Women’s Knowledge: Three Reasons We Won’t Solve Climate Change Without It

When it comes to solving the climate crisis, the world can't afford to ignore women's voices.
Refilling water container. Photo by Oxfam.

A woman refills her bucket from a well in Natriguel, Mauritania. Photo by Pablo Tosco / Oxfam / Flickr.

Women's equality goes hand-in-hand with finding real solutions to climate change. Here are three reasons why.

1. Women are disproportionately affected by climate change.

Increased flooding, drought, and desertification aren't good for anyone. But in developing countries and low-income communities, it's often women who are hit hardest. In developing countries, women are responsible for collecting water in two-thirds of all households and grow 60 to 80 percent of the food, according to United Nations reports. And if that makes women uniquely vulnerable to climate change, it also gives them an incentive for taking the lead in action and adaptation.

Women's networks are a largely untapped resource for spreading solutions to climate change.

In Senegal, for example, where erosion and poor soil were making it hard to grow food, women from rural villages built stone walls and planted trees to retain and improve the soil. It worked, and their crops are now more productive than ever before.

2. Women control the money.

In North America, women manage more than half the wealth and make nearly 80 percent of consumer purchases. Women are beginning to take that purchasing power and consumer influence, and use it to encourage solutions to climate change.

Women are more likely to recycle, buy organic food and eco-products, and value low-energy transportation, according to a study of the 34 member counties of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Women are leading the shift to renewable energy sources and local, sustainable agriculture at the community level.

3. We can't afford to miss out on women's knowledge.

Women represent half of the population, of course, but they often aren't in control of half the decision-making. When that happens, humanity loses out on half of its brainpower, ideas, and cooperation. Greater women's equality often corresponds with greater care for the earth. For instance, a study surveying 130 countries found that those with higher female representation in parliament were more likely to ratify international environmental treaties.

That's why why Osprey Orielle Lake, founder and president of the Women's Earth and Climate Caucus, is gathering 100 women from around the world in Suffern, N.Y., from September 20 to 23. The participants will draft a Women's Climate Action Agenda, a document outlining steps they believe the world should take to address climate change.

"With the complexity of the climate crisis calling for unprecedented levels of collaboration and problem-solving skills to meet a deeply rooted dilemma," Lake says, "women in particular are poised to help solve and overcome this daunting challenge."

Lake says the initiative is not about creating new solutions, but about lifting up those that are already working. She adds that existing women's networks are a largely untapped resource for spreading solutions to climate change such as solar, wind, and geothermal technologies; sustainable agriculture and permaculture; and new cultural narratives and economic structures.

Among the members of the International Women's Earth and Climate Initiative are primatologist Jane Goodall; United Nations climate change specialist Christiana Figueres; 350.org executive director May Boeve; environmental activist Vandana Shiva; and many other scientists, politicians, business leaders, indigenous leaders, activists, and community organizers.

Though the summit is invite-only, the general public is invited to follow and contribute to the discussions through interactive live-streaming during the conference at www.iweci.org.

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