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The Women’s March and climate change

The Women’s March this past weekend brought together a wide array of concerned citizens, united in centering the experiences and voices of women in this nation’s urgent fight to reclaim democracy. While we march for the basic rights we deserve in this country, we also march for the self-determination of our future — a future threatened by the worsening climate crisis. Feminism is a crucial part of addressing the climate crisis, as the violence committed against women is connected to the violence against the earth. From committing sexual assault to quotidien misogyny, Trump has violated women, and his prioritization of fossil fuel infrastructure shows he has no respect for the environment. Women are on the frontlines of the changing climate — and can lead in the solutions.

The fossil fuel industry is fundamentally racist, sexist and classist as a capitalist extraction industry built on the exploitation of the land and people. Pollution from factories disproportionately affects black and brown folks and low-income communities, and the work of resistance and recovery often falls on women.

Studies suggest climate change is already causing and will continue to cause more frequent and more intense natural disasters. The destruction caused by natural disasters is exacerbated when governmental support and relief infrastructure too often fails the populace, leaving already marginalized groups behind. Women and trans people are more likely to experience sex and gender-based violence during and after these chaotic times, according to a Red Cross study. Much disaster relief tends to reinforce a white savior complex that is especially male-dominated, becoming a colonial project of imposing white, male, middle-class and other privileged values onto marginalized communities, intensifying the struggle for self-determination.

Food shortage and insecurity are also exacerbated from climate change. In developing countries, women comprise 45 to 80 percent of the food-producing workforce, according to the United Nations WomenWatch. With crop failure and unpredictable weather compromising agriculture practices, women are left particularly at risk for disease and malnutrition. Since 2010, 26 million people around the globe have been displaced by climate change, and 20 million of those climate refugees are women, according to an article in Pacific Standard magazine.

Crop failure threatens the livelihood of subsistence farmers, leading to increases in migration, which disproportionately place women at risk for increased violence. Because of gendered social norms, women can be inhibited from participating in conversations about climate adaptation strategies, silencing the specific needs of women.

In the face of these intensified challenges, women are often at the forefront of creating positive change and revitalizing their communities. Because so many women are connected to food production, they also tend to be the most resilient and innovative when it comes to adaptive farming techniques, and preserving biodiversity.

Women and people of color must lead the movement for climate justice moving forward.

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