Archive for the ‘sustainable living’ Category
Two amazing conferences are coming up that will have some excellent speakers AND are affordable. I’ll be live blogging hopefully from both and of them and also will hopefully see you there!
The first is the Feminism and Climate Change conference at Barnard College in NYC on February 27th. One of my favorite environmental leaders, Majora Carter, will be giving the keynote address. For Barnard students, the conference is free but for everyone else the suggested price is $50.
The second is the annual Reproductive Justice Conference from April 9-11 at Hampshire College. It will be my first time attending, but friends of mine that have gone in the past say it’s an unbelievable experience.
From Common Dreams:
African-American farmers have staged a massive protest in Washington DC calling on the US government to deliver on cash payments promised to the group years ago.
In 1999, black farmers won a landmark case that granted them a billion-dollar compensation settlement on the grounds of racial discrimination by then US authorities.
But now the group says that tens of thousands of African-American farmers have not received the funds that they were promised.
Al Jazeera’s John Terrett reports from Washington DC:
Every week I will post a short biography from The United Nations Who’s Who of Women and the Environment. This week is featuring Mei Ng from China:
From meeting rooms to pollution hotspots, from lobby platform to legislative chambers, from recycling sweatshops to landfills, from congested streets to country parks, from consumer wasteland to green homes, from kindergartens to university lecture halls, from freezing air-conditioned offices to wind farms in southern China, from urbanized Hong Kong to unsustainable villages and drought plagued provinces in developing China, Mei Ng’s green footprint has travelled far and wide. In the last 15 years, her effort to promote awareness and transfer NGO experience has helped to catalyze the budding green movement in China since 1992. Mei Ng’s green message has travelled 26500 km to 15 provinces and touched over 860,000 people.
Mrs. Mei Ng is the Director of Friends of the Earth (Hong Kong). She was elected to the UNEP Global 500 Roll of Honor in 2000. In the same year, she was appointed by the State Environmental Protection Agency as China Environment Envoy. In 2003, Mrs Ng was decorated with the Bronze Bauhinia Star by the Hong Kong SAR Government for her environmental contribution to Hong Kong.
Mrs. Ng has actively participated in environmental policy development and community mobilization. She was appointed to the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) since 2001 and invited as an advisor to the Hong Kong Sustainable Industry Council.
Leading a dedicated team to catalyse sustainability thinking, environmental governance and public participation, her priority campaigns include responsible consumption, renewable energy, community participation and sustainable development through women and youth empowerment.
Her millennium vision is to mobilize women folks to safeguard their environmental and quality of life. Turning pig waste-to-energy in China’s arid western region to halt logging and desertification and raising awareness of women factory workers in Southern China’s pollution hotspots, Mei Ng believes in lighting a candle rather than curse darkness.
As a sustainability pathfinder, Mei Ng has been lighting small candles in Hong Kong and China. She believes in Do-It-Yourself Environmentalism in keeping with the spirit of Sustainability.
For Shannon Hayes, a writer for Yes Magazine, this question also involved the impact her decision would have on the planet. She doesn’t believe in conforming to gender roles, but the sustainable benefits of having her AND her husband stay home with the kids outweighed any negatives. After doing some research she also discovered that it was only after the industrial revolution took over America that taking care of the household was deemed “women’s work”
A search for the origin of the word housewife traces it back to the thirteenth century, as the feudal period was coming to an end in Europe and the first signs of a middle class were popping up. Historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan explains that housewives were wedded to husbands, whose name came from hus, an old spelling of house, and bonded. Husbands were bonded to houses, rather than to lords. Housewives and husbands were free people, who owned their own homes and lived off their land. While there was a division of labor among the sexes in these early households, there was also an equal distribution of domestic work. Once the Industrial Revolution happened, however, things changed. Men left the household to work for wages, which were then used to purchase goods and services that they were no longer home to provide.
Hayes had the notion that she was not alone in her new profession which she deemed “Radical Homemakers” and went across America to study other families like hers.
By virtue of these skills, the Radical Homemakers I interviewed were building a great bridge from our existing extractive economy—where corporate wealth has been regarded as the foundation of economic health, where mining our Earth’s resources and exploiting our international neighbors have been acceptable costs of doing business—to a life serving economy, where the goal is, in the words of David Korten, to generate a living for all, rather than a killing for a few; where our resources are sustained, our waters are kept clean, our air pure, and families and can lead meaningful lives.
Read the rest of Hayes testimonial to Radical Homemakers here
Every week I will post a short biography on one woman who has made considerable contributions to the environment. This week features Michelle Long from Bellingham, Washington:
Michelle Long hails from Beillingham, Washington, a town that leads the way for America in green power. Long played an integral role in the town’s transformation as co-founder of the non-profit company Sustainable Connections. Now she wants to spread the word and use what she’s learned to transform North America also. Yes Magazine interviewed her recently and here is an excerpt. To read the whole thing, click here.
Brooke: What is a local living economy?
Michelle: A local living economy is one where local business owners make up the majority of the local economy, where today’s innovations in sustainable agriculture, in green building, in renewable energy and energy efficiency, in community capital, in green jobs, in local manufacturing are all tied together within the context of a place, so that you have an economy that is community-based, green, and fair.
Brooke: And how does BALLE help create that?
Michelle: BALLE is the fastest growing membership organization of socially responsible businesses in North America. We have 79 community networks, but they have members that now represent 21,000 independent businesses. What BALLE does is catalyze the creation of new networks of businesses in different communities—we connect them to each other so they can share best practices, and we strengthen them with new tools and resources.
Several years ago while working in Mozambique, she found a connection between inadequate sanitary protection for menstruating girls and women and lost income and education for towns, cities and entire countries,
Through research, she learned that menstruating girls and women lose up to fifty days a year of work or school because they are afraid of leaking through their make shift rags or bark. Scharpf decided to do something about it and launched SHE, which gives out micro-finance loans and basic health training to local women so that they can manufacture pads from local sustainable materials and sell them at affordable prices. Selling the pads is a source of income for the women and the girls and women who have access to the pads are less likely to contract infections and are able to participate in public life every day of the month.
Watch a promo video for the project:
While we take the availability of pads and tampons for granted in the United States, the lack of access to sanitary options has many dangers.
From the Huffington Post:
In developing countries, periods continue to be a serious handicap. According to UNICEF, ten percent of school-age African girls miss school because of a lack of access to affordable sanitary products. In Rwanda, it’s much worse. According to on-the-ground research by Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), half the girls are missing school due to menstruation and the main reason given is that sanitary pads are too expensive. For women, 24% miss work–up to 45 days per year–for the same reason. This not only limits girls’ educational and women’s professional achievement, but leads to a significant economic loss for nations. SHE estimates that a lack of affordable sanitary pads reduces GDP by $115 million per year in Rwanda alone.
There are also serious health repercussions of not having pads. In Asia, many women still use rags; less fortunate ones use newspapers, banana leaves, even sand or ash. While rags were common before the pad was invented, the problem in developing countries is that often women don’t have access to clean water to wash them. And the taboo of menstruation means that many women cannot hang their rags to dry in the open. So, instead, they hide them in dark, damp places where no one will find them. As one might imagine, infections are rampant.
Native forests in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are being destroyed to plant new crops of “profitable” trees. Non-indigenous, but fast growing trees like eucalyptus and pine are being planted to produce large-scale wood, pulp and paper production. Along with destroying the forest, these trees also use more water and degrade the soil of these South American countries.
Rural women’s organizations and environmental groups have drafted letters to the forestry companies in protest but have been ignored and pushed out of the way by claims that these “tree plantations” will act as carbon sinks, helping to offset green house gasses and carbon emissions.
Among the many negative aspects of the “unsustainable” development model followed by the forestry industry, [the women] denounced that companies pressure families into selling their farmland, that the industry creates few jobs for women, that tree plantations are depleting water resources, and that these changes have significant social impacts, such as a breakdown in the social fabric, leading to domestic violence and sexual harassment among the affected communities.
Promoting plantations as forests is “misleading,” said the rural women’s organisations and environmental groups, which pointed to the “countless negative impacts” that these projects have on the lives of rural families, and particularly on women, who are “disempowered” by the expansion of these single-crop plantations.
The document the women put forth was signed by the March of Women, The Peasant Women’s Movement of Brazil and the Centre for Environment Studies. It was also backed by GRAIN, Friends of the Earth, The Rural Women’s Movement and the World Rainforest Movement.
These tree plantations are more than just a minor headache. Along with pushing rural families off their land in Brazil, the plantations have ruined the livelihoods of the families as the land suffered severe droughts, abrupt temperature changes, severe loss of biodiversity, food crop reduction, drying up of water sources and degradation of soil fertility.
Two books have resulted from this ordeal, Brazil: Women and Eucalyptus: Stories of Life and Resistance, and The European Union’s Role in the Disempowerment of Women of the South through the Conversion of Local Ecosystems into Tree Plantations.
To understand more about this ongoing struggle, read the full article on Common Dreams
This is ridiculous. Carin Froehlich of Perkasie Pennsylvania is fighting with her neighbors for the right to hang her laundry outside. She’s not the only one either. While there are no laws against hanging her clothes, neighbors have sent anonymous notes stating that her clothes line makes the town look like trailer trash, and also that no one wants to see her “unmentionables.” Froehlich, who is now writing a book on this phenomenon, insists she leaves her underwear inside to dry. Sadly, Froehlich is not the only one struggling for the “right to hang”. People all across America are picking the same fight.
Project Laundry List, the group that represents those individuals fighting with their town, says the benefits of hanging clothes outside of drying are numerable.
Their interests are represented by Project Laundry List, a group that argues people can save money and reduce carbon emissions by not using their electric or gas dryers, according to the group’s executive director, Alexander Lee.
Widespread adoption of clotheslines could significantly reduce U.S. energy consumption, argued Lee, who said dryer use accounts for about 6 percent of U.S. residential electricity use.
Florida, Utah, Maine, Vermont, Colorado, and Hawaii have passed laws restricting the rights of local authorities to stop residents using clotheslines. Another five states are considering similar measures, said Lee, 35, a former lawyer who quit to run the non-profit group.
Froehlich maintains that hanging her clothes saves her $83 a month and makes the point that if her husband has the right to own a gun, she should have the right to hang her laundry.
Well said, Carin.
Missed part 1? Check it out here
Since long before the issue garnered adequate concern on the world stage, women have been resisting, mitigating and even reversing the impacts of climate change, primarily at the local level. Moreover, not only do women tend to care for the environment, but they do so in a way that reflects how it is connected to the economy and livelihoods, health and social well-being.
This is the second article in a four-part series that explores the gendered impacts of climate change.
The first article discussed how women are impacted by climate change. Stay tuned in the coming months for part three, which explores how women are organizing in preparation for the December 2009 United Nations Conference on Climate Change; and part four, which discusses how the outcomes of the conference might impact women’s rights.
By Masum Momaya
Climate Change is now on the minds and lips of many people in local and international policy spaces. Yet, many women in large part due to their social roles as caretakers and their livelihoods as farmers, have been observing and mitigating the impact of climate change for generations. Today, they continue to care for the environment in their day-to-day interactions with it and also bring their experiences to legal and policymaking spaces at local, national, regional and international levels.
Because many live so intimately with the land and are often responsible for food, fuel, shelter, water and medicine in their families, women’s understanding of the climate change transcends science, statistics and physical changes to include the socioeconomic dimensions. Specifically, women have long been feeling the effects of agricultural policies dominated by corporate interests; the plunder and extraction of natural resource by governments and the private sector for profit; the oppression of indigenous peoples and their knowledge of biodiversity; the health impact of air, water and food pollutants; and the inadequacy of market-driven solutions in halting carbon emissions.
In Kenya, Wangari Maathai and the women of the Green Belt Movement have been planting trees and conserving water to replenish the rapid deforestation. What started out as a movement to simply replace trees that had been cut with seedlings has expanded to include a movement for peace, as Maathai herself found that environmental problems were a symptom and by-product of bad governance and widespread marginalization of women. The act of planting trees initially brought women together to exchange ideas and tap their knowledge of the environment. Yet, it eventually led them to work for peace and accountability, with some running for local and national positions. In this movement and various others worldwide, the destruction of the environment has politicized women and they have been at the forefront of an integrated analysis of and approach towards halting climate change.
In India, monocropping, or the strategy of planting one crop en masse for higher yields, and the increased used of harsh pesticides has eroded the soil. Large agribusiness corporations have developed and pushed the use of genetically modified seeds for these weaker soils, which have required harsher, more expensive pesticides and not necessarily yielded fruitful harvest. In desperation, such corporations have stolen seeds from local farmers, attempting to patent the seeds using intellectual property laws.  Women of the Navdanya movement in these farming communities have been selecting and saving strong seeds as a means of survival and resistance to large agribusiness and a means of maintaining indigenous biodiversity, and they are now fighting the patenting of their seeds in courts.
In Nigeria, partnerships between government officials and corporations have facilitated large-scale drilling and extraction of oil, releasing copious poisonous vapors and robbing local Nigerians of benefiting from or sharing in profits. Instead, local workers face low wages and hazardous working conditions while the surroundings environs are devastated. Using shaming tactics and strength in numbers, women in Nigeria have organized to either shut down the drilling or forced corporations to change their environmental and labor practices, ensuring that both people and the environment are protected.
In Bolivia, women played instrumental roles in community-based struggles against privatization of water provisions in Cochabamba. Faced with a government who decided to turn over the country’s water supply to be managed by large, multinational corporations, who in turn charged exorbitant, prohibitive prices for water, citizens rallied to create water associations and cooperatives, build water storage tanks, construct distribution networks, and drill wells, using limited resources. Acutely aware of the need for water for nutrition, disease eradication, sanitation, hygiene and farming, women worldwide are fighting the impacts of water privatization.
At the local level, many women lawyers are invoking legal systems to fight against environmental destruction and climate change. For example, Olya Melen has taken the Ukrainian government to task for allowing large cargo ships to dredge a canal across the Danube Delta wetlands, harming its biodiversity. In Papua New Guinea, Anne Kajir has been fighting for land rights on behalf of indigenous landowners who have seen massive logging in their rainforest. And in Kazakhstan, Kaisha Atakhanova has organized a movement to lobby against her country’s importing of nuclear waste, which has threatened to add to already high occurrences of genetic mutations, cancer and irradiated food resulting from decades of existing nuclear emissions.
At the national level, women form an increasing number of the ranks of Green Parties, which are advancing multi-issue social agendas, especially in Europe. In addition to pushing for environmental concerns to be at the forefront of policymaking agendas, many Green Parties are also concerned with grassroots democracy, sustainable development, nonviolence, women’s rights, indigenous rights and social justice – and many parties’ platforms are set and championed by women leaders in Parliaments.
Women’s rights groups and some researchers in various countries are also lobbying governments to include access to contraception and comprehensive reproductive health services in their agendas and funding to address climate change. A recent study concludes that universal access to reproductive health could be one of the most cost effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Also, according to RH Reality Check, an online publication committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, “rapid population growth can exacerbate existing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.” The publication explains, for example, that “population growth rates in highly vulnerable low elevation coastal zones in Bangladesh and China are nearly twice as high as national averages; and in Ethiopia, the combination of rapid population growth and climate-induced declines in agricultural production will heighten food insecurity.”  Nevertheless, advocates must be cautious that women are not coerced as population control targets in their efforts to curb climate change. At the international level, women’s rights groups have been documenting and raising awareness about the gendered impact of climate change and also building the capacity of local organizations and regional networks to integrate an analysis of and advocacy around climate change integrate into the other issues they address via resource manuals, trainings and convenings.
Women’s rights organizations have also been increasingly participating in high-level climate change discussions, including questioning the dominance of market-driven solutions such as carbon trading to curb emissions. For example, Yifat Susskind of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization, has explained that carbon trading “allows companies with high carbon emissions to fund projects that supposedly absorb carbon in exchange for their continued pollution. [This] does not address the root cause of climate change, which is unsustainable use of resources. It simply enables the continued emission of carbon. In a perverse way, [it] creates an incentive for carbon pollution by turning emissions into a tradable commodity.” 
Amidst a geopolitical landscape populated with powerful and marginalized stakeholders and influenced by complex political and private sector agendas, the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen will provide yet another space in which to influence global policy and campaign for gender equality to be brought about in concert with environmental protection.
Learn more about Women’s Strategies to Address Climate Change:
Elinor Ostrom won half the Nobel economics prize, making her the first woman ever to receive that honor.
Ostrom, who describes herself as a political scientist and not an economist, won half the 10-million-kronor (1.42-million-dollar, 980,000-euro) prize “for her analysis of economic governance” especially relating to the management of common property or property under common control, such as natural resources. Ostrom’s reaction to her win.
Her work challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatised, the jury said.
A professor at Indiana University whose name has circulated as a possible winner in recent years, Ostrom told Swedish television her first reaction was “great surprise and appreciation,” and said she was “in shock” over being the first woman to clinch the honour.
“If we want to halt the degradation of our natural environment and prevent a repetition of the many collapses of natural-resource stocks experienced in the past, we should learn from the successes and failures of common-property regimes,” the jury said.
“Ostrom’s work teaches us novel lessons about the deep mechanisms that sustain cooperation in human societies,” it added.
She conducted numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes and groundwater basins, and concluded that the outcomes are “more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories,” the jury explained.
Read more about Ostrom and Williamson here