Skip to main content
Read page text

the fiFTH column

Climate change is a feminist crisis too ELEANOR PENNY

Among the crueller ironies of the climate crisis is how its effects exaggerate and crystallise the disparities of exploitation on which its key culprit of capitalism thrives.

burden on those expected to feed and support families becomes ever weightier. Climate change leaves women taking up more insecure and exploitative work – and dropping out of education in order to do so. Seventy per cent of global more vulnerable to violence, as do the conflicts exacerbated by climate change and to secure access to dwindling resources. Meanwhile, male-only migration leaves women as households’ sole providers.

Climate change is a nightmare cautionary tale of unshared land. Of what happens when kleptocrats, oil barons and oligarchs hoard and squeeze profits from it in a process that is rapidly making our planet unliveable. Nowhere is this imbalance of power between who owns the land and who works it more visible than through the lens of gender. Women own just 2 per cent of land globally, yet they are responsible for putting it to work to produce the necessary conditions of life. Climate change makes that work harder and even more crucial.

The short-termist solutions of the

It relies on racialised patterns of colonial exploitation and extraction – and so, the global South is affected first and worst by rising temperatures. It has thrived on mass impoverishment – and the poor are left least able to survive its effects. It has redoubled gender disparities – and it has a vastly disproportionate effect on women.

Women’s global dispossession leaves them bearing the brunt of climate chaos hyper-rich, from depopulation to geo-engineering to investing heavily in biomass, make no attempt to rectify that basic power imbalance. Indeed, the Women’s Environmental

Women’s global dispossession, together with their roles on the frontlines of social reproduction – that unrewarded, unacknowledged and unavoidable work of making life happen – leaves them bearing the brunt of climate chaos. Women are far more likely to experience poverty, comprising 70 per cent of the global poor. This leaves them less resilient to disasters, which affect key infrastructure, jobs, food prices and housing, and require people to rebuild their lives from scratch.

When access to food, water and energy becomes scarcer and less secure, the farmers are women, responsible for providing roughly 90 per cent of caloric intake for the average family; shifting climate patterns are making that task ever tougher.

According to ActionAid, 20 of the estimated 26 million people already displaced by climate change are women, a number set to mount as the effects bite harder. Forced migration is also increasing the incidence of dangerous working conditions, wage exploitation and bonded labour, which disproportionately affects women. Displacement leaves women

Network has catalogued how biofuels and carbon offsetting schemes further deprive women of land, water and resources – with indigenous women hit the hardest by increased competition for marginal agricultural land.

Solutions that challenge the roots of the climate crisis also train their sights on a future beyond such disparities. From a ‘green new deal’ to decolonising energy provision to reducing the working week, these promise to put more power in the hands of women, to even the burdens of domestic work and quash the profit motive at the heart of gender exploitation. Climate change is a feminist crisis – and it demands a feminist response.

82 RED PEPPER Spring 2019

My Bookmarks


    Skip to main content