Scott Morrison remains undecided on his participation in arguably the most important conference on climate change in the last five years. COP26- the United Nations Climate Change Conference will bring together world leaders to tackle the ensuing issues related to climate change. Yet as a nation, Australia has one of the highest carbon emissions per capita the world, and as a result has seen its fair share of climate-related disasters in the last few years.
In 2020, the world looked on in desperation during the Australian bushfire disaster, yet this was only the beginning of the onslaught of climate related emergencies that Australia continues to face.
The 2019/2020 Australian bushfires were intrinsically linked to climate change. This resulted from the ongoing consequences of human induced climatic disturbances. At the time Australia was bombarded with fires ravaging across the bottom half of the country, with further contemporaneous emergencies felt across the top half- with ongoing severe storms, flash flooding, coral bleaching of the barrier reef and threatening cyclones. These emergencies impacted the social fabric of Australia, yet our Prime Minister is uncertain of his participation in the solution.
Disasters do not discriminate, however, the impact of the disaster does. Toxic gender norms are often solidified during disasters, playing a major role in the negative impact that they have on both men and women. These gender norms not only impact women, but they encourage the toxic relationship that Australia continues to have with the unrealistic hyper-masculine persona of Australian men.
These socially limiting gender norms are upheld by the patriarchy and are ultimately hurting men. Studies show that during a disaster, there is an adoption of traditional roles, in which men feel trapped within toxic social constraints to become the community hero and to save the day. Research on the Black Saturday bushfires, explores the surge in social issues in which harmful behaviors were felt throughout the impacted communities. Men felt they had to be strong and resilient, whilst facing their fears associated with the very real threat of life that could come from protecting their community from the fires. These toxic ideals pushed social breaking points resulting in increased rates of intimate partner violence and a lack of coping strategies within the home.
During disasters, any pre-existing social vulnerabilities or inequalities are amplified. Australia, who continues to slip down the ladder on the Global Gender Gap Index with the World Economic Forum, is now sitting at 50th. This is a huge drop from its 2006 ranking of 15th. This poor equality marker, coupled with ongoing climate emergencies, ensures that social vulnerabilities related to disasters will continue.
With a Prime Minister who continues to disregard the importance of Climate change adaptive behaviors, a way forward that individuals can aim for, is to create a more equal future. Feminism aims to reduce inequalities by breaking down gender norms within society. With greater equality, men will be unburdened by the unrealistic expectations that creates a toxic environment within disasters, and women will have an equal seat within disaster leadership.