I was just sent a link to this fantastic article by Jess McCabe in The Guardian, in which she talks about climate change being a feminist issue not because of population control – but because it is women who are on the front line, facing the affects of climate change and dealing with them for their communities.
She quotes some statistics from the Women’s Manifesto on Climate Change to frame this. “Poor people are likely to bear the brunt as the climate changes and 70% of the world’s poor are women. According to one estimate, 85% of the victims of climate disasters are women. Another study found 75% of environmental refugees are women.”
I was reminded of New York Climate Week, during which I chaired a heartbreaking debate that included ‘four courageous women’ as part of ClimateVoice and the work I do with Oxfam.
I sat and listened to their stories of how climate change was changing their lives. Sharon Hanshaw lost everything during Hurricane Katrina but is still not receiving any help to rebuild her own life, Ulamila Kurai Wragg from the Cook Islands has seen things change first hand having been born and raised in the Pacific. Constance Okollet spoke to us about Uganda, and how her village once thought God was punishing them, and Ursula told us that she had been tasked with telling the world about her home in the South Pacific by her elders.
It was probably the first time I’d spent time with those in the thick of it, and it scared me. I felt selfish and I felt like most of what I was doing wasn’t making a difference. The kind words of Ulamila (who gave up a high paying job to focus on campaigning around this issue) put things into perspective however. She said that it’s unfortunately in the hands of a few – at the time she was talking about the G20 in Pittsburgh – to put their money where there mouth is.
I’d like to think that trying to live with a little more awareness and not waste so much can still make a difference, but these women were all too aware that for them, it was too late. Sad yes, but the most poignant moment of my trip and not one I’ll forget easily.