The Necessity of Women in Climate Change & Environmentalism

by Kassandra Burd, M.Sc. Cognitive Neuropsychology, University of Kent

Thankfully, there are many women who are making their way to the forefront as climate change activists. Specifically, numerous Canadian women are taking a stand and working hard to alleviate the negative effects of climate change and improve dire environmental conditions. Some examples of Canadian women include Naomi Klein, who has written several books on the current crisis. Her goal is to reduce fossil fuel emissions and protect the environment by denouncing corporate greed and capitalism (Toole & White, 2018). Joan Clayton and Ina Andre are two women who are fighting to reduce food waste by preventing viable food from ending up in landfills. They formed an organization called, Second Harvest, in which they save fresh excess food and deliver it across the GTA for those who need it. Fundamentally, this action positively impacts our atmosphere by circumventing over 70 million pounds of greenhouse gas equivalents (Toole & White, 2018). Finally, Melina Laboucan-Massimo is an activist for climate and energy, where she advocates for the production of renewable energy for the benefit of Indigenous peoples. She is responsible for the distribution of solar panels to Indigenous communities. Moreover, Melina helped create the Piitapan Solar Project, which is an energy installation that is composed of sufficient energy to power a health centre in her hometown of Little Buffalo, Alberta (Toole & White, 2018).

The individuals mentioned are only a few of the women who are fighting for a better world despite the obstacles that stand in their way. It is evident that women serve as an asset to climate change organizations by offering their perspective and communicating their ideas as to how we can better solve the problems that are induced by climate change. With the current wildfires in Australia and the loss of Indigenous land to pipelines and corporations among other negative impacts, it is unmistakable that we are in desperate need of leaders who can implement affirmative, drastic changes that can help reverse the damage we’ve done, specifically women. It is only with the inclusion of women that we can take fresh, innovative approaches to climate change mitigation and environmental recuperation.

With the threatening wildfires, rising sea levels, and increases in global temperature, it is difficult to deny that climate change is a legitimate threat to humanity and the ecosystem. The deleterious effects on our planet will inevitably lead to destruction unless we seriously implement the required action to alleviate the negative impact on our environment. Who exactly is advocating for these actions?

Throughout the years, I’ve witnessed many notable men advocating for the environment and spreading awareness about our faulty habits and practices that contribute to the ever-growing problem of climate change. Some of these male activists include Al Gore, David Suzuki, and David Attenborough, to name a few. It wasn’t until Greta Thunberg came into the spotlight that I was cognizant of the fact that female environmental activists have largely been imperceptible up until this point. I was curious to understand the reasons why, as well as how environmental efforts could improve if more women were involved in the fight against climate change.

Without women’s participation in increasing awareness of climate change’s negative impact, significantly less can be accomplished, and at a slower rate, than if women were included. For instance, out of the many individuals who were delegates in decision-making processes in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, only 22% were women (Holt, 2019). It’s difficult not to wonder how things might be different if more boards and organizations leading the fight against climate change were composed of more women. Unfortunately, women who are thrust into the spotlight for their efforts are often on the receiving end of retaliation and abuse. In fact, hostility toward women in leadership positions supporting action for climate change is becoming more common (Raney & Gregory, 2019). The relationship between misogyny and climate denialism is part of the reason why there is animosity directed at women in environmental politics. Apparently, traditional practices and ideologies of masculinity are correlated to climate denialism. In this way, men who deny the existence of climate change tend to possess fixed, outdated notions that society should be headed in a direction that involves “industrialization, mechanism, and capitalism” (Anshelm & Hultman, 2013). In fact, many of these men aim to stay clear of pro-environmental behaviours, and so might refuse to recycle or take advantage of reusable items (Swim, Gillis, & Hamaty, 2019).

Despite this bleak depiction, it is no doubt that strides are being taken by women to engage in climate action and encourage the public to do the same. Optimistically, girls are implementing environmental action at a younger age, due to the “Greta Thunberg effect” (Chiu, 2019). Through the utilization of social media, many are using their platforms to persuade individuals in political leadership roles to improve their environmental efforts, as well as asking affluent business organizations to consider reducing their carbon footprint (Chiu, 2019). Benefits of the inclusion of girls and women in environmental activism include increased collaborative approaches in negotiations, as well as increased focus on disadvantaged groups who are more negatively effected by the effects of climate change (Blanchard, 2003). Moreover, female involvement in climate change matters fosters greater empathy and inclusiveness when it comes to solving critical problems and advocating for marginalized groups most affected by climate change (Sinha, 2019).

Thankfully, there are many women who are making their way to the forefront as climate change activists. Specifically, numerous Canadian women are taking a stand and working hard to alleviate the negative effects of climate change and improve dire environmental conditions. Some examples of Canadian women include Naomi Klein, who has written several books on the current crisis. Her goal is to reduce fossil fuel emissions and protect the environment by denouncing corporate greed and capitalism (Toole & White, 2018). Joan Clayton and Ina Andre are two women who are fighting to reduce food waste by preventing viable food from ending up in landfills. They formed an organization called, Second Harvest, in which they save fresh excess food and deliver it across the GTA for those who need it. Fundamentally, this action positively impacts our atmosphere by circumventing over 70 million pounds of greenhouse gas equivalents (Toole & White, 2018). Finally, Melina Laboucan-Massimo is an activist for climate and energy, where she advocates for the production of renewable energy for the benefit of Indigenous peoples. She is responsible for the distribution of solar panels to Indigenous communities. Moreover, Melina helped create the Piitapan Solar Project, which is an energy installation that is composed of sufficient energy to power a health centre in her hometown of Little Buffalo, Alberta (Toole & White, 2018).

The individuals mentioned are only a few of the women who are fighting for a better world despite the obstacles that stand in their way. It is evident that women serve as an asset to climate change organizations by offering their perspective and communicating their ideas as to how we can better solve the problems that are induced by climate change. With the current wildfires in Australia and the loss of Indigenous land to pipelines and corporations among other negative impacts, it is unmistakable that we are in desperate need of leaders who can implement affirmative, drastic changes that can help reverse the damage we’ve done, specifically women. It is only with the inclusion of women that we can take fresh, innovative approaches to climate change mitigation and environmental recuperation.