Most often when people think of environmental issues they are not thinking of the effects global warming will have on women specifically. In fact, women’s issues are usually viewed as a completely different entity. Fortunately there are organizations focusing on making these connections. Women’s Environment & Development Organization or the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women have begun to look at climate change from a gender perspective.
Statistically, women are less likely to have access to healthcare, less likely to take part in political decision making about environmental issues and are more likely to be living in poverty. In areas with little or no access to health care maternal and infant mortality rates are much higher. When you begin to add environmental justice issues to the mix, healthy pregnancies become even more difficult and less likely. According to WEDO’s Gender and Climate Change 101,
Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to vector and waterborne diseases [their vulnerability often increasing in times of crisis, while] Anemia – resulting from malaria – is responsible for a quarter of maternal mortality.
Global warming is contributing to crisis such as drought, flooding and limited access to safe drinking water, all of these have a more severe affect on people of poor communities that may depend on natural resources. Communities of color also tend to be more negatively impacted by the issues caused by climate change. Organizations like the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative:
With rising temperatures, human lives—particularly in people of color, low-income, and Indigenous communities—are affected by compromised health, financial burdens, and social and cultural disruptions. These communities are the first to experience the negative impacts of climate change such as heat-related illness and death, respiratory illness, infectious diseases, unaffordable rises in energy costs, and extreme natural disasters. Not only do they bear disproportionate burdens from climate change itself, but also from ill-designed policies to prevent climate change and the side effects of the energy systems that cause it as well. Moreover, those who are most affected are least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause the problem—both globally and within the United States.
As a Latina reproductive justice organization, these connections are very important to NLIRH. Bringing a race and gender lens to the environmental justice work is critical and I am glad to see organizations making these connections.
By Jennifer Leigh Velez, Policy Intern