In recent weeks, the climate crisis has raged around us in violent, increasingly visible ways, compounded by the systemic violence of white supremacy and a global pandemic.
From catastrophic wildfires across the west coast of the United States, to multiple hurricanes landing across the Gulf South and the Caribbean, and beyond, we are witnessing the devastating effects of decades of inaction and inequity on our right to clean air, water and land for our homes and our communities.
In the midst of this climate emergency, there are, of course, many who have been—and are—ringing the alarm bells. It has become increasingly evident that young people are the leaders of the swelling climate justice movement, with young women at the forefront of this work.
As young climate feminists, we bring together systemic analyses that foreground justice, intersectionality, coalition-building and solidarity. We understand that the roots of cis-hetero-patriarchy, climate change and environmental injustice lie in colonialism and capitalism.
For this reason, we work at the intersections of diverse movements, understanding that, at the core, these are all deeply intertwined. By grasping at the root of climate and gender injustice, young climate feminists offer alternatives to the extractive, violent systems that shape our current realities, building and imagining transformative worlds that center care, hope, community and liberation. Any global feminist climate justice movement must heed the leadership of feminists from the Global South, Black and Indigenous feminists, and young feminists.
In our work at the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), we are fortunate to work in collective with powerful, visionary activists from around the world, and this Climate Week, we want to celebrate the transformative feminist future-building of just a few of these feminists.
Feminist, environmentalist, activist, writer and researcher from Bangladesh
“All of the identities I relate to—environmentalist, pacifist, feminist, anti-imperialist and generally an activist—are because of the experiences that made me who I am. In my early 20s, I was studying feminist and postcolonial theory, political sociology and more at university, and at the same time I was working as a journalist, interviewing survivors of wartime rape and communities affected by the climate crisis. I couldn’t avoid seeing the connections, the history that created inequality and violence.
When your roots are in a country that has been grappling with climate change all your life, there’s no space to entertain denial. In northern Bangladesh, I met communities who move every time the river destroys the small islets they make their homes on, which happens more as the snows on the Himalayas melt and make the river currents more powerful.
In the south, communities who exchanged rice farming for shrimp farming to try to adapt to the increased soil salinity, told me about coastal erosion and the sea coming closer to their homes every year. A detail stuck with me: children weren’t learning the same games anymore because there is no open field left between the shrimp farms. In the capital city, I met the working poor, climate migrants who couldn’t afford rebuilding again, whether in the north or the south.
I carry with me the stories of hundreds of people who have welcomed me and trusted me. I fight for them and a safe planet for all.”
Zimbabwean ecofeminist, activist and communications coordinator at WoMin African Alliance
“The present reality of climate catastrophe can evoke a sense of panic, helplessness and inertia. Every single day, there is a new crisis evolving that demands sharp strategy, quick mobilization, effective action and a movement response. It can become overwhelming, exhausting and hard to remain hopeful. But in this time, hope is a radical act.
As an ecofeminist, I fight to co-construct with others a future of care. Within all the noise and chaos, we must remember to care. This system of racist, neoliberal patriarchy is violently extractive and driven by profit to benefit the few at the expense of the many. It is one that often forces us to care less – about the world around us, and the well-being of the ecosystems that sustain us, our communities and ourselves. The antithesis of what ecofeminism is about.
In such a world, the concept of care becomes radical, too. We must constantly ask ourselves how to disrupt this paradigm of carelessness and cultivate meaningful solidarity with one another in our defense of the planet, its people and our collective futures. Particularly when it comes to centering the voices, experiences and, importantly, solutions of the most marginalized (Black, Brown and Indigenous Peoples, women) on the frontlines of climate and interlinked struggles.”
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, young Indigenous woman from Haruku island, Indonesia
“Being a young climate feminist, I see myself as part of not only the climate justice and feminist movements, but also as part of broader social movements. We all face common struggles to challenge the current neoliberal economic and development system that’s destroying the environment and depriving women of their human rights. In this collective struggle, it is crucial to recognize young women in all their diversities, and recognize the different layers of how the climate crisis is affecting them. Only with this can we strengthen our solidarity across movements to uproot the current oppressive and growth-focused, market-driven development system.
I want to see a future where young feminists are coming together even stronger to amplify the voices of many vulnerable and gender-oppressed groups, including young Indigenous women and their communities who have contributed the least but are the most severely affected by the climate crisis.
I want to see a future where women, particularly young Indigenous women continue to fight for the sustainability of our mother earth against globalization, fundamentalisms, militarism and patriarchy as the root causes of gender oppression and the main drivers of the worsening climate crisis.”
Maria Alejandra Escalante
Colombian eco-feminist and climate justice lead at FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund
“Young feminists uncovered for me the joy at the center of our struggles for justice. As a young climate queer feminist, I am learning to respond to where and when my energies rise as I work for the reparations and wellbeing of our planet and bodies. While I acknowledge the urgent need to directly resist and fight the exploitative structures that have commodified our bodies and territories, the young feminist movement has brought me a sense of camaraderie, care and pause that I see is needed to sustain communities, and that I missed in the more environmentalist activists spaces. I am mostly grateful to the feminist movement for reigniting in me the political choice of imagining different possible futures even as the world seems to fall apart on many ends.
I work towards a future that can hold expressions beyond binaries and where we celebrate and navigate the racial, gender and body diversity that lie at the heart of feminist and climate movements. Equally essential in my imaginary futures is the breaking down of the fixed human superiority of nature—a well-rooted notion that drives the climate and environmental crisis that we face today—by deeply listening to and supporting those whose livelihoods are closely threaded with their environments, like rural and indigenous women, youth and communities. From them I learned that the ecology of our bodies and territories is a system of interconnections—intersectionalities—that, if in harmony, could bring us the resilience to walk away from the damages of centuries of colonialism and capitalism.
Diverse Black, Indigenous, feminists and those most impacted by systematic violence and at the frontlines of change are creating these worlds of resilience right now. At my work in FRIDA The Young Feminist Fund, I found the chance to push for a redistribution of unrestrictive resources and funding to grassroots climate justice alternatives and help build trust in diverse queer leadership and expertise.”
New Orleans, LA, Feminist Agenda for a Green New Deal Coalition, Northeastern University Future Faculty Fellow
“When I think about the intersection of youth, climate change and feminist activism, I’m terrified by the possibility of life defined by struggle, social distancing, zoom calls, and limited healthcare. Yet, when my cynicism and fear subside, I am reinvigorated by the hope of intersectional climate policy, regulation of state-corporate crime, transformative green care economies and energy democracy that draws inspiration from the feminine divine and science fiction. I thus spend my time developing skills and knowledges to survive post-apocalyptic environmental politics and critique how women and BIPOC communities are misread, underestimated, and presumed incompetent.
As a feminist political ecologist and environmental educator, I moreover shatter racialized glass ceilings, refuse gendered disposability and break generational curses. For example, I’ve taught civic engagement courses for early college and undergraduate students and used my research to explore the intersection of gender, environmental racism and climate activism in Gulf Coast Louisiana.
Moving forward, I will continue to mentor the next generation of HBCU climate leaders and advocate for a Feminist Agenda for a Green New Deal. Most importantly, I will fortify my nerves and ‘live my best life’ at the intersection of grief, righteous rage, uncertainty, exhaustion, stubborn hope, pleasure, creativity, and improvisation.“
To hear more from these powerful feminists and are interested in imagining radical futures alongside them, register for WEDO’s Climate Week event: “Radical Futures Roundtable: Young Climate Feminists in Conversation.” Sep 25, 2020 @ 9:00 a.m. EST.