What Does Feminism Have to do with Climate Change?

Neoka Naidoo tells us how to extend your feminism towards environmentalism

 Feminism is about equality. It’s also about the systems that contribute to the oppression of the marginalised and how we can address those issues in our everyday lives. You may not think about the weather when you think of feminism, but it turns out the two are inextricably linked. So what does feminism have to do with climate change? Climate change consultant and writer Neoka Naidoo gives us the weather report.

Climate change is what exactly?

Is climate change all melting icebergs and hotter summers? Yes, but that’s only a small part of it.

‘Climate change is one element of the global environmental change that is currently taking place,’ says Naidoo. ‘Biodiversity is being lost at mass-extinction rates, agricultural systems are under strain, and pollution of the air and sea has become an increasingly pressing threat to human health.’

The people who bear the brunt of the damaging effects of climate change are often marginalised.

‘The increased inequity in our societies keep us all neatly squared away in different economic classes with our consumption fuelling the ambition in most cases. This stems from the area of not asserting one’s agency and, in return, one’s choice,’ explains Naidoo.

Feminism can be tied to the ways climate change reflects who has the privilege – and who doesn’t.

‘Climate change affects us all, but the ability to bounce back from climate-related effects like flash floods, infrastructure breakdown, or being unable to work due to unusual weather, is known as resilience,’ says Naidoo. ‘Often, having greater resilience in the face of climate change means having the capital to rebuild – or depending on the state to do so. A combination of economic justice and choice addressed through gender equity can intrinsically link feminism and climate advocacy to build a more resilient society.’

*ENTER* feminism!

The 2018 World Bank Climate Change report showed that climate change could force more than 140-million people into extreme poverty through migration by 2050.

Women are traditionally caregivers, responsible for domestic roles and face great challenges in securing water, food and fuel for cooking and heating.

For women this issue is also coupled with limited mobility and unequal access to both resources and decision-making roles.

‘Climate change is a huge topic, but it – like feminism – is anchored in choice: choosing to engage each of our actions on its impact to my fellow person, creature or space. Thinking outside yourself while being true to yourself,’ adds Naidoo.

What’s the big deal if we ignore climate change?

‘Climate change has been happening for billions of years; this is just another global climatic change. Yes, that is partially true, anthropogenic (man-made) climate change has increased the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, post-industrial revolution, and this is leading to global temperature increase over a shorter period of time,’ says Naidoo. ‘So we need to take action to decrease our impact and adapt where we can. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen if we all lived sustainable, equitable lives?’

But it’s not just going to go away…

‘There is no silver-bullet solution that can solve climate change. It takes economy-wide sustainable choices in energy, water and agriculture, leading to wellbeing socially and environmentally. Thinking about choices in a more holistic view is an essential part of feminism,’ explains Naidoo.

Am I anti-feminist for being ‘meh’ about climate change?

The short answer is no.

‘In my opinion intersectionality is a term used to denote the interconnection between social identities. Feminism can be intersectional without considering climate change, but I think that would close off the conversation of intersectionality,’ says Naidoo.

Feminism Is opens the discussion on bringing together people’s lived experiences, beliefs and understandings – climate change is one aspect. Whether it be race, gender, social expectations, environmentalism, various physical abilities and the list goes on… We all need to find our voice and the influence we can have.’

‘Feminists should think about the impact of climate change and their roles and responsibilities’

‘For most things in society to grow, they need to grow organically so that they can be self-sustaining. I think when people find their impact in society and how they can build longevity in their community by using their skills, indigenous knowledge systems and activating their agency, we can easily build the bridge of feminism and climate change. The opportunity is always available, we just have to engage.

‘Feminists should think about the impacts of climate change and their roles and responsibilities because the effects can and will entrench and widen the gender inequity that currently exists, if we don’t raise our voices. Advocating for sustainable and holistic planning for the future with minimal harm to society and then environment aid narrowing that gap,’ says Naidoo.

Quick tips for going green

  • If you have one, using your car less or not at all.

  • Try to walk, ride a bike or use public transport where possible.

  • Try incrementally changing your eating habits: source more locally produced, seasonal vegetables and try to decrease meat and dairy consumption.

  • When it comes to your resource use, try more energy- and water-efficiency techniques in your home and work.

  • Check out the level of insulation in your home. With winter around the corner, try to block up gaps to keep the warmth in and the cold out. This will also help in summer when you need your home to stay cool.

  • Unplug your unused appliances or once fully charged.

Neoka Naidoo is a contributor to Feminism Is, a proudly South African collection of stories edited by writer Jen Thorpe and featuring the narratives of feminists, womanists and the identities in between. Grab the fiercely femme anthology here.


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