story on cooking-stove soot: because women do most of the cooking, they are the ones whose lungs absorb the most damaging agents.

What these facts don’t tell us is that, despite claims to the contrary that rely on broad generalizations, women have been leaders in the struggle against global warming. The work for which Wangari Maathai was recognized is just one example. As pointed out on the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights blog

In Suriname, no one listened when women pointed out that a local river’s annual floods were getting worse and that perhaps the village should relocate to higher ground. It was wiped out the following year. When drought hit Micronesia, women were digging wells and creating new water sources long before the government decided what it could do. When Hurricane Mitch killed thousands in Central America in 1998, no one died in the Honduran town of La Masica because women there participated equally with men in all relief operations, went on rescue missions, rehabilitated local infrastructure, distributed food and took over the task, from men, of monitoring the early-warning system for disasters.

To effectively address global warming, the needs of women, especially poor women, must be addressed and their voices heard.

CARE is trying to raise $50,000 by midnight on Earth Day, April 22 for its ongoing efforts to address the intertwined problems of hunger and climate change.

  1. Keri permalink
    April 18, 2009 10:49 am

    I never thought of global warming as being an issue relevant to feminism, but now that I have read this article, I see the point. Nothing is simply a “man’s battle,” and it is incredible to me, the efforts that women are making to help with the cause.


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