The world cannot address the biggest crisis facing humanity without the full inclusion of women’s voices, work and wisdom. This starts by investing in women-led climate projects.
It’s easy to feel uncertain about our climate future—until you talk to women.
I don’t mean to suggest that the climate crisis isn’t serious; it is. We have a lot of work to do if we want to avoid catastrophic increases in global temperatures.
But talking to women around the world gives me a lot of hope. It inspires me to spread the message that we must pay more attention to women severely impacted by climate change, and we must honor the work of women doing their best to restore the Earth—although this work is neither sufficiently acknowledged nor funded. We need to change this, because the world cannot address the biggest crisis facing humanity without the full inclusion of women’s voices, work and wisdom.
The majority of philanthropic giving on environmental issues goes to just 20 big organizations, 80 percent of which are run by men.
Women are doing incredible work to combat climate change, particularly in some of the most neglected sectors of our economy. The projects that they are driving in nature conservation, restoration and regenerative agriculture are effective, innovative and inspiring. And above all, they are based on a roadmap promoting the effectiveness of human-led solutions to help the Earth, guided by clear science supported by One Earth.
You wouldn’t necessarily know this by studying the grant profiles of major foundations. Researchers at Northwestern University and the Solutions Project have found that the majority of philanthropic giving on environmental issues goes to just 20 big organizations, 80 percent of which are run by men. Only a tiny portion of money is flowing to grassroots, women-led organizations. Because these women labor in obscurity, they often don’t attract the kind of funding their work needs to scale up.
And we need them to scale up. Plenty of big climate projects are underway in areas that entail technology-led solutions, but we need more projects like Filha do Sol, started by Flávia Neves Maia and two of her friends in their hometown of Barra Grandein Piauí on the northwest coast of Brazil. They are doing the hard work needed to reverse decades of deforestation and degradation of the mangrove forests in the Delta do Parnaíba: planting trees, cleaning up plastic pollution and building the systems needed for sustainable use of the region.
Flávia and her colleagues deeply understood the importance of these forests as a vital source of food and income for communities that depend on small-scale fishing, which is often conducted by women. But their work to restore these forests also has huge climate potential. There are an estimated 42 million tons of carbon stored in the area’s top two meters of soil, carbon that could be released into the atmosphere if deforestation continues. That’s almost the same amount of carbon pollution that we would save if we started recycling up to 90 percent of plastics around the entire world—all from just this small seaside region.
“We knew we wanted to do something,” Neves Maia told me. “I grew up with this awareness of climate change, although we didn’t use the words climate change. My ancestors had to migrate because of drought. So I knew I wanted the impacts of climate change to be in my past, not my future.”
To realize her vision, she turned to other women. Filha do Sol is now training dozens of women on climate justice organizing so that they can become effective community leaders and advocates. Together they hope to build a region-wide network of decentralized women-led coalitions working on climate problems across the Tropics.
Imagine what a woman like Flávia Neves Maia could accomplish if she had the full support of our philanthropic establishment. That’s what has fueled the work Daughters for Earth, an organization I co-founded that aims to mobilize $100 million to deliver critical resources for revolutionary women-led projects around the world.
These women-led projects effectively address intersectional solutions using science-based research. They identify the need to protect and restore 50 percent of land and waters to help alleviate women’s daily challenges of food shortage and health impacts caused by polluted water, floods and other results of climate change.
For many women, this involves changing our society’s relationship with the land we depend on.
I am tired of the world’s portrayal of women as helpless victims. Women are indeed facing the brunt of the climate crisis, but they are also doing a lot to address it.
The women I’ve worked with in places as diverse as Minnesota and Mozambique aren’t interested in jargon or slick presentations. They want ideas that work—and work now—to improve the wellbeing of their communities. They understand that climate change is not a theoretical issue to be debated by politicians. It’s a real and present threat to their families, and they are finding ways to challenge it.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the world’s portrayal of women as helpless victims. Women are indeed facing the brunt of the climate crisis, but they are also doing a lot to address it. Some examples include the Golden Hoof Collaborative, a women-led project working to restore a population of the region’s Indigenous Kyrgyz horse as a basis for protection of biodiversity and its interconnection with climate solutions; the Women’s Resistance Network in Sinangoe, which focuses on defending five million acres of rainforest; and the work of Love the Oceans, which focused on training women in Mozambique to be scuba divers so they could protect their coastal communities and the area’s coral reefs.
Our sisters on the frontlines of the climate crisis are doing all they can to protect our Mother Earth. What they need from us and the world is to support and acknowledge their efforts and ensure that their voices are at the front and center of decision-making tables about climate action. Women are not waging war to address the climate crisis. They are waging a loving movement that is helping us reignite a loving and kind relationship with Mother Earth.
We can demonstrate our solidarity with them through our voices, our resources and our platforms. The sustainable climate future belongs to women, and we won’t reach it unless we stand in unity, love and strength—with each other, for each other and for our Mother Earth.
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