The Climate Crisis Will Kill Women First

Two organizations want the Supreme Court to recognize the lethal vulnerability of girls and women to a changing planet.

Climate change is killing women, and that shouldn’t be kept a secret.’ Photo by Tommi Boom, Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0.

Climate change is here, it’s happening and it’s going to forever change this planet if we don’t act soon. We have already seen some of its disastrous effects: disappearing ice caps, loss of biodiversity, animal extinction and increased frequency and severity of natural disasters.

But one of the effects excluded from the mainstream narrative is how the climate crisis is uniquely hurting women. The gender-climate link remains in the shadows. It’s a footnote rather than a headline, an appendix at the bottom of a report.

The effects of climate change disproportionately impact women and girls, especially those who are Indigenous, racialized and living in poverty. We should be shouting it from the rooftops: the climate crisis will kill women first.

Two Canadian non-profit organizations want to talk about the gender dimensions of climate change in front of the Supreme Court of Canada. Last week, the National Association of Women and the Law and Friends of the Earth asked the court permission to intervene in the controversial and highly publicized carbon tax case being appealed to the Supreme Court by Saskatchewan and Ontario.

If granted leave to intervene in the case, NAWL and FOE hope to argue that climate change disproportionately impacts women and girls, and that Canada needs an “all hands on deck” approach, rooted in substantive equality, whereby every level of government takes action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is important to include a gender analysis when it comes to climate change because this is necessary to ensure that the impacts of climate change do not further entrench gender inequality,” says Nathalie Chalifour, co-counsel for FOE and NAWL.

NAWL and FOE hope to put forth two arguments to support their position.

First, the federal and provincial governments must work together, through a cooperative approach to federalism, to fight climate change. The division of powers must be interpreted in a way that embraces collaboration amongst governments, which in turn promotes substantive equality rights and environmental justice for women and girls.

Chalifour says a cooperative approach to federalism “is the only interpretation that is acceptable from a climate justice perspective, since all levels of government have to work collaboratively to address the climate emergency.”

Second, the federal government should be able to enact legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the emergency branch of Peace, Order and Good Government. The POGG doctrine, laid out in Section 91 of our Constitution, affords the federal government power over matters under provincial jurisdiction in certain situations. Under the emergency branch of POGG, the federal government may invoke a state of emergency, granting itself special emergency powers. Given the scale, scope and urgency of the climate crisis, the interveners argue, the federal government should be able to use the POGG doctrine to take action against climate change on a national level.

The overarching message of NAWL and FOE is that a piecemeal approach to environmental justice, as Saskatchewan and Ontario are pushing for, will uniquely hurt women because women are more adversely affected by climate change. MORE


CNN’s Town Hall Made Climate Change Personal—and It Worked

Democratic candidates in the network’s event devoted to climate weaponize a uniquely human tool: stories.

Elizabeth Warren

Wednesday evening during CNN’s climate change town hall, the gods of politicking looked down on Democratic candidate Kamala Harris, and they smiled. In the audience, a man named David with small glasses and pony-tailed gray hair stood up and said he’d lost his home in Paradise, California, to last year’s Camp Fire, which was supercharged by climate change.

“I am so sorry, David. I visited Paradise while the embers were still burning there,” the California senator said. “The only thing that stood were the chimneys, were the fireplaces, that to me looked like tombstones in a graveyard. The devastation was enormous. There were firefighters that were fighting fires while they knew their own homes were burning to the ground. And so you are a living testament, and thank you for your courage to share your story.”

The camera cut back to David. The corners of his mouth turned down, not as a frown, but as if holding back tears.

A politician is nothing without the Story. Perhaps they fought in a war, or they toured a war zone once and got shot at, or maybe a farmer they’d met shared a devastating tale about struggling to pay the bills. Voters like to hear about such things. The stories may not always be what you’d call fully truthful, but they’re a main line into the human brain, and one of the oldest political tricks in the book.

Over seven hours, 10 candidates vying for the Democratic nomination took turns fielding questions and laying out how they’d face down the “climate crisis,” as CNN rightly framed the mess we’re in. Given the staggering complexity of the problem and the tendency of politics to oversimplify, the breadth of positions was commendable. The pols discussed how to bolster cities against rising seas, how to foster international cooperation, even how we might reconsider our love of planet-killing meat.

It’s with stories, though, that you really engage people about climate change. The science says as much: Research has shown that to make someone care about climate change, you’ve got to make it personal, transcending politics to explain how people are already suffering. Sure, voters need to hear how the candidates plan on tackling climate change, all the details about carbon taxes and renewable energy and fighting sea level rise. But the enormity of the climate change problem is impossible to communicate through policy talking points alone. In other words, cue the personal sagas. MORE


Dare to declare capitalism dead – before it takes us all down with it

George Monbiot asks, “Do we stop life to allow capitalism to continue, or stop capitalism to allow life to continue?” In terms of the present Canadian political scene this equates to , “Do I vote for  neoliberalism  or do I choose social democracy?”  Your opinion and you vote matters.

The economic system is incompatible with the survival of life on Earth. It is time to design a new one

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border in 2016. ‘In the 21st century rising resource consumption has matched or exceeded the rate of economic growth.’ Photograph: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

… as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to recognise two things. First, that it is the [capitalist] system, rather than any variant of the system, that drives us inexorably towards disaster. Second, that you do not have to produce a definitive alternative to say that capitalism is failing. The statement stands in its own right. But it also demands another, and different, effort to develop a new system.

Capitalism’s failures arise from two of its defining elements. The first is perpetual growth. Economic growth is the aggregate effect of the quest to accumulate capital and extract profit. Capitalism collapses without growth, yet perpetual growth on a finite planet leads inexorably to environmental calamity.

The second defining element is the bizarre assumption that a person is entitled to as great a share of the world’s natural wealth as their money can buy….

Our choice comes down to this. Do we stop life to allow capitalism to continue, or stop capitalism to allow life to continue?

So what does a better system look like? I don’t have a complete answer, and I don’t believe any one person does. But I think I see a rough framework emerging. Part of it is provided by the ecological civilisation proposed by Jeremy Lent, one of the greatest thinkers of our age. Other elements come from Kate Raworth’s doughnut economics and the environmental thinking of Naomi KleinAmitav GhoshAngaangaq AngakkorsuaqRaj Patel and Bill McKibben. Part of the answer lies in the notion of “private sufficiency, public luxury”. Another part arises from the creation of a new conception of justice based on this simple principle: every generation, everywhere, shall have an equal right to the enjoyment of natural wealth. MORE




Watch this great Green New Deal explainer video from The Leap

You’ve been hearing a lot about the Green New Deal, but you’re wondering what it’s all about? If you want a quick and chatty explainer, check out this video put together by the folks at The Leap, a climate action group.

The Leap Manifesto predates the Green New Deal, but the group has eagerly taken up the mantle. Here’s the central core of the Manifesto:

We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

We know that the time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.


The Game-Changing Promise of a Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is not a piecemeal approach that trains a water gun on a blazing fire, but a comprehensive plan to transform society for the better.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, congresswoman-elect from New York, speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Nov. 13, 2018. (Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks to activists with the Sunrise Movement protesting in the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington D.C., on Nov. 13, 2018. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times via Redux

The draft text calls for the committee, which would be fully funded and empowered to draft legislation, to spend the next year consulting with a range of experts — from scientists to local lawmakers to labor unions to business leaders — to map out a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” capable of making the U.S. economy “carbon neutral” while promoting “economic and environmental justice and equality.” By January 2020, the plan would be released, and two months later would come draft legislation designed to turn it into a reality. MORE