Climate Change is a feminist issue. 80% of the people displaced and affected by climate change are women. This is due to the disproportionate impact of climate change of poor communities (which are largely made up of women), as well as multiple other factors – including the shocking statistic that four women and children a minute die prematurely due to illness caused by indoor air pollution, primarily from smoke produced while cooking with solid fuels*.
Earth Collective is proudly female-founded. We are inspired and influenced by women all over the world who work hard to get world leaders, corporations, governments and those in power to sit up, pay attention and take action on climate change.
So in the lead up to International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate just some of these women (and girls) – their work, their achievements and their passion. These are the women we at Earth Collective often try to channel when making decisions. We have a “What would [insert any name from the list below] do?” mantra! We hope one day, through our work now and our exciting plans for the future, that we might join this growing list of living legends, fighting for justice for our planet. For now, let’s put the spotlight on them.
Earlier this year, Nakate stood for a photo alongside fellow young climate activists Luisa Neubauer, Greta Thunberg, Isabelle Axelsson and Loukina Tille. Nakate was cropped out of the photo by the Associated Press, which she then tweeted to ask why – a question that sparked a global debate about the censorship of non-white voices in the climate movement.Founder of The Rise Up Movement and Youth for Future Africa, Nakate is a climate activist from Uganda. She campaigns against the destruction of the Congo rainforest; organises climate strikes; raises awareness about how the climate crisis is already affecting her home country, as well as the rest of the African continent; and is working to introduce renewable energy in schools and teach students about climate change.
Author of international bestsellers including On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, The Shock Doctrine, No Logo, This Changes Everything and No Is Not Enough, Klein boasts an impressive resume. She is the inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University, an award-winning journalist, a syndicated columnist and founder of the climate justice organisation, The Leap.
In her writing, Klein chronicles the exploitation of people and the planet, demanding justice. Her work is an urgent call to action for a planet that is in crisis, with a strong undertone of all is not lost, we CAN fix this. Klein’s organisation, The Leap, states its mission as “to advance a radically hopeful vision for how we can address climate change by building a more just world, while building movement power and popular support to transform it into a lived reality”.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is running for Congress in the US. Ocasio-Cortez has experienced first hand both sides of laws and policy. Born in the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez went on to earn degrees in Economics and International Relations at Boston University, where she also handled foreign affairs and immigration casework for constituent families for the late Sen. Kennedy. When her father suddenly passed away from cancer at just 48 years old, Ocasio-Cortez worked two jobs and 18-hour shifts in restaurants to help her family keep their home. Now, her mission in Congress is to create an America that works for the many, not just a wealthy few.
Ocasio-Cortez strongly supports transitioning the United States to a carbon-free, 100% renewable energy system and a fully modernised electrical grid by 2035. She is a vocal supporter of a Green New Deal, launching a formal resolution for it alongside Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. As Naomi Klein puts it on her book ‘On Fire’: “The Green New Deal resolution begins with the terrifying science and short timelines in [The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report and calls for the United States to launch a moon shot approach to decarbonization, attempting to reach net-zero emissions in just one decade, in line with getting the entire world there by mid-century”.
In April 2019, Ocasio-Cortez partnered with The Intercept, to narrate and launch a seven-minute film, illustrated by Molly Crabapple, that asks: What if we decided not to drive off the climate cliff? What if we chose to radically change course and save both our habitat and ourselves? You can watch this compelling film here.
On top of all that, Alexandria is the first NY-14 Democratic challenger in a generation; the first NY-14 candidate to run without any lobbyist money in modern history; and the first woman of colour to *ever* run in NY-14 (a district that’s 70% people of colour).
Sunita Narain is the Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the treasurer of the Society for Environmental Communications, the Editor of Down to Earth and a Delhi-based environmentalist who pushes for changes in policies, practices and mindset. Narain has been instrumental in and won many awards for her work on subjects such as rainwater harvesting and community based water management; her action on conservation after the loss of tigers in Sariska; and her advocacy for air pollution control.
One of Narain’s key focuses is understanding the connection between the environment and development, and how for the millions of poor in India who live on the margins of subsistence, it is a matter of survival. Narain co-edited the State of India’s Environment report in 1985. In 1989, alongside eminent environmentalist Anil Agarwal, Narain wrote Towards Green Villages, which advocated local participatory democracy as the key to sustainable development.
Narain has been working on climate change since the early 1990s. Her co-authored publication Global Warming in an Unequal World: A Case of Environmental Colonialism played a critical role in establishing the principle of equity in the framework convention on climate change.
In 2016, Time Magazine listed Narain as one of the 100 most influential in the world. Narain’s interest is to ensure countries in the Southern world do not adopt highly chemical intensive agricultural systems, as they do not have the capacity to mitigate and manage the toxic fallout on the environment and human health.
Canadian Miranda Wang is a molecular biologist, entrepreneur, environmental advocate, and inventor. Wang was just 18 years old when she and Jeanny Yao discovered a bacterium that has the potential to naturally degrade phthalates – a toxin found in many common plastics that is linked to health issues. The two co-founded BioCellection Inc, an innovation company that turns unrecyclable plastic waste into valuable chemicals.
Wang recognised that every sector of the food chain is impacted by plastics. 97% of post-consumer and 79% of post-industrial plastic films end up in landfills and oceans and only 9% of plastic packaging gets recycled worldwide. With Biocellection Inc, Wang aims to protect our environment by creating innovative recycling processes for post-consumer waste plastics that no one else can recycle, and by converting them into virgin quality building blocks for sustainable supply chains.
Wang was recently named a Laureate of ROLEX Awards for Enterprise in recognition of her ambitious endeavour to create a healthier future for the planet, and was names in the Forbes 30 under 30 list, alongside her long-time friend and business partner, Jenny Yao.
Climate scientist and Associate Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia Engineering’s Department of Applied Physics and Mathematics, Dr Kate Marvel uses satellite observations of the climate system, reconstructions of past climate change, and the output of computer models of the climate to understand climate change and its impacts. Marvel received a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Cambridge in 2008 and has worked at the Carnegie Institution, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Stanford University.
During her career, Marvel has advised journalists, artists and policymakers, written a popular science blog and given frequent public talks. Her writing has appeared in Nautilus Magazine.
No list of women fighting for climate justice would be complete without mentioning Greta Thunberg. It’s hard to believe it was only 18 months ago that the then 16-year-old activist began her peaceful protest by striking from school on a Friday, sitting outside the Swedish parliament building, in a bid to raise awareness climate change. This simple action drove attention from around the world and Thunberg quickly became the inspiration and leader of thousands of strikes for climate action around the globe. In September 2019, Thunberg led the largest climate strike in history.
In just 18 months, Thunberg has addressed the UN, US Congress, UK Parliament; made it to the UN COP25 climate summit in Madrid by catching a lift with an Australian sailing couple; been named the 2019 Person of the Year by TIME Magazine; and had to contend with a barrage of abuse and harassment – on and offline (oddly, the majority of this trolling comes from middle-aged white men, who seem to be triggered or in some way threatened by her. Although, Thunberg isn’t the first and sadly won’t be the last prominent female figure in history to be the subject of abuse and harassment).
Amongst all that noise, Thunberg’s requests for change are so simple, it’s almost laughable that government’s are finding it so hard to…just…do:
- Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies
- Immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels
- Invest in existing sustainable technologies, research and in restoring nature
Since fossil fuels are a finite resource and will run out within our lifetimes, we think Thunberg is bang on the money.
There are many, many more women and girls around the world fighting hard to save the planet and stop the effects of climate change, but we couldn’t fit them all into one article! If you know someone who deserves recognition, please do share details about who they are on social media and tag us, or send them to us in a DM and we’ll give them a shout out! You can find us on Facebook or Instagram.
*Read more on the links between gender and climate change in this report from United Nations Development Programme (pdf)