Women and their fight to protect the environment
The fight against climate change and to protect the environment is everyone's task, but today we are focusing on women, specifically those who have made nature conservation their mission with a single objective: to leave a better world for the next generations. They lead the way, do you want to meet them?
Climate change is endangering the planet and, as a consequence, the lives of the living beings that inhabit it. Combating this phenomenon is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity, which is both the cause of the problem and the only one capable of solving it, in the coming decades. In this arduous task, which will require everyone's commitment, women will have a fundamental role to play.
A role that the United Nations (UN) already recognised in 1995 during the Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing. Three strategic objectives were established there with regard to women and the environment:
The active participation of women at all levels of environmental decision-making.
The integration of their concerns and perspectives into environmental policies and programmes.
The establishment of methods for assessing the impact of development and environmental policies on women.
The role of women in the defense of the environment
Over the last decade, Mother Earth has not stopped sending out messages: phenomena such as the rise in the earth's average temperature, the melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers, and the increase in sea levels or the loss of biodiversity, which has a fundamental protective role in preventing the proliferation of infectious diseases such as Covid-19, are of concern.
Who better than women to look after the planet? They are increasingly present in the world's major decision-making bodies, such as Ursula von der Leyen, current president of the European Commission and a leading proponent of the Green Recovery after the coronavirus crisis. From outside the institutions, many women demonstrate their activism on a daily basis and fight to improve the health of the environment. Here, the young Greta Thunberg is a case in point, who at only 17 years of age becomed an image of the commitment of young people in the fight against climate change.
To get this far, women have had to demand gender equality for decades, an area in which, as the UN itself acknowledges in SDG 5, much remains to be done. According to UN Women External link, opens in new window., climate-induced disasters exacerbate deep-rooted gender inequalities, i.e. women and girls are often the last to eat or be rescued, they face greater health and safety risks when water and sanitation systems are compromised, and assume a greater burden of domestic and care work when resources run out.
Great women environmentalists and activists
Next, we will meet some of the women who have helped conserve the environment and raise awareness of the earth's population over the last century:
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
In 1962, Carson, an American biologist and conservationist, published Silent Spring, a book that addressed the devastating consequences of pesticide use on wildlife and helped raise environmental awareness. Thanks to her, Earth Day also began to be celebrated and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created.
Jane Goodall (1934-)
The English primatologist has been revolutionising science since 1960 with her innovative methods and fascinating discoveries about the behaviour of wild chimpanzees in Gombe (Tanzania). At 86 years old, Dr. Goodall continues to work hard on protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, environmental education and sustainability.
Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)
In 2004, this Kenyan biologist, also known as the Woman of the Trees, received the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development. This award, the first for an African woman, was the culmination of a career that began in 1977 when she founded the Green Belt Movement, which aimed to combat desertification, deforestation, the water crisis and rural hunger.
Vandana Shiva (1952-)
One of the greatest champions of ecofeminism today. The Indian physicist and philosopher understands the earth as an entity that is part of the individual and calls for a transformation that will put an end to climate change, inequality, injustice, wars and hunger. She was one of the founders of the Women's Environment & Development Organization (WEDO).
Sheila Watt-Cloutier (1953-)
Watt-Cloutier is a Canadian Inuit activist who defends the right of her people to live in the cold. Sea ice, which is part of the life of Inuits, a common name for the various peoples living in the Arctic regions of North America, is melting away, hence her fight against global warming, which earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2007.