Is Environmentalism A Feminist Issue?
© Illustration by INJECTION - Matt Rawlinson
Are the two movements interlinked?
Climate change affects us all, so it’s no wonder that environmentalism intersects with several other issues. Classism and racism have both been shown to intersect with climate change issues - it has been argued that only those who are somewhat privileged can afford to spend their time being environmental activists, and it is often people of colour (particularly indigenous communities) who are at the forefront of sustainable living and environmental activism - but what about sexism? Does gender play a role in environmentalism, and if so, does that mean that environmentalism should be a feminist concern?
Climate change and gender have always been intertwined. It is women who are most affected by the impact climate change has already had on the planet, especially in areas particularly affected by extreme poverty. Many natural disasters are caused by climate change, and natural disasters often bring unemployment, a higher risk of violence, and a higher risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking. When the majority of the world’s poor are women, the impacts of climate change only serve to make many of their lives more difficult.
Environmentalism also becomes a feminist issue as there is a lack of women in decision-making positions. Whether these positions involve planning, policy-making, or implementation in regards to climate-related decisions, a lack of women in these positions leads to what a lack of diversity leads to in any industry or field: a lack of diversity leads to a limited perspective. A lack of diversity, or a team built up of only men, means that it is probable that only one point of view is being discussed and heard. Therefore, it is important for decision-making teams to include people from all walks of life as this will lead to policies being fairer and more inclusive. As it stands, however, women are underrepresented in most fields and as such have less of a say in what decisions are being made. The environmental organisation Greenpeace has stated that “a gender perspective and effective female participation are essential to build a new energy model and to create better-structured societies with equal opportunities for everyone” - a sustainable society must be a society that values equal opportunities and gender equality.
From the surface, environmentalism and feminism may seem like two completely different fights. Dive deeper, however, and it soon becomes crystal clear that there has always been an intersection between the two. After all, perhaps the biggest threat to our environment is capitalism and consumerism - overproduction, fast fashion, and the cultural tendency to throw things away rather than fix them when they’re broken have led to irreversible effects on our planet. Mountains of landfills continue to pile up and the mega-rich continue to take private jets when they could just as easily take a more eco-friendly transport method. The environment suffers as a result of capitalism; capitalism thrives on the existence of patriarchy. The patriarchy is a hierarchy of power, and capitalism depends on such hierarchies. Inequality and abuses of power lead to negative impacts all around, including on our environment.