We began this project by using art and art making to mitigate the distress and denial that sometimes overwhelm us at the unthinkable losses we are experiencing in the natural world. In our discussions, we pondered how to resist what separates people from coming together to make changes? Changes that create and maintain a world we all want to live in. Why is it so hard to agree on what to do? The costs of climate change are not borne equally by all people, often affecting those with the fewest resources.
Yet this reality is not obvious to everyone and we believe It is important to acknowledge our privilege as a Western nation. Great disparities remain. "The 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent. "...."The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources—burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, and 27 % of the world’s natural gas." ~Worldwatch Institute
As we seek a world that is sustainable for all it's inhabitants, it is essential to highlight the ways that climate change burdens some people much more than others, and each of us need to understand our part in the larger effort and act.
In June 2015 a new major report backed by the UN World Health Organization contends that climate change threatens to undermine half a century of progress in global health. Direct risks to health from climate change includes heat waves, floods and droughts, and equally devastating indirect risks include air pollution, spreading diseases, famines and mental ill-health.
"What’s to come for more gender-responsive climate policy?" from the Gender Policy Report of the University of Minnesota asks, how, given that the effects of climate change are, and will continue to be, disproportionately experienced by women, the administrations' stepping back from engagement on climate change politically and financially will be weakening many domestic and international institutions that work to address gender disparities in the context of climate change.
Climate change has consequences . In 2014 the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released a report that was the work of thousands of scientists stating that climate change has already increased the risk of severe heat waves and other extreme weather and warns of worse to come, including food shortages and violent conflicts. We know that that poorest people in the world are the worst affected, and that while the carbon footprint of the poorest billion people is about 3% of the world's total footprint, loss of life is expected to be 500 times greater in Africa than in the wealthy countries.
Such shortages can lead people to migrate as climate refugees, leading to further health problems, and conflicts. People forced to move, whether by food shortages, floods or extreme storms may suffer serious mental and physical health problems. Despite global efforts that are improving human health overall, the following are also true:
10 million children still die every year;
200 million children under age five are undernourished;
800 million people are hungry
1,500 million people already do not have clean drinking water.
All of the above could worsen very significantly due to climate change.
Recent research indicates the ways to avoid dangerous global warming are both available and affordable:
Global poverty can only be reduced by halting global warming;
A rapid phase-out of coal from the global energy mix is among the commission’s top recommendations, due to the millions of premature deaths from air pollution this would prevent.
Carbon emissions will ultimately have to fall to zero. (Currently carbon emissions, mainly from burning coal, oil and gas, are currently rising to record levels, not falling)
Reports indicate that it is POLITICAL WILL, not finance or technology that is the barrier to low-carbon economies and the associated improvements to health and poverty.
The IMF says the costs of dealing with climate change caused by CO2 emissions account for subsidies of $1.27 trillion a year.
if fossil-fuel subsidies were abolished, there would be no need to subsidize renewable energy,which receives a comparatively small $120 billion globally per year. Renewable sources would become cost-competitive with fossil fuels if the latter were priced to reflect the total costs to society of their impact.
Today more than ever, society has come to recognize that the anthropogenic destruction of our planet’s sustainable biodiversity negatively impacts humankind, placing human life at risk. The cause-and effect relationship that exists between environmental collapse and the subsequent risk to our existence can no longer be ignored. - Romina Picollotti, in Linking Human Rights and the Environment,
CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING:
Increasingly it seems that there's a link between a damaged environment and growth in modern-day slavery/human trafficking, Trafficking strikes all genders and ages regardless of religious affiliations, sexual orientation or country of origin. It is ethnically diverse as well as happening to all socioeconomic classes. Statistics vary widely from different sources, but the Secretary General of the United Nations (July 23, 2012 report) says 20.9 million persons have been trafficked into forced labor, with 43% of those trafficked for sexual exploitation. Today it is thought to be as many as 27 million persons. It is estimated that 70 percent of trafficking victims are female.
There are economic, social, political, legal, and other factors that can lead to vulnerability to trafficking. Increases in poverty due to climate change and environmental disasters increase the likelihood that vulnerable people may be more willing to take a risk and trust someone promising a job outside of the impacted area. Some organizations view climate change and situations within the physical environment the greatest risk factor in regards to human trafficking.
GENDER SENSITIVE RESPONSES TO THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE:
Women can be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men, primarily as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural re-sources that are threatened by climate change. They face social, economic and political barriers that can limit their coping capacity. Women and men in rural areas in developing countries are especially vulnerable when they are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood.
It is also important to remember that while women are vulnerable to climate change, they are also effective agents of change in relation to both mitigation and adaptation. Many women have a strong body of knowledge and expertise that can be used for climate change mitigation, disaster reduction and adaptation strategies. Additionally, women’s responsibilities in households and communities, as stewards of natural and household resources, positions them well to contribute to livelihood strategies adapted to changing environmental realities.
Four areas have been identified as critical building blocks in response to climate change: mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financing. The first two blocks are linked to manifestations of climate change; and the latter two are linked to the means for achieving development goals. Women's voices need to be a part of the solutions and their participation in the planning of initiatives is critical to their success.
Mitigation involves a process of curbing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
Adaptation involves a range of activities to reduce vulnerability and build resilience in key sectors, such as water, agriculture and human settlements.
New and improved technologies and
Financing initiatives at all levels also need to receive attention as part of collective efforts to address climate change.
UN WomenWatch is focused on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Their fact sheet on Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change shares analysis of how women are affected globally by these issues; and how they respond. It provides information sources on agriculture and food security, biodiversity, and an additional focus on indigenous women, water resources, equality and health; migration patterns due to environmental degradation; climate change and women’s human rights; energy; financing technology, mitigation, adaptation and technology; and emergency measures during natural disasters
A NOTE FROM HELEN AND MARY KAY: As we compiled this list, we wrestled with the difficulty of presenting painful truths without having a simple list of Things You Can Do. The solutions are not simple actions; they require looking into the face of the trauma that our human species is enduring during this planetary climate crises. One common reaction to trauma is to shut down or numb out. But when we refuse to do that, to not be silent and to muster the courage to open to the woundedness in and around us, we can shake off the numbness. Then we can take action.
"Trauma constantly confronts us with our fragility and with man's inhumanity to man, but also with our extraordinary resilience....Most great instigators of social change have intimate personal knowledge of trauma. Read the life history of any visionary, and you will find insights and passions that came from having dealt with devastation. The same is true of societies. Many of the most profound advances grew out of experiencing trauma: the abolition of slavery from the Civil War, Social Security in response to the Great Depression....Trauma is now our most urgent public health issues we have the knowledge necessary to respond effectively. The choice is ours to act on what we know”. Bessel van der Kolk “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma”
Now we just need the WILL to act and require of our leaders that they do what needs to be done.