Why women need to be at the frontline of climate change action

Why women need to be at the frontline of climate change action

At a time when we can cure heart failure with a transplant and defeat cancer with immunotherapy, governments overlook the most fundamental threat to our future existence.

Climate change is not a belief system, it is real, it is accelerating, and women, children, the elderly and the poor are among the most vulnerable, the same groups that are least represented in parliament.

At the recent Doctors for the Environment Conference in Hobart a Climate Emergency was declared and governments at all levels were called upon to urgently re-evaluate priorities. “Knowing that climate change constitutes a public health crisis, knowing that solutions are available, knowing that we have only a short time to prevent runaway climate change, doctors are appalled and frightened by the ongoing refusal of politicians to take necessary action. We must recognise climate change for the emergency it is.”

Global increases in average temperature sound inconsequentially small. The size of the figures is deceptive. The planetary impact is disproportionately huge, and the rate of change is ever increasing. Take a moment to look at the climate spirals from recorded data and future projections to see just how urgently we must act.

In Australia we are vulnerable to heatwaves, prolonged droughts, fire, flooding, coastal erosion, ocean degradation, air pollution and the rise of infectious and respiratory diseases. We are seeing the loss of ecosystems, – the kelp forests of Tasmania, the Murray Darling Basin. Our physical and mental health, our homes and our food supply are all at risk.

What can we do to make a difference?

Our life on earth is only possible because there is so much carbon buried in the ground, as coal, gas and oil. We cannot afford to release this into the atmosphere. We urgently need to accelerate investment in renewable energy and new technology. This is achievable through changing the economic drivers and through strengthening regulation and integrity in both our political system and the media.

Taxpayers should no longer provide subsidies for coal. Government should be independent from the Minerals Council and other powerful lobby groups. No more jobs for ex-Minerals Council employees as government advisors, and no more revolving doors for ex-ministers in return for favours. No more sanitised lumps of coal handed around our parliament. We need truth: mining accounts for a small and declining number of jobs. Mining is highly mechanised and jobs are temporary. On the other hand, the renewables workforce is set to increase year on year and should be supported.

What can we do as women?

We were inspired by Annie Kia, an expert in grassroots democracy and the Community Engagement Coordinator for Lock the Gate Alliance, an organisation that has successfully reversed inappropriate coal mining and fracking licences by uniting communities in protest. 420 communities have now declared themselves gas field free. Annie uses network and complexity theory and spoke about the particular ability of women to listen, to recognise signals from people in a room and to generate engagement from people with diverse backgrounds and political persuasions.

We can support our children.

15 year-old Greta Thunberg began her solitary School Strike for the Climate outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018. This January she addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos: “Our house is on fire. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. We owe it to the young people, to give them hope.” “Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.” Now schoolchildren around the world are striking and Greta has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

We should be angry.

I used to think Climate Change was a distant threat: not in my lifetime. Now I know that I was wrong. Climate change is the elephant in the room that we must talk about. We must seize opportunities to connect with other people and act. Community action is empowering and effective. And we must support our children to take action.

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