This month, Earth Day is April 22nd. That’s a day, one (1) day to consider the planet we inhabit, the one ‘thing’ all humans indisputably have in common—one day. Trouble is, that’s nowhere near enough.
Earth Day was started in 1970 to force the topic of a changing environment onto the national agenda in the U.S. At the time, there was no Clean Air Act. No Clean Water Act. No Environmental Protection Agency. The general public just didn’t get the deep connection between pollution and public health.
The modern environmental movement behind Earth Day exists in large part due to the work of TroubleMakers who stuck up for Mother Nature throughout the past century. Because women are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, it’s women who speak out about pollution and push back against policies that threaten their families and communities.
Rachel Carson’s 1962 New York Times bestseller Silent Spring is widely credited with catalyzing the contemporary environmental movement. Carson’s work educated the public and the government about the interconnectedness between human beings and the natural world. Ultimately, the then-popular pesticide DDT was banned because of the awareness she created around the poisonous havoc it caused on wildlife habitat, contributing to the loss of species and causing illness to humans. If you’ve experienced the thrill of seeing a hawk or an eagle fly overhead, it’s because the toxins in DDT no longer poison habitat or weaken eggshells, giving hatchlings a chance of surviving to adulthood.
Environmental Activism that’s centered on conservation and the preservation of natural resources has evolved in recent decades. The Environmental Justice Movement is challenging traditional environmental policy, which has too often benefited the rich at the expense of the poor (disproportionately women and children). Jane Adams was among the first to fight for environmental justice. It’s a challenge to summarize Adams’ accomplishments. Among her many titles – social reformer and pacifist, cowinner (with Nicholas Murray Butler) of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1931 – she was a pioneer in uncovering environmental health concerns and advocating for environmental equity for all people, no matter their income or ethnicity. Talk about a TroubleMaker!
We can call what’s needed conservation and view it through a lens of saving wild places; or name it environmentalism – focused on clean energy and sustainability. Regardless, the Earth’s climate will dictate our future. And please make no mistake about it, fellow TroubleMakers – The Climate Crisis is a feminist issue!
You may see some backlash on social media against characterizing climate change as a feminist issue. Some say that it’s too divisive to “make it a women’s thing.” Obviously, the degradation of the environment is a problem for all of humanity. Addressing it will require unprecedented effort, ingenuity and sacrifice from everyone for us to thrive, or even survive as a species.
Worldwide, women are disproportionately impacted by the lack of clean energy sources and clean water. In many countries where women are largely responsible for food production, global warming is increasing severe weather conditions and pollution is depleting the soil their lives depend upon. Women suffer the inequities of poverty; lack of access to education, resources and mobility that are all exacerbated by the degradation of the environment.
This past year we experienced the intersection of a worldwide health crisis and ramifications of global warming. Both environmental disasters and public health challenges hit the poor the hardest. Women make up an estimated 70% of people living below the poverty line all over the world.
As witnesses and advocates, women are powerful catalysts for change, too. Women’s role in addressing environmental issues is essential as decision-makers in the home, activists in their communities, as moms, and in growing numbers, as policymakers.
TroubleMakers know that empowering women is key to tackling the climate crisis!
What can we do personally to promote environmental justice and combat global warming? A great place to start is to educate ourselves, our families, and friends about how we impact the environment with every choice we make; the foods we eat, the products we buy, and how we manage our consumption of energy. Use the influence you have in and around your home and look around for opportunities to make things better in your community.
On a small scale, some things we can do are fun and simple. Plant a garden. Compost your kitchen waste. Seek volunteer opportunities like waterway and green space clean-ups. Pay attention to the actions of your local government. Consider becoming a member of, or supporting an organization focused on collective measures: the Sierra Club and 350.org advocate for conservation and climate action. The Defenders of Wildlife will help you sign petitions and contact your representatives about protecting wildlife. You can also join millions of young people volunteering through DoSomething.org, with campaigns that focus on the environment and beyond.
Where’s your Eden?
As the pandemic has highlighted, the disparity of choices for a special place to escape and enjoy nature varies greatly. The fortunate have the luxury of dreaming of visiting faraway places while others have discovered their “Eden” in their community. For some, the chance of finding an oasis close to home has been diminished by loss of public parks and decreased funding for greener infrastructure in urban areas.
The truth is, there are no “untouched” places left on Earth. Even the most remote places we perceive as idyllic have been altered by human-induced effects, including plastic pollution and extreme weather events like drought, flooding, and critical habitat loss.If our ideal image of nature is one of only those places we think are pristine and remote, does that mean that we care less about nature right in front of us? Can places in our community be our Eden?
When planning local actions, keep in mind that it’s important to focus on ‘climate justice’ with initiatives that include everyone. Without engagement and input from those affected most by climate (renters, diverse neighborhoods, language isolated communities, the disabled), there can be unintended consequences from “beautification,” like gentrification and price hikes. Marginalized people can make decisions for themselves, and they need to have decision-making power in their communities.
Let’s all try to make every day Earth Day; every month Earth Month. How about Earth Year, every year. We can’t afford to look away any longer. We need to cause Trouble in our homes, in our communities and beyond.
Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration.
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SPEAK UP SPEAK OUT THIS REALLY MATTERS