Posts Tagged ‘Wangari Maathai’
Since I was away and wasn’t able to keep up with all the great reflections from women on Copenhagen I’ll provide you with a list of just that from the Feminist Peace Network:
Activist Naomi Klein kicked off the Klimaforum, the alternative people’s gathering being held in conjunction with the Copenhagen Climate Change talks by pointing out that the official talks had official corporate sponsors, which says it all when it comes to integrity:
Naomi also had critical words to say about Hopenhagen and its branding extravaganza. “The globe has Siemens logo on the bottom and the whole event is sponsored by Coke. That is a capitalization of hope but Klimaforum09 is where the real hope lies,” she said.
“Klimaforum is not about giving charity to the developing world its about taking responsibility and the industrialized countries cleaning up our own mess,” she concluded.
In a followup article, she writes,
A highlight of my time at COP15 so far was a conversation with the extraordinary Nigerian poet and activist Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International. We talked about the fact that some of the toughest activists here still pull their punches when it comes to Obama, even as his climate team works tirelessly to do away with the Kyoto Protocol, replacing it with much weaker piecemeal targets.
If George W. Bush had pulled some of the things Obama has done here, he would have been burned in effigy on the steps of the convention center. With Obama, however, even the most timid actions are greeted as historic breakthroughs, or at least a good start.
“Everyone says: ‘give Obama time,’” Bassey told me. “But when it comes to climate change, there is no more time.” The best analogy, he said, is a soccer game that has gone into overtime. “It’s not even injury time, it’s sudden death. It’s the nick of time, but there is no more extra time.”
Global Sister has an excellent article up called, A Feminist Focus on Climate Change which points to a fascinating study by BRIDGE that looks at linkages between gender and climate change, well worth the read.
UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid has this to say:
“Women should be part of any agreement on climate change — not as an afterthought or because it’s politically correct, but because it’s the right thing to do. Our future as humanity depends on unleashing the full potential of all human beings, and the full capacity of women, to bring about change.”
Women, Water, and Climate Justice—Cameroonian Human Rights Activist Asaha Elizabeth Ufei Leads the Way posted by the NAACP Climate Justice Iniative provides an excellent analysis of how the impact off climate change on water supplies influences women:
As the climate conditions worsen, women are finding it harder to provide food and water for their families. The once reliable and nearby water sources are drying up or contaminated; and the crops aren’t producing enough. So we are faced with questions: How many more miles must women have to walk to provide basic life-sources? What other ways can women sustain their families when the traditional agriculture and craft materials are gone? How many women will have to uproot their families and migrate to other places—that may be hostile to immigrants—because they can longer find food and shelter in their communities? How many more women and girls will be pushed into survival sex work because there are fewer economic opportunities? How many more people who speak up about human rights and organize for change will be severely punished, coerced to leave their countries, or forever silenced?
Dr Sue Wareham, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons’ (ICAN) Australian board member discusses whether nuclear power has a place in how we address climate change in this Q&A with IPS:
IPS: Is nuclear power, being carbon-free, the panacea for climate change problems and should it be a substitute for coal-fuelled power stations?
SW: We don’t agree nuclear power is a sensible way forward in response to climate change. Nuclear power cannot address the issue of climate change. There are physical limitations to the number of nuclear power stations that could be built in the next decade or so.
Even if there is further development of nuclear power, it will be far too slow because it takes 10 to 15 years to get a nuclear power plant at a point of producing electricity. We need action faster than that.
Particularly important also is the links with weapons. We know there are definite links between the civilian and military fuel cycles, and that is a particular problem that will remain as long as nuclear power is there.
There is also the problem of nuclear waste to which no country has a solution yet. We regard it as unacceptable that this generation should leave our waste to future generations. The technological and practical reality is that we don’t have any way of separating nuclear waste from the environment.
Our message is that the world really needs to put serious and significant funding into further promotion, development and implementation of renewable energies—solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels, which have been underused and under-resourced.
In this thoughtful piece, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai discusses what poorer nations need to combat climate change:
Unless the poor countries commit to development, they will continue to be under-developed and they will not be able to improve the quality of life of their people. Yet, any path that continues to encourage growth and use of fossil fuels will generate disquiet. It is for this reason that these poor countries need financial help, capacity building and transfer of not only available, but also affordable technology.
And towards the end of COP15, Maathai presented the People’s Orb to world leaders:
Maathai told politicians that while “They cannot negotiate with the environment they can negotiate with each other.”
Maathai’s call reiterated that of the UN Secretary General’s, who told heads of state attending the opening, “Our job here and now is to seal the deal … a deal that is in our common interest. For three years I have sought to bring world leaders to the table to solve climate change. Now they are coming. Three years of effort have come down to three days of action.”
In her address, Maathai said it was up to the developing world to convince the developed world that the threat of climate change is real, calling on nations to invest in the preservation of forests as a first line of defense against climate change.
Maathai directed the attention of her audience to a metal Orb placed near the head table, saying, “There is an Orb at the end of the table. This orb contains stories, images, voices and messages collected from around the world to create a global mandate for action. It is the sound of the collective spirit which should bring together all the efforts of all major climate campaigns from civil society this year.”
Vandana Shiva speaks to protesters in Copenhagen:
And Democracy NOW’s Amy Goodman reports on Shiva’s thoughts about U.S. responsibility when it comes to financial responsibility for fighting global warming,
Afterward, I asked her to respond to U.S. climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing, who said the Obama administration is willing to pay its fair share, but added that donors “don’t have unlimited largesse to disburse.” Shiva responded, “I think it’s time for the U.S. to stop seeing itself as a donor and recognize itself as a polluter, a polluter who must pay. … This is not about charity. This is about justice.”
Sister Joan Chittister in remarks at Copenhagen,
From where I stand, several strains were clear: Whatever agreements come out of Cop15, enforceability is key. Classism-poor against rich-is a danger. Multilateralism that does not support those nations who stand to be as smothered by the effects of national agreements that deny them economic development as they are by the effects of achieving it through the energy sources of the past will become a major political problem in the future. And, finally, this is only the beginning of a real struggle to resolve it.
“Where there is biodiversity, where there is wealth, where there is culture, that’s where corporate interests flock,”(Norma) Maldonado, deputy head of Ecumenical Services for Christian Development in Central America (SEFCA), an organisation working with women and young people for community development and political effectiveness, told TerraViva.
Special U.N. Advisor on Water, Maude Barlow talking about the water crisis at the Klimaforum:
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:
Johan Hari of The Independent/UK has reported an amazing story this week about a woman who set out to save trees in Africa.
She was born on the floor of a mud hut with no water or electricity in the middle of rural Kenya, in the place where human beings took their first steps. There was no money but there was at least lush green rainforest and cool, clear drinking water. But Maathai watched as the life-preserving landscape of her childhood was hacked down. The forests were felled, the soils dried up, and the rivers died, so a corrupt and distant clique could profit. She started a movement to begin to make the land green again – and in the process she went to prison, nearly died, toppled a dictator, transformed how African women saw themselves, and won a Nobel Prize.
Her name is Wangari Maathai, and she considers herself a “daughter of the soil”. Humbled be humans needs for trees, she returned to Africa after coming to the U.S. for college. She was the first woman ever to get a PhD in East or Central Africa. She convinced international aid organizations to pay some woman from the National Council of Women of Kenya to plant trees. As Hari says, planting trees turned to planting ideas, and her own husband began to see her Maathai as a threat.
The very public divorce from her husband did not deter her from protesting and soon other men began to see her as a threat also.
But the initial reaction to her protests was frightening. She began to receive anonymous phone calls telling her should shut up or face death. Moi called her a “madwoman,” and announced: “According to African traditions, women should respect their men! She has crossed the line!” When she carried on, she was charged with treason – a crime which carried the death penalty – and was slammed away in prison. She had arthritis, and she says: “In that cold, wet cell my joints ached so much I thought I would die.” But she would not apologise, or give in. “What other people see as fearlessness is really persistence. Because I am focused on the solution, I don’t see the danger. If you only look at the solution, you can defy anyone and appear strong and fearless.”
She went on to get national recognition and has left Africa to spread her knowledge
The rainforests can be killed from two directions – by the saws of men like Moi, or the warming gases of people like us. That is why she has left the land she loves, armed with the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 2004, and travelled so far: to try to persuade us to let the forests live. “There are moments in history when humans have to raise their consciousness and see the world anew. This is one of those moments. We are being called to assist the earth in healing her wounds, and in the process we can heal our own. We can revive our sense of belonging to a larger community of life. We can see who we really are.”
I strongly suggest reading the rest of this amazing woman’s life here