Posts Tagged ‘women’s history month’

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By Kelley Dennings

In the face of the climate crisis, young people are starting to question whether they should have kids. Many are worrying about the planet their children would inherit, and what adding to the population would do to our already-suffering environment.

Research predicts one million species could go extinct in the coming decades due to climate change, habitat loss and other human-related pressures. Meanwhile reproductive rights face a barrage of attacks at the state and federal level.

Frankly, there’s a lot to worry about. But we also have a lot that gives us hope. In March, we commemorate women who have come before us through Women’s History Month and we celebrate International Women’s Day.

The start of Women’s History Month in 1981 harkens back to a time of congressional compromise. In 1981, there were only 23 women in Congress – compared to 127 today — and fewer women in the workforce overall.

The U.S. fertility rate in 1981 is nearly identical to now. And although women have more autonomy in many ways, access to family planning is still a political chess piece.

International Women’s Day, held on March 8 annually, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. But it’s more than a celebration – it’s a call to action.

This year’s theme, #EachforEqual, is drawn from a notion of “collective individualism.” It highlights how individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. 

The intersection between individual family planning decisions and reproductive healthcare policies is the perfect example of how personal and collective action are intertwined. And the climate and extinction crises are bringing renewed attention to the effect of our growing population on the planet. 

While individuals are at the heart of reproductive rights and justice, there are systems in place that determine whether people have access to the knowledge and healthcare they need. That’s why it’s frustrating when individual and systematic change are pitted against one another. These aren’t “either/or” issues.  Our collective individualism can benefit everyone.

Not only do individuals need to feel comfortable discussing their family planning wishes with partners and health care providers, systems such as comprehensive sex education, to support knowledgeable discussions, and universal access to all forms of contraception, are equally important. 

Progress has been made in understanding how individual family planning, reproductive rights and the environment work together, but more could be done. 

The intersectional work around population is grounded in human rights, reproductive rights and social justice. Every individual should have access to contraception and education to plan if and when they want to have children to help prevent unintended pregnancies, improve the lives of families and protect the environment. 

To achieve that, activists must cross the political aisle, partner with family planning groups and bring justice for all into the fold.

Kelley Dennings moved to Washington, D.C. ten years ago and has worked with three environmental non-profits. She currently works at the Center for Biological Diversity where she highlights how population growth and overconsumption affect habitat and wildlife. She advocates for rights-based solutions to these problems such as voluntary family planning.

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By Whitney Ricker, FEMA contractor and climate justice advocate

It’s common knowledge at this point; women (on average) are more likely than men to be affected by climate change. This fact usually conjures images of women in the Global South who will face extreme hardship due to severe famine, migration, and violence caused by the impacts of climate change and de-stabilization. Children who grow up in these situations will likely be at a large disadvantage due to poor economic conditions, and physical and mental health issues stemming from their struggles.

While these are important issues to think about on a global stage, it can be easy to overlook what is already happening in our own backyard. Read on for more information on the connection between women, children, poverty and climate change.

Poverty Among Women and Children in the District

Women in the District face homelessness at a higher rate than their male counterparts, and over a quarter of children live in poverty. While residents in Washington, D.C. become wealthier on average, the gap between the haves and have-nots also grows. For instance, the housing prices within the District have risen to $602,500, with no signs of going down. Gentrification continues to push families and individuals out of neighborhoods, which leaves a large number in poverty. The statistics below show the bigger picture – the populations that now live under the poverty line:

Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the District

Flooding is expected to be a major issue facing D.C. in the coming decades. As land in the District sinks and increasing sea levels raise the waters of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, extreme flooding events will inundate further inland, including portions of Anacostia, the Tidal Basin, and the Southwest Waterfront. Inundation can lead to issues, including storm drain backups and potential sewage overflows, especially in sections of the city where old infrastructure has not been updated.

Climate change is increasing extreme weather events. As poverty grows within the District, extreme weather will cause intense, new challenges for those who face poverty. During the summer months, Washington, D.C. is subjected to the “Urban Heat Island Effect,” which is when urban centers experience higher temperatures than surrounding areas during extreme heat events. Numerous factors contribute to this event, such as dark pavements absorbing heat and less greenery to deflect heat and cool down surrounding areas.

During the hottest months of the year, increased temperatures can have severe health impacts, especially for expectant mothers, children, the elderly, and those who in poverty.

The health impacts include the following:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Respiratory illness
  • Cardiovascular illness
  • Heat stroke

Research has shown correlations between extreme weather events and an increase in overall violence. Extreme heat events are correlated with increased rates of violent crime, especially in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods. Women and children are more likely to experience sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation following all types of natural disasters. In 2018, violent crime had decreased overall in D.C. However, a natural disaster could quickly change the trend.

How to Help

On a large scale, it will take social reform, healthcare reform, and many other measures to ensure that women and children in poverty in Washington, D.C. are prepared for the impacts of climate change. Here are a few ways that you can help daily.

Volunteer – There are dozens of shelters and food banks across the D.C. region, along with other organizations dedicated to helping women who have suffered abuse and/or other trauma. If you have time, here is a list of shelters in the District. Along with volunteering at shelters, volunteering with children/teenagers who live in harsh circumstances can have a positive impact for years to come.

Help those you encounter – Instead of giving money to those you see on the street, consider giving them a nutritious snack, or carry around a cold bottle of water to give to someone on a hot day. A small act could be a lifesaver to someone living on the streets.

Donate – Shelters are always in need of supplies, food, and clothing to distribute. Consider cleaning out your closet or buying a few extra items at the store to donate to local shelters.

Advocate for children and education – Advocating for a good education, especially around the connection between poverty and climate change, can have big impacts on a large scale.

Whitney Ricker is a recent graduate of James Madison University, where she studied Geographic Science with an emphasis on Environmental Conservation, Sustainability, and Development. She is currently employed as a FEMA contractor, and when she isn’t advocating for climate justice, she can be found watching documentaries and British TV shows at home.

Photo Credits: allenran 917 CC BY 2.0, Daniel Lobo CC BY 2.0, Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño CC BY 2.0, Ajari CC BY 2.0 and Elvert Barnes CC BY-SA 2.0

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by Stacy Knight

As a marine scientist and conservationist, I’ve been inspired by many of the scientific greats—Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, and Edward O. Wilson. But I am proud to have a long list of inspiring women to look up to, as well. Throughout history women have fought to be recognized, pushed to make a difference, and augmented the norm. As with many industries, women in science struggle with equity in pay, opportunities, and recognition. Despite these imbalances, many major scientific discoveries are attributed to women. Because March is an important month for women with Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day (March 8), and the anniversary of the 1913 suffrage march in Washington (March 3), DC EcoWomen is celebrating women all month long. I would like to celebrate the following amazing women who have inspired me throughout my career and pushed me to make a difference.

Dr. Euginie Clark was a Japanese American marine biology rockstar! Like me, she was drawn to the ocean through a place accessible to all Americans—the local aquarium. This experience inspired her to become SCUBA certified, and during her career she performed more than 70 deep submersible dives. She earned a Ph.D in 1950 and dedicated her career to studying fish and sharks. Her passion to debunk myths and fears about sharks earned her the nickname “Shark Lady”. She helped create Mote Marine Laboratory, which focuses much of their research on shark biology, including the presence of cancer in the species. Reading about this research as a kid fueled my never-ending curiosity of elasmobranchs.

Dr. Theodora Colburn was a trailblazer for endocrine disruption research. Her seminal research showing that small concentrations of chemicals can alter human reproductive, metabolic, and immune systems is chronicled in the novel Our Stolen Future. Born in 1927, she spent her early career as a pharmacist and went back to school at age 51 to earn an M.A. in freshwater ecology and a Ph.D. in zoology. In 1985 she “started” her career with a fellowship advising Congress on science. Over the next several decades she directed research on toxicology and human health and testified about the effects of chemicals in front of Congress. My early research in an endocrine disruption lab was encouraged by her work, but today, more than ever, her efforts to push  for Congress to make science-based decisions, and her commitment to disprove industry claims with scientific evidence is inspirational.

Dr. Amanda Vincent is a Canadian marine scientist and seahorse guru. In 1996 she co-founded Project Seahorse, an international, non-profit organization focused on seahorse conservation and community-based sustainable ocean ecosystems use. Dr. Vincent’s recognition that coastal communities rely on ocean resources served as the foundation for her innovative ideas integrating local communities and social science into conservation needs for seahorses, such as marine protected areas and small scale fisheries. Learning about her dedication to protecting the ocean without excluding humans from its use was a pivotal moment for me, which drew me to the sustainability and conservation field.

DC EcoWomen celebrates women every day and we’d love for you to celebrate women with us all March long by sharing on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #celebratingwomen and #dcecowomen. We’d love to hear who inspires you and how you’re celebrating women. Let’s start a conversation!

Each one of us has the power to inspire, and what better way than through our signature event: EcoHour. Join us on the third Tuesday of every month at Teaism Penn Quarter for an hour of inspiring stories about career growth from women in the environmental field.

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Stacy Knight is a marine scientist and a DC EcoWomen board member. She recently moved to DC to apply her diverse science skills to the environmental policy arena, and currently works for the Consortium for Ocean Leadership on the Political Affairs team. A science nerd at heart, she loves nature, the ocean, and photography. In her free time, she can be found enjoying local restaurants, sampling craft beers, and taking landscape photographs.