Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on A Shared Struggle: The Parallels Between the Plight of Women and that of Mother Earth

By Ngozika Egbuonu, M.A., M.S.

“In the end, all the struggles have the same objective: the defense of life. That is the most important, no matter where we are or what the specific goal of each fight is.” — Ana Sandoval, land defender and co-founder of Communities in Peaceful Resistance “La Puya”, working to resist dangerous mining megaprojects in her community in Guatemala.

You’ve probably seen them: angry video clips of men and women offended by public breastfeeding, endless memes insinuating women in leadership positions are “angry,” “bossy,” or “irrational,” or even my personal favorite, the growing rise of the men’s rights movement, which is built on the premise that men are losing power and status because of feminism. Each of these examples represent aspects of the societal challenges women face daily for simply trying to live their lives or improve the status of them. And the same can be said for our planet’s personified form: Mother Earth. And because she has no earthly voice (pun intended), those who do advocate on her behalf are met with virtually the same ire as feminists and women’s equity advocates and activists. 

Now, why is that?

The answer lies in our inherent femininity. You see, much in the same way environmental advocates and activists struggle to defend conservation and reduce pollution, women fighting to protect themselves and future generations are accused of unfounded or dramatized criticisms. This insistence that climate change is either unreal or being exaggerated by overdramatic environmentalists virtually mirrors the anti-feminine statements being expressed publicly. Let’s take a look at a few quotes about climate change and anti-feminism to try and literally illustrate this point.

  • “We must ask whether these Obama administration policies are worth the lost jobs, lower take-home pay, higher gas and electricity prices, and so on.”—  Sen. John Boozman 
  • “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” — Pat Robertson
  • “Get rid of some of these crazy regulations that Obamacare puts in … such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance.” — Iowa Rep. Rod Blum

The above statements highlight attempts to equate progressive environmental and gender equity policy changes to attacks on others’ livelihoods and/or cultural traditions. In addition to being frustratingly wrong, these attacks use exaggerated or misinformed stories to distract individuals from critically thinking about legislation or actions that could help improve the quality of life for everyone.  

Interestingly enough, researchers at both the United Nations and Oxfam America found that women are more likely to bear the burden of climate change. In America, we know that is the case because economically disadvantaged people are impacted more severely when natural disasters happen and women make up roughly 70 percent of individuals living below the poverty line. A similar case can be found abroad as Voré Gana Seck, executive director of Green Senegal and president of the international nongovernmental coalition Counsel des ONG d’Appui au Developpment notes, “Climate change affects women because they are usually the main food producers of crops like rice, millet, vegetables. Because of no rain, climate change affects them. And girls have to drop out of school because they need to start working for their families.” This reality must force all of us to confront the need for achieving both gender equality and turning back the dial on climate change immediately. It seems that in accomplishing one, we are helping increase the impact of the other and ultimately making the entire world better for it.

These realizations are ultimately why I believe every attempt to devalue Mother Earth’s importance in our survival and existence is a subliminal attack on womanhood. Think of the female womb and its importance in carrying a child to birth. Or even the sustenance her body provides from the womb to toddlerhood and beyond. When people devalue mothers and the incredible effort it takes to carry, birth, and/or raise a child, such as in denying women adequate maternity leave or shaming women for having children (as if to imply that in doing so, they cannot function or be as effective in their careers or positions), they are disrespecting the miracle of life that brought each and every one of us into this world. 

Fortunately, there are great examples of how gender inequality has tried but failed to hinder a woman’s success, with my favorite being the life story of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). Despite being one of the top students in her class at nearly every institution she stepped foot in, RBG experienced difficulty finding work as a direct result of her gender. This personal connection to gender-based discrimination had to have stirred something deep within RBG. That something I think also played a major part in some of her most treasured opinions. 

Recently, Center for Progressive Reform’s (CPR) President, Rob Verchick and several of his colleagues and CPR Board Members recounted their favorite RBG legal decisions and stories. Each person’s testimony beautifully demonstrates why I believe RBG was so adept in understanding the importance of gender equity, as well as the environmental justice both Mother Earth and so many of her inhabitants so desperately need and deserve. RBG could read through the language, science, and noise to understand the most crucial point at the center of the legal battles she decided upon: the defense of life.

One of the subjects that bothers me the most when I hear men or even other women complain about feminism and the fight for gender equality is the gender pay gap. The fact that women still have to fight for equal pay when doing the exact same job as their male counterparts should be enough to upset any decent person. Primarily because gender pay inequality not only hurts the women being unfairly paid, it hurts anyone else who relies on her income for stability or support. 

My first thought immediately goes to single mothers or even women, like RBG, who have to take on the role of both parents due to a crisis (or several) or sudden onset of illness, as was in RBG’s case when she had to be the foundation for her family during her husband’s first battle with cancer. Imagine the feeling of already struggling on one paycheck, but then on top of that, you aren’t even getting the full paycheck owed for the work you’ve done, and the only reason for that discrepancy in pay is your gender? For me, this example is one of the clearest ways of explaining the importance of gender equality to folks who still don’t seem to get it. 

Gender equality is not about putting men down, creating a narrative of male inferiority or trying to attack American cultural norms. In fact, I would argue that it is attempting to do the opposite. Gender equality, much like racial equality and equity, is helping to affirm each individual’s strength and talent by challenging all of us to work harder and be better. Championing gender equality is forcing us to update what we think of as the “American way” of doing things. Maybe the American way is leading by example and properly appreciating the talents that both men and women bring to life’s table. As the eloquent Eleanor Roosevelt stated, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” For those of you who still view the fight for gender equality as an attack on masculinity and manhood, I encourage you to consider looking at it as a way for men and women to recognize that there is always room for growth and trying things a different way. In doing so, we can begin finding new opportunities to do more and be more than we are today. 

I think it is also worth noting the importance of adequately appreciating and acknowledging the work and experiences of all women. From child rearing to practicing law or medicine, teaching to nursing, each and every woman’s positively impactful efforts must be celebrated and valued for both its short term and far-reaching implications. 

In a much similar way, we must celebrate and value our Mother Earth for both her immediate and future contributions to all of our lives. From her diverse terrains to bountiful natural resources, from her unique native flora and fauna to her resilience in the face of natural and human-made disasters, Mother Earth has shown us all more than enough strength and beauty. Unfortunately, for those wonders to be shared and appreciated generations beyond our own, we all have to come to a collective agreement: we must listen to the science. 

Just as you don’t want me attempting to stand in for an eye surgeon with my limited medical experience and squeamishness around anything blood related,  we don’t want politicians or climate deniers to drown out the conversation when the evidence and the research to prove climate change exists are all available. 

We are at a crossroads, friends. Climate change is happening and for many of us in the DC Metro area, you should be thinking more about how this will impact all of our ways of life. Where will you purchase groceries? Will the groceries you want be available and at an affordable price? Think about the food banks and food pantries, the farmers and farm workers. How does climate denial impact them? If science doesn’t resonate with you, then listen to the people already being impacted. We all have a part to play to save our communities and this planet. I hope you’ll join me and my fellow colleagues at DC EcoWomen by sharing the stories of climate change happening in our local and regional communities, as well as voting for policies that affirm your commitment to environmental advocacy and stewardship. 

As the lead pastor of the church I attend, National Community Church (based right here in DC), Dr. Mark Batterson once said, “I reserve the right to get smarter.” With everything being thrown at us right now with regards to the election, climate change, and the fight for social justice both here and abroad, I think it’s safe to agree that we could all benefit from getting smarter, and doing so fast. 

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Ngozika Egbuonu is a professional fundraiser and content creator with more than ten years of experience working in communications roles for a variety of industries. Currently, she lives in Upper Marlboro with her husband, Gerald, and serves as the Community Engagement Manager at Network for Good. Ngozika is passionate about uplifting female voices, achieving racial equity, and fighting climate change. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking trails throughout the DMV or posting tons of photos of her new bunny, Thurgood.

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By Denali Sai

We tend to shape our worldview with clear notions of good and bad. This grants us clarity of mind and groundedness in an otherwise volatile world. However, when we adhere to a binary, we restrict ourselves from thinking about many others’ experiences and needs, too often those of marginalized and BIPOC communities. When we see the world as us vs. them, as good vs evil, we lose sight of swaths of people, without whose voices a vision of a better world is not possible.

As a climate communicator, I am often troubled by the framing of the climate crisis as good vs. evil. In reality, the exponentially increasing and intensifying natural disasters of our changing climate are not disasters in themselves. Rather, they are naturally occurring hazards with disastrous impacts on human and physical capital.

Likewise the palm oil industry in itself is not an evil scheme that should be destroyed overnight. It took moving to the island of Borneo and living in a community of palm oil plantation workers for me to see past this Western misconception. In reality, the industry supports plantation workers who deserve a just transition towards sustainable cultivation practices.

Recently, I’ve been mulling over this conundrum in my garden. As the pandemic limits my movement outside my home, I’ve been spending more time tending to my garden. My most arduous and time-consuming task has been weeding.

Weeding is ultimately an effort to maintain equilibrium and peace in my garden. As I begin to pull out the dandelions, crabgrass, and carpetweed, my hands develop a rhythm, quickly guiding the plot back to equilibrium so that one hungry plant does not sap nutrition and space from the others.

As I do so, I resist the suburban notion that I am rooting evil from my garden. This is an active effort as frustration at their stubbornness and resilience is unrelenting. However, I am mindful of the fact that weeds are only bad in some contexts. The gardener ultimately determines where they are welcome and where they must be cut back.

For example, dandelions belong in lawns, fields, and forests. They are nutritious and contain healing properties. However, in my garden, they compete for the same resources as other, often less hardy, plants.

The value of weeding out some plants is to let others thrive. Maintaining balance is key to protecting the collective spirit of my garden.

In harrowing times like this, it is understandable to cling to binary thinking. As mortal creatures living in a chaotic world, we often use categories to cope with uncertainty. However, when we restrict ourselves in this way, we forget the humanness of every individual on this Earth. We forget that in order to enact change, we need to appeal to many different people, not just people to whom we intuitively prescribe value: Those who look, talk, and live like us. In order to build a better world, we need to build an inclusive world.

As is true in my garden, enacting change involves careful attention to nature’s balance and our collective strength. To emerge stronger from this crisis and beyond, we must listen to one another and actively stand up together to demand a radical transition away from unsustainable, harmful modes of development. We must elevate voices that complicate our current climate narrative, which tends toward sensationalized, Western-centric, sometimes blatantly unscientific stories.

Indeed, with our tender hands rooting blankets of weeds from the soil and planting new growth, we must care for one another and work collectively to nurture a more inclusive world.

Denali Sai is a climate communicator based out of Washington, D.C. She currently works in communications at the World Resources Institute, where she focuses on the economic benefits of global climate action. She co-founded and writes for Entropy Inherited, a climate newsletter that centers BIPOC and marginalized voices.

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on Can the COVID-19 pandemic help us learn how to save our planet?

By Elizabeth Hogan

My every day during this strange experience of quarantine and pandemic is largely spent – as it is for many of us – in front of a laptop.  Almost all of my time at my computer has been focused on combatting the latest efforts of the plastic industry to exploit COVID-19 to reverse regulations on plastic bans and fees, which limit ocean plastic pollution. The plastic industry is asking state and city governments to reverse the laws that do so much good for the environment and wildlife, claiming that plastic is more “hygienic” and “safe” than other materials. Actually, the reverse is true – coronavirus can last longer on plastic than any other material.

I’ve spent my career working to raise awareness about how plastic impacts marine wildlife and seafood. My anxiety about this global pandemic, the tanking economy – and my inability to actually see other human beings — is compounded by a roiling anger at the willingness of a spiteful and greedy industry to exploit people’s fears and cause more harm has overwhelmed and motivated me.  This isn’t just my personal soapbox.  This is my job, how I’m spending my time and how I earn my living.

The uncertainty of what the world will look like when this is “over” – if such a time exists – infects my thoughts and distracts from my work. Worries about my parents’ health, my own career, the community that I love, my nieces and their future, the stories I hear of people dying painfully and alone and wondering what on earth I can do to help beyond just sitting in my house – all swirl around in my head.  

This is mollified by the images and reports that I see of a planet slowly recovering; once polluted water becoming clearer by the day with less trash floating on the surface.  Species on the brink of extinction, due to our carelessness and exploitation, suddenly have a brief window of recuperation.  I’m trying hard not to feel guilty at my relief that our dying world seems to be getting a small chance at a recovery, while knowing that it comes at a great price to humanity.  I would not have wished this disease or the accompanying economic strain on anyone, yet my greatest hope during this time comes from the miraculous ability of our planet to heal itself from so much damage in so little time. 

It simultaneously makes me sad for what our planet could be if we only gave it the chance.  I’m ashamed of my excitement to see what our world might become at this great cost, at this opportunity for it to thrive and other species to breathe because their apex predator is taking a break from its usual relentless pursuit.  But I also want to embrace any source of optimism that I can. I think about the satellite images of cleaner air in China and Italy, stories of wildlife returning to places once avoided due to human activity, and the crash in the value of petroleum

What humankind has learned from all the recent changes forced by the pandemic – things like working from home, virtual conferences instead of travel, and limits to consumerism as we prioritize what we need versus what we want – all have the potential to change our standards and behavior long after the threat of coronavirus dies down. 

I realize that this is highly unlikely; most of the world eagerly awaits a return to life from “before.”  But some positive changes have potential to become permanent: Fewer airlines exist now, once “temporary” road closures have become permanent, and regulations on wildlife markets and trade are being established or enforced. And perhaps most importantly, the visual reminders of how the natural world and wildlife can thrive without human interference has raised critical awareness to protect habitats and migration corridors.  We simply have to be willing to learn the lesson that is right in front of us and allow it to inform how we will live beyond this time.

Elizabeth Hogan ran the Oceans and Wildlife program of World Animal Protection in the United States for seven years, specializing in marine wildlife entanglement and sustainable fisheries.  She now works as a consultant on ocean conservation for organizations including USAID, Pew Charitable Trusts, CSIRO, and the Aquarium Conservation Partnership on marine wildlife conservation and ocean plastic pollution.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Relearning our limits (don’t worry, not the calculus kind)

By Rita Foth

Empty shelves in the grocery store. Shortages of essential protective gear for frontline medical workers. Long delays on shipping. 

While these shortages range from severe and life-altering to minor inconveniences, everyone has experienced some degree of product unavailability during the pandemic. 

A light-hearted yet infuriating example is the pillaging and plundering (when did we all turn into pirates?) of the toilet paper aisle. How many of you have gone from store to store looking for toilet paper because you were lucky enough to run out around the start of quarantine? I know I certainly have. 

Obviously, some shortages have greater implications than others, but one implication looming behind every shortage is that they will continue to happen long past the pandemic if something doesn’t change. 

We live in an era where an entire grocery trip is just a click and a delivery away, an era of ordering just about anything off the internet and having it arrive at our door days later. This is the era of seemingly unlimited resources. Businesses have closed the gaps in their operations so efficiently that there is almost never a mistake, never a time where a product is unavailable. Beyond that being a simply remarkable feat, these practices have shifted our perception. Many people no longer look at the world through a lens of limited resources. That concept has been hidden behind the curtain. A consumer who looks at the world as unlimited is a consumer that many businesses want. 

But, if you’re reading this blog, you are well aware of the fact that the planet simply cannot sustain a population that consumes as if resources are unlimited.

Yet here we are. Consuming as if there’s no end in sight.

But what if, among all the devastation and disruptions caused by the pandemic, there is a silver lining. What if this pandemic has made people look differently at the objects they buy and how they use them? 

It is hopelessly optimistic to assume that people will suddenly change the way they purchase and consume items, yet I can’t help but think that staring at barren grocery store aisles won’t have an impact. 

Together with many other people in this country, I’ve been privileged enough throughout my life to never worry about scarce resources or where I will get my next meal. But does a system struggling to keep up with demand force people to reckon with the limited and finite nature of everything around them? Even if it’s an infinitesimal reckoning, it’s still a reckoning. And it is exactly what’s needed to push the environmental movement forward. People have worked for decades to move the environmental movement from the fringe to the mainstream, but the much of the general population continues to choose the easiest path: ignorance. If it’s not affecting me directly, why should I care? Now people know why they should care. In fact, they’ve been slapped in the face with why they should care.

I’ve wondered for a long time whether people would change their behaviors without a major event that forced them to wake up. I always assumed it would take the form of a natural disaster, but the unlikely foe has been a global pandemic. 

My greatest hope is that we can emerge from our homes and emerge from this pandemic a changed world. Not only changed because of the lives lost and the hardships endured, but also changed because we learned to take from the planet with a recognition of its limits. Because recognizing our planet’s limited capacity to sustain us is the first step in the long, arduous journey toward learning to sustain ourselves on this planet.

Rita Foth was born and raised in the mountains of Colorado and went to school in Washington state. She moved to D.C. in December 2019 to see what the “other Washington” had to offer. She is currently looking for jobs in environmental nonprofits.

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By Hannah Nelson

Washingtonians have a complicated relationship with the ginkgo tree. 

The day I discovered the ginkgo outside my apartment was one of those distinctly DC beautiful days: the trees were that fresh green that comes at the end of spring and stays for early summer, the sky so blue you’d think it was cloudless, too.

The tree in question is on the grounds of the National Cathedral, in a pocket of grass that used to be my spot for fair-weather reading. Until this year, I’d never noticed it. Perhaps it was the direction from which I spotted it, coming to it another way, but this year, I felt myself drawn to it, at the whim of the natural—one might say spiritual—powers of this tree.

Up close, I reached up and traced my thumb over the uneven edges of its distinctive fans, half-wondering if there was some genetic pattern to them invisible to human eyes. The leaves called me to hold them and I did, a single leaf between my thumb and index finger. It was like the soft cover of a Moleskine notebook, only thick and indented with lines as I imagine dinosaur skin might have been.

***

Ginkgo are “living fossils” and the only one of their species. Of the five groups of seed plants—simply, angiosperms (flowering plants), conifers (cone-bearing trees), cycads (tropical plants), gnetophyta (woody plants), and ginkgo—it is the only one that consists of a single species (by comparison, there are about 350 million species of flowering plants).

Even more remarkable is that ginkgo trees don’t visibly age and can live for hundreds to thousands of years. In a study published earlier this year, researchers compared gene expression in leaves and the cambium, a thin layer of stem cells between the heartwood and bark that differentiate to help the tree to grow. Although genes associated with cell division, cell expansion, and differentiation exhibited lower expression in old trees, those associated with the final stage of the aging process showed no difference in expression between young and old trees. This finding suggests that while growth slows, ginkgo biloba lives so long because it’s developed a perfect balance between growth and aging.

The trees’ biggest threat? Stress (one can relate). The older the tree, the greater its ability to adapt to changing environments, owing to persistent expression of a large number of resistance genes in addition to accumulation of antimicrobial and antioxidant protectants like flavonoids. But even the ginkgo has not been immune to climate change, which is causing the trees to shed their fruit later every year.

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As days become shorter and temperatures fall, the petioles, or stems joining leaves to a stalk, of most deciduous trees form a protective scar between the leaf and the stalk at different rates across the tree that causes leaves to drop individually. Ginkgoes, on the other hand, form those scars all at once, resulting in one day per year when tree-lined streets in Northwest DC suddenly come to resemble a sparkling forest floor. Among the leaves, sometimes, when a female tree hasn’t been sprayed with a pesticide at the right time, will be her fruit—called berries that look something like a cross between a green grape of the wine variety and a white apricot.

They smell awful, so every spring, the Urban Forestry Division sprays female trees across the District, but because it can be difficult to time properly and the treatment isn’t always effective, it has implemented a Female Ginkgo Tree Removal Policy allowing property owners to decide to petition for the removal of one or more trees. It promises to replant them with different trees, yet ginkgoes make for superior urban trees, offering shade and resilience to ever-increasing environmental stressors such as increasing levels of carbon dioxide. 

In fact, the Smithsonian Institution has issued a call for leaf samples for its Citizen Science: Leaf Surveyproject, which it will use to study climate change. Not only do ginkgoes serve as a window to the past by providing a record from over 200 million years ago through to the present, but the secrets within their leaves might also allow us to better plan for the future. Scientists can analyze the relationship between carbon dioxide and stomatal index, or the optimal number of “tiny openings on leaves’ surfaces” needed to facilitate the exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen and water. That information can help us to predict how warm the planet may grow to be and, I’d argue, to understand how different built environments affect nature.

From “Paleobotany: A Sketch of the Original and Evolution of Floras” by Edward W. Berry, p. 356 of the Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1918.

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It can also help us to understand ourselves. Native to China and cultivated starting around 1,000 years ago, ginkgoes were brought to Japan in the late 17th century, where the fan-shaped leaf came to symbolize longevity, and to Europe in the mid-18th century.

They have persisted in Asian art as well as Art Nouveau, both styles represented in the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries. From China, in the Freer Gallery of Art is The Bodhisattva Mile (Sanskrit Maitreya), seated in “Pensive Pose” (Northern Qi dynasty, ca. 575), the Buddha’s Dragon Tree depicted as a ginkgo. In the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is Reminiscences of Nanjing: Old Gingko at Mt. Chinglong (Qing dynasty, 1707). From Japan, in the Sackler Gallery, is Crow and Ginkgo Leaves, from the series Seitei’s Flowers and Birds (Taish? era, 1916).

Now, in 2020, amidst a global health crisis and an environmental one too, the ginkgo continues to serve as a symbol of longevity, a reminder of the movement of time. It also reminds us that as participants in the world through which time moves, we will endure. We will learn how to live in a world where COVID-19 is an expected part of life. But that endurance also engenders a responsibility to ensure that world is one in which we’d be comfortable waking up and realizing where we are.

With longevity comes unknowing. The onset of COVID-19, with its watch-and-wait requirement, has shown us we can’t predict the future with certainty, and in this context the ginkgo might be considered, above all, a symbol of humility. It has adapted, it has endured, and still it protects us—providing urban havens, sources of wonderment, and scientific information we can use to reconstruct our changing relationship with the world around us.

That is our role now: to assume humility, recognize our unknowing, and take an honest assessment of our actions using the knowledge we are learning. With reverence, we might look to the ginkgo as our past and future, and to this moment as an opportunity to protect the environment and ourselves.

Freeing ourselves from perpetual striving, can we seek that balance between growing and slowing down that the ginkgo has refined naturally and over millennia? Taking pause, can we find the will to finally realize a wholeness within ourselves and with the natural world?

Hannah Nelson is an editorial strategist at the Society for Neuroscience. She holds a BA in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has an appreciation for narrative journalism, botanical illustrations, wooded areas, and the flora of DC.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #EachforEqual: International Women’s Day 2020

By GraceAnne Casto

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is a day when the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women are celebrated around the world. It is also an opportunity to accelerate gender equality in our present day. Despite all the advancements the global community has made toward respecting and recognizing women and girls, there is much more left to do. 

There is a long history of women, and men, celebrating March 8th globally — this day was first recognized in 1911. Every community and nation celebrate in their own unique way. For example, in Russia, March 8th is a combination of Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day holidays. In Italy, it is popular to give yellow mimosa flowers to the women in your life. 

Despite the differences around the world, the common and core themes of the day are equality for women and recognition of the amazing roles women play.

#EachforEqual

The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is #EachforEqual. This theme emphasizes the role each of us can play in achieving gender equality. We each can make choices, big and small, day-to-day, that impact how women and girls are viewed, which stereotypes are propagated, and the opportunities made available to different members of society. The hashtag #EachforEqual is meant to inspire and encourage us to examine our own actions and perspectives, and make changes to become a gender-equal world. What can you do in your sphere of influence to consciously advocate for women around the world? Write it down, strike the pose (see photo), and post to social media with the hashtag (#EachforEqual) to spread awareness and inspiration!

Sustainability, climate change and women

Ulrika Modéer, UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, and Anita Bhatia, UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships wrote an amazing blog post about climate action and the female gender for DC EcoWomen. It is well-established that sustainable development and gender parity are intertwined and interdependent. Recognizing this, the UN made their fifth Sustainable Development Goal:  “to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Women are often the most vulnerable to impacts of poverty and climate change. However, they often play a key role in how their families and communities can build resilience. Education, career opportunities, and healthcare advancements for women are cornerstones of achieving both gender equality and sustainable development.

Let’s Celebrate!

  1. Strike the #EachforEqual pose and post to social media, and share something you are doing in 2020 to contribute to gender parity
  2. Learn empowering self defense at the “Punch, Then Brunch! Women Empowering Women Through Self Defense” event on March 8th.
  3. Buy flowers or chocolates for the amazing females in your life – be sure to look for local or fair trade products (check out your local farmer’s market or neighborhood florist)
  4. Learn about the history of women’s fight for equality, or about current issues we face – check out this list of recommended reads.

How will you celebrate?

Let us know in the comments, or share how you celebrated this day with others at the next DC EcoWomen event!

Additional sources: 

GraceAnne Casto is a DC resident who works as an environmental planner. She likes spending time outdoors, cooking, and reading. Making small steps towards a more sustainable and ethical life is one of her passions.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on New research shows Americans are willing to eat more plants

By Sabrina Scull

Earth Day Network (EDN) and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) recently released a new research report, Climate Change and the American Diet, which looks at Americans’ perceptions and attitudes of plant-based diets and climate change. The research release was hosted at the National Press Club, featuring an engaging panel discussion and a fully plant-based breakfast – an unconventional request of the Club’s caterers, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly.

Many of us in the environmental community, especially those interested in climate issues or food sustainability, are familiar with the issues surrounding our food systems and how they exacerbate climate change. The report authors were interested in learning more about views outside of this echo chamber, looking to draw from a wider representation of American viewpoints. Climate Change and the American Diet analyzes data from surveys of 1,043 American adults of various backgrounds (ages 18 and older). The vast majority of survey participants (94%) described themselves as neither vegetarian or vegan. However, at the same time, 94% expressed a willingness to eat more fruits and vegetables and consume a more plant-rich diet. On top of that, more than half shared a willingness to eat less red meat.

In addition, more than half (51%) of those surveyed indicated that they would be interested in eating more plant-based foods if they were better able to understand the impacts of their food choices on the environment. The results also showed that 70% rarely or never talk about this issue with their friends or family. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed reported that no one had ever asked them to eat more plant-based foods, and more than half indicated that they rarely or never hear about the topic in the media.

The report also shared common barriers to adopting a more plant-based diet, including a lack of knowledge about which plant-based foods to buy, and most importantly – price. Just under half of the survey respondents believe that a meal with a plant-based main course is more expensive than a meal with a meat-based main course. Accordingly, 63% of Americans shared that they would choose more plant-based foods over meat if they cost less. 

It is a common misconception that plant-based foods cost more than their meat counterparts. Indeed, as YPCCC Director Anthony Leiserowitz explained during the research release: “Most plant-based foods are actually cheaper.” This is especially the case with protein sources such as beans, lentils, nuts and even tofu. 

Regardless, it is important to keep in mind that many people in this country struggle with food insecurity and their dietary choices are limited by distance to grocery stores and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. We must amp up the conversation about tackling this inequality and hold our elected officials responsible for breaking down barriers to healthy eating.

There is clearly a great opportunity to share resources with the general public to increase their understanding of how their food choices impact our planet. Overall, it is apparent that we need better communication about these issues, and fast, as our current food consumption is unsustainable in this growing world. 

The first step as environmental advocates is to look critically at our dietary choices and think about how we can eat better for the planet. From there, we can examine why we hold certain perceptions and preferences, then have more honest and open conversations about the impact our food choices.

The Foodprints for the Future campaign at Earth Day Network is working to create widespread awareness of how our food choices impact the environment. We encourage individuals and institutions to #eatmoreplants to help fight climate change with diet change. 

Please visit the Earth Day Network website for more information about the research and to download the full report.

Sabrina Scull is the Food and Environment Campaign Coordinator at Earth Day Network. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies – Ecosystems from Binghamton University and a Master of Science in Environmental Conservation from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sabrina enjoys yoga, cooking delicious vegan food, and making music, particularly with her a cappella group, Makela.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Eight Black Women who have impacted the environmental movement in Washington, D.C.

By Dajah Massey

In recognition of Black History Month, DC EcoWomen celebrates the following eight women for their accomplishments in environmental spaces, their advocacy for the African American community, and their continued impact in the Washington, D.C. area.

Josephine Butler

Josephine Butler confronts DC Mayor Marion Barry, 1978 – photo and caption from https://washingtonparks.net/josephine-butler/

Josephine Butler was born in 1920 in Maryland. She was the daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of slaves. Butler moved to D.C. for medical treatment and then became a community leader, environmental activist, and social change agent in the District. Butler started America’s first union of black female laundry workers and was a major contributor to the desegregation of schools. Butler helped to transform Malcolm X Park, also known as Meridian Hill Park, from one of the most dangerous parks in D.C. to a beautiful oasis by planting trees, providing nighttime neighborhood watches, and hosting community education events. 

In a time when environmentalism was not popular, Butler served as a community health educator for the American Lung Association in D.C. and taught thousands of children about the effects of air pollution. In 1995, she served on the D.C. Coordinating Committee for the International Women’s Year. Butler also became a representative on the Mayor’s Health Planning Advisory Committee and served on the D.C. Human Rights Commission. Today the Josephine Butler Parks Center, which overlooks Meridian Hill Park, stands in her honor. 

Click here to learn more about Butler. 

Rue Mapp

Photo from https://outdoorafro.com/team/

Rue Mapp is the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit organization that connects African Americans with outdoor experiences and aims to change the narrative of who engages in the outdoors. Outdoor Afro has offices in Washington D.C. and Oakland, California. The organization has selected and trained 80 national volunteers and created leadership teams in 30 states – building a powerful network to nurture a community of black outdoor enthusiasts. Mapp first launched Outdoor Afro as a blog in 2009. The organization now has national sponsors and worldwide recognition. Mapp serves on several conservation boards, was part of the team that launched Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, and was appointed program officer for the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment.  She also organized the first all-Black U.S. expedition team to climb Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest freestanding peak. Her proudest accomplishment is being a mother of three. 

Brittany Leavitt

Photo from https://www.britleavitt.com/

Brittany Leavitt is a D.C. influencer — not the social media type, but a real-life changemaker. Leavitt is influencing her community and shaping the minds of D.C.’s youth by teaching preschoolers at the Smithsonian Museum about the natural world. She has also partnered with the North Face and the Girl Scouts to create a new adventure badge that young girls can earn. In addition to mentorship, she is a REI instructor and leads climbing, backpacking, and hiking classes. Her purpose is to build spaces for Blacks, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to enjoy the outdoors. Brittany was part of the Outdoor Afro first all-black climbing group to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Through her variety of partnerships, she is diversifying the climbing community. 

Kari Fulton

Photo from https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4693971/user-clip-climate-change-protest

Kari Fulton may be young, but her accomplishments and contributions to the environmental movement are not adolescent. She co-founded the Loving Our City, Loving Ourselves (LOCLOS) campus and community initiative, to build stronger campus and community solidarity on issues of concern in the Washington, D.C. area. She served as the Energy Action Coalition Campus Climate Challenge Coordinator for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative. She supported and trained hundreds of young people at more than 50 universities, and has become a pioneer organizer working to build up the youth climate movement amongst young people of color, in particular, students at historically black colleges and universities. She is currently a Class of 2020 National Urban Fellow at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, and a Master of Public Management candidate, as well as a Policy Fellow with the Climate Justice Alliance. 

Fulton said: “My hope was for people of color and low-income individuals to get information that will help them take advantage of the growing green movement so that they are not left behind economically or environmentally.” 

 

Lisa Perez Jackson

 Photo from https://archive.epa.gov/epa/aboutepa/administrator-lisa-p-jackson-2009-2013.html

Lisa Perez Jackson is a Princeton University alumnus and a chemical engineer who served as the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2009 to 2013. She is the first African American to have held that position.  According to the EPA, she “outlined principles to modernize our nation’s 30-year-old chemical management laws, called for unprecedented innovation in drinking water protection efforts, and announced tough standards to clean the air we breathe.” During her time with the EPA, she improved environmental regulation policies and supported communities that were historically underrepresented in environmental initiatives such as low-income areas and vulnerable age groups. Today, Jackson works as Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. Each day, she strives to transform Apple into a more environmentally conscious company. 

Dr. Adrienne Hollis

Photo from https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/adrienne-hollis

Dr. Adrienne Hollis has always been an academic with a passion for the environment. She holds a doctorate degree in biomedical sciences and a law degree with a concentration in environmental law. Dr. Hollis worked on environmental issues in her postdoctoral studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, was employed as a Supervisory Environmental Health Scientist and Toxicologist (Section Chief) at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, worked as a Project Attorney at Earthjustice, a premier non-profit public interest law firm, and was the Director of Federal Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, in their Washington, D.C. office. Her positions have allowed her to make great contributions and changes within various environmental fields. Today, Dr. Hollis is the Senior Climate Justice and Health Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). She leads the development, design, and implementation of methods for accessing and documenting the health impacts of climate change on communities of color and other traditionally disenfranchised groups. 

Jacqueline Patterson

Photo from https://collegian.com/2016/09/jacqueline-patterson-speaks-about-environmental-injustice-at-diversity-symposium/

As Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice program, Jacqueline Patterson helps the organization achieve its three major goals: to reduce harmful emissions, particularly greenhouse gases, advance energy efficiency and clean energy, and strengthen community resilience and livability. Patterson has worked as a researcher, program manager, coordinator, advocate and activist for women’s rights, violence against women, HIV&AIDS, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice.

Leslie G. Fields, Esq.

 Photo from https://www.sierraclub.org/environmental-justice/staff

Leslie Fields, Esq. is another D.C. environmental powerhouse serving multiple organizations to bring environmental improvement and social justice to our nation. Fields is a graduate of Cornell University and the Georgetown University Law Center and the current senior director of Environmental Justice and Healthy Communities for the Sierra Club. She is the former international director of Friends of the Earth-US in Washington, D.C. and is currently an adjunct law professor at Howard University School of Law. Fields serves as a Commissioner on the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies’ Commission to Engage African Americans on Energy, Climate and the Environment. In a recent interview with The Trouble, Fields said: “What we’re trying to do is work with all kinds of communities to push reducing carbon emissions and remedying in an equitable way, not just marketing solutions that are going to leave communities of color behind. We’ve got all kinds of problems, food justice issues, gentrification—all the stuff in this direct line. We can’t create any kind of solution without dealing with the legacy pollution.”  

Dajah Massey is an environmental engineer and STEM advocate who is passionate about improving our environment and informing underrepresented communities about career options within engineering and STEM fields.  She is also involved with brand management, print modeling, and women empowerment initiatives. 

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Book Review: Equality for Women = Prosperity for All

By Olivia Oudinot

“What walks with four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening is no longer just “man,” even generically. For we need both arms to be strong if we are to crawl; we need both legs to be of equal length and strength if we are to walk and to run. And in old age we all need the additional support of society, whether we are men or women.”

Equality for Women = Prosperity for All, written by Augusto López-Claros and Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, is an underrated gem. Goodreads shows it’s been read by 28 people – compare that to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, which has been read by 402,399 people (Goodreads has about 90 million members). 

Created with RNI Films app. Preset ‘Fuji Astia 100F’

My aim is to spread this powerful treatise throughout the D.C. community – and hopefully beyond.

I can’t imagine this book was easy to write. It discusses at length deep issues around the freedom and rights of women – looking at the different forms of violence towards women, tackling the question of culture, addressing how women are perceived when they do work in different countries, and pinpointing the costs of inequality. 

Presented with powerful statistics and studies, this non-fiction collaboration provides a powerful narrative about the importance of the equality of women in relation to the economic prosperity of countries. All in all, as the book states, it does not make any financial (and of course ethical) sense to prevent women from growing and contributing to a country’s workforce. It is completely detrimental to everyone – whether man or woman, teenager or child, politician or farmer – when a woman’s rights are oppressed by society.

One connection that is not discussed at length in the book, however, is the relationship between gender equality and climate change. Gender equality is a powerful driver towards social justice, growth, and achieving sustainable development, according to many organizations worldwide such as the United Nations. “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world,” as stated in Sustainable Development Goal Number 5.

One of the ways to successfully combat the impacts of climate change and to respond to our current ‘climate emergency’ is to pursue social innovation. As we’ve known, we can’t continue “business as usual.” Organizations need to collaborate in creative ways to invent different business models. One key component of successful social innovation is collective impact, which brings together various stakeholders from the private sector, government, and nonprofits to obtain different perspectives. 

However, if there is no gender equality in those organizations, at the highest levels, then how are women supposed to achieve effective solutions if they are not part of the conversation? To ignore the perspective of women is to lose out on opportunities for valuable and insightful contributions. With the urgency our Earth is facing, this is not something to carelessly overlook. 

Overall, I encourage everyone to read Equality for Women = Prosperity for All. It will help you understand more about the issues that women face around the world, and what can be done in the pursuit to eradicate gender inequality.

Olivia Oudinot is a French-American writer and Social Innovation Program Developer. Her research and consulting services focus on sustainability, climate change, women and leadership and social innovation. She holds a Master of Science in Sustainability and Social Innovation from HEC Paris, and a Bachelor of Commerce in Management from Concordia University.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fight climate change with your fork

The holidays are almost here — which means that the season of eating is about to begin! DC EcoWomen board member Erica Meier shares how you can make a difference for our planet during this holiday season by choosing to eat a plant-based diet.  

By Erica Meier

The international scientific consensus is clear. Report after report paints an alarming yet sobering scene: Global warming is real, it’s happening now and human activities are largely to blame. 

The forecast is bleak: Worsening weather extremes and severe storms, disease outbreaks, altered coastlines, and more, with negative consequences on human health, particularly those in impoverished or marginalized communities. Specifically, according to Oxfam, women around the world, including in the US, will continue to be disproportionately affected by climate change. Which is why climate action must engage and benefit women and girls.  

As alarming as this message is, however, it’s not new. There’s been growing scientific consensus on this topic for years, if not decades, with environmental advocates and others waving red flags the whole time.

The good news is that there’s something more immediate and tangible we, the people, can do right now that will have a lasting collective impact: Eat plants.

There is widespread agreement in the research community, including reports from the United Nations, that raising animals for food is a leading cause of pollution and resource depletion. One of the most important actions each of us can take to reduce our environmental footprint is to choose plant-based foods. 

For example, did you know:  

  • It takes 420 gallons of water to produce just one pound of grain-fed chicken? 
  • The amount of manure produced on factory farms is three times greater than the amount of waste produced by humans — and there are no sewage treatment plants for animal waste? 
  • The production of animal feed, including pastures for grazing, takes up almost 80% of the world’s agricultural land resources?
  • The cattle industry is responsible for 80% of the forest clearing in the Amazon? 

In addition, hidden cameras are routinely capturing the immense suffering forced upon billions of animals each year behind the closed doors of the meat, egg, and dairy industries — and more recently the aquaculture industry.

Imagine how much more efficient and sustainable our food system could be if we ate plants directly rather than funneling them through farmed animals. A recent report by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences put a number on it: the production of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy is two- to 20-fold more nutritionally efficient per unit of cropland than our current resource-intensive animal-based system.

As stated by the United Nations in 2006: “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.” In 2010, the UN further declared that “a substantial reduction of impacts [from agriculture] would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products.”

More recently, a lead researcher on a report published in Science summed it up in The Guardian by concluding: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth … it is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

And yet, the herbivorous elephant in the room remains largely ignored in discussions about how to fight climate change. The answer is literally in our hands: We can use our forks! 

As we continue to work towards policy change and corporate reform, we can also take direct action by diverting our monetary support away from foods that are destroying our planet and causing animal suffering, and instead green our diet with more plants. 

Without a doubt, our food choices matter. Every time we sit down to eat, each of us can stand up for the planet, our health and animals. We can start today simply by making our next meal a plant-based one.

Erica Meier is a DC EcoWomen board member. She is also the president of Compassion Over Killing, a national animal protection organization that hosts the annual DC VegFest and promotes plant-based eating a way to build a kinder, greener, and healthier world for all.