Archive for August 2014 | Monthly archive page
Girls Rock! Environmental Changemakers around the Globe
This is the second installment of a new series on the intersection between feminism and environmentalism.
Our previous post on feminism and environmentalism looked at how women’s rights are environmental issues intersect — sometimes unexpectedly. Moral of the story: women are often disproportionately affected by environmental issues because of traditional gender roles and sexism.
Today, let’s look at something more inspiring. There are women working to address serious environmental issues on every continent, and rarely do they get the attention they deserve.
According to Jody Williams, the 2007 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to ban land mines, “While people look at the environment and climate change — the health of our planet overall — very few look at it from the perspective of women.”
Williams was the leader of a 2012 expedition in which six female Nobel laureates trekked across Canada to find out how tar sands extraction was uniquely impacting the lives of women. They published their findings in “Breaking Ground: Women, Oil and Climate Change in Alberta and British Columbia,” which found that, “Women and their communities feel their concerns are ignored…or worse, they are deemed enemies of the state, facing violence and ostracism for asking difficult questions.”
Here, you can read a profile of one of the women featured in the report, Crystal Lameman, who is a member of the Beaver Lake Cree and a relatively well known anti-tar sands activist. And here’s her keynote speech from a 2012 environmental conference.
Europe / Antarctica
Yes, Antarctica. It’s not just activists who are combining feminist principles with environmental action. Originally, women were discouraged from working in the Antarctic. Climate science is still a boy’s club, but more and more women are entering the field. Check out this article on Corina Brussard, a senior scientist in marine viral ecology working at a Dutch research center in the far, far, far south.
And speaking of Europe, the UK based Women’s Environmental Network has a great resource page with links to reports and fact sheets on issues related to feminism and environmentalism. Bonus: the group lists lots of ways to effect positive change, rather than overwhelming readers with doom and gloom.
Australia / Pacific Islands
In Indonesia, Aleta Baun, 2013 winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, works to stop mining companies from destroying the forests essential to the Mollo tribe’s survival. Baun continued to work despite assassination attempts, and in 2007, the mining company ceased operations at four sites in Mollo territory.
Central / South America
Have you heard of the Cochabama water wars? In the early 2000s, members of the town of Cochabama, Bolivia, protested against the privatization of their water resources. Women were disproportionately impacted by the new scarcity of water. Along with her brother, Oscar Olivera, the leader of the popular uprising, Marcela Olivera helped organize the movement to regain water rights. Today, Olivera is the Latin America coordinator for the “Water for All” campaign. Here, she is interviewed by Amy Goodman for Democracy Now.
Vandana Shiva is one of the founders of Navdanya, “a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 17 states in India.” According to the website, “Navdanya is a women centered movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity.” Shiva is also well known as an ecofeminist and for authoring some of the key texts in that emerging philosophical field.
The Green Belt Movement was founded in 1977 in response to the needs of rural Kenyan women faced with a lack of food and water. Today, the group works on community empowerment and education, tree planting, and advocacy. It aims to help people create sustainable livelihoods and stand up for their rights. In light of the climate crisis, the group is focusing more and more on climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience.
Want more? Check out our #FridayFeminism posts on Twitter and Facebook.
*All photos courtesy Wikimedia commons.
Written by Dawn Bickett
Plenty of DC Ecowomen work day in and day out on addressing climate change. Phrases like ‘anthropogenic carbon emissions’ or ‘ocean acidification’ may simply roll off the tongue.
But when we talk to family, friends, or colleagues about climate change, that knowledge just isn’t useful. Mentioning the momentous discovery that an area of Antarctic ice is now melting unstoppably and will raise sea level 1 meter? Not exactly motivating to dinner guests.
As The Atlantic writer Josh Cochran puts it: “How is one supposed to respond to this kind of news?”
That’s the challenge. How do we broach the subject of climate change without shutting people down (ourselves included)? How can we make climate change something we can talk about and plan for?
It starts by making climate change real in our own lives, and something we can actually imagine tackling. It starts in our own backyard: the DC metro. Here is a glimpse of the challenges the DC metro area will face in the next few decades.
The DC of the future? Hotter and steamier.
Fast forward to 2047. Things will have warmed up considerably in the District. Assuming a higher emissions scenario (we don’t significantly reign in carbon emissions) even the coolest year after 2047 will be hotter than any year before 2005, according to a recent study in Nature. Basically, even the hottest summer you’ve experienced in DC will be considered cool by the middle of the century.
Over the next few decades, the DC area – and much of the country – will gradually become more at risk for extreme precipitation events, aka flooding. Remember the flooding that happened just weeks ago around the metro area? More of that.
And last, but certainly not least: hurricanes. There isn’t clear evidence to suggest that more hurricanes will be hitting the DC metro, but there is evidence that storms forming in a warmer Atlantic Ocean will be stronger. That means more rain and higher winds when they do hit.
Climate and the Potomac
The Potomac River is the source of water for 75% of our area’s drinking water. As temperatures rise, the surface temperature of the water will increase. That means the risk of toxic algal blooms – like the bloom in Lake Erie that poisoned water in Toledo, Ohio for days – will also increase.
And water supplies may not be as consistent. Steam flow into the Potomac could be down 35% by 2040 due to climate change. Even a mild drought could lead to water restrictions in the DC metro area 25 years from now.
Parts of DC used to be a swamp, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that as sea levels rise and land around us actually subside, the flooding risk from the Potomac River will increase. Climate change will make the behavior of the Potomac much more variable than it is today.
Armed with these facts, talking about climate change is still no picnic. Climate forecasts certainly doesn’t hold a lot of great news for DC. But by knowing what the issues are, we can visualize these problems, discuss them, and prepare for them: doing everything from cutting local emissions, to supporting infrastructural change that makes our city more climate-ready.
So the next time you feel tongue-tied when explaining climate change, do what you do with your veggies: go local.
There’s Something in the Water
Drugs in the Water
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves roughly 25 new pharmaceutical products each year. The pharmaceutical industry sells more than double the amount of drugs today than they did in 2000. This is likely good news for the hundreds of thousands of people suffering from chronic pain and other diseases that are treated or cured by these scientific advances. But what happens to the drugs that are not broken down in your body or expire before they can be administered? Here’s what: more and more pharmaceuticals are making it into the world’s waterways. Fish and wildlife use that water for habitat, we use it for recreation and drinking water. You might be thinking: “It’s such a small amount, and there is so much water. Won’t it dilute?” But consider this: Americans take more than 10 prescription drugs, per capita, per year! That doesn’t even include the over the counter things like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. That’s a lot of pharmaceuticals.
There are two avenues through which pharmaceuticals get “down the drain”. The most obvious one is flushing pills down the toilet. For a long time, that was the recommended way to dispose of expired and unwanted prescription drugs. Here’s why: it eliminates the risk of prescription drug abuse. No one wants to swallow a pill that’s been in the toilet. Unfortunately, now we know that those high concentrations of pharmaceutical products make it through the WW treatment process and get into the water. A better method is to mix the meds with something like kitty litter, and throw them in the trash.
Even when you take a medication, it can still find it’s way into a waterway. Know how? Raanan Bloom, Ph.D., with the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research says it best, “many drugs are not completely absorbed or metabolized by the body and can enter the environment after passing through wastewater treatment plants.” Simply put, you pee them out. Time to get a bit gross, but think about the neon yellow color in your toilet bowl after you take a big multivitamin. It’s the same concept with pharmaceuticals…whatever doesn’t get metabolized has to go somewhere.
So, What’s the Problem?
Pharmaceutical by-products, combined with other consumer product residuals liketriclosan (makes your soaps antibacterial) and microbeads (makes your facewash exfoliating) are causing some real problems. There are a number of scientific ongoing studies that will likely raise more cause for concern. Recently, a studyshowed microscopic quantities of these pharmaceutical by-products were found in drinking water.
What can you do?
Medicines improve and save lives. No question. But for each of those life-saving drugs, there are ones overused and misused. Avoid taking over the counter medication unless absolutely necessary. Only use prescription drugs that were prescribed to you; your doctor right-sizes the dosage so the majority of the medication is actually used by your body. Throw out any expired medicine in the trash. It’s a very small step, but if everyone took a few less pills, the environment will benefit!