Friday, March 4, 2011
SHADES, UMBRELLAS…AND BOOTS: Protection from gender wars, overpopulation, and climate changes
My first published ARTICLE. Thank you Klima Politik!
Living in downtown San Francisco, I often wear sunglasses to protect my eyes from the wind tunnels. And it is quite sunny downtown too, typically 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the city. I have always looked strangely at people using umbrellas for protection against the sun. But that might be the norm in the world soon. Wouldn’t it be funny to name a bar “Shades and Umbrellas” where people could just lose and find sunglasses and umbrellas as they so often do already? It was supposed to snow in San Francisco this weekend. It didn’t snow, though. It did not even rain. It was sunny. Comes the rhetorical question: Is this global warming? Even if it doesn’t rain, I carry an umbrella anyway. My gender umbrella, I call it. Because it is raining actually…it is raining humans! That is the image in my mind that makes me wince.
I am an idealist and literally own a pair of rose-colored glasses. But figuratively, I don’t look at the world through rose-colored glasses. I clip on a gender lens. Through it I see the realities of women and men, their needs and participation, and the relationships between them. Equality is valuing women and men with all their similarities and differences, some known, some mysterious. Equal, respectful partnerships between them are necessary to have healthy, happy communities. We see through both of our eyes to see best. Right? I see best through my sunglasses--my gender shades, I call them.
It all gets me thinking about overpopulation and then I cannot help but think about how every human enters the world through a woman. I even think about a time when the world had no humans. Our world is 40 billion years old, yet humanity is 40 million years old. However, overpopulation is only two centuries old. Some argue that overpopulation does not exist or that the world’s population is waning but it will be 9 billion by 2050. It is nearly 7 billion right now and was 1 billion only 200 years ago! That is a number which population experts say we should not have exceeded. Was not it a woman whose idea gave birth to The Pill after finding a correlation between poverty and the number of children a family had? She was carrying a gender umbrella and wearing gender shades. She knew we must lead medicine to control birth if we embrace medicine to prevent death. I will follow.
How did we get here and is there a correlation, if not a causation, between gender issues and the climate crisis? According to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) there is. (No, not Miller Genuine Drafts, albeit those would go well in my Shades and Umbrellas bar.) The MDGs have a target date of 2015. As a board member with the United Nations Association in San Francisco, I helped promote the MDGs at the United Nations 65th Anniversary in October 2010. Looking at climate change we can see how gender issues link with the MDGs.
MDG #1 (eradicating extreme poverty and hunger) requires plenty of water, food, and general agriculture. All over the world women commonly ensure food security and control the household consumption and activities. Climate changes generally cause an increase in their work.
As with #1, climate change affects MDG #2 (achieving universal primary education) by increasing women’s workloads as well as the migration, mostly of men. With this, school attendance is at risk the more females are responsible for collecting water and wood. A whopping 80% of refugees are women and children, according to the UN Refugee Agency, also know as UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
MDGs #3 (promoting gender equality and empowering women), #4 (reducing child mortality), #5 (improving maternal health), and #6 (combating HIV/AID, malaria, and other diseases), involve primarily women and children and are the main focus of this article. As Richard H. Robbins said in Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism (1999), “Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, receive 10 percent of the world’s income and own 1 percent of the means of production.” With climate change comes increases in illness, disease, and temperatures. These problems increase women’s workloads as primary caregivers when they suffer a shortage or loss of medicines. In particular, pregnant women are more susceptible to disease which contributes to our high, worldwide maternal mortality rate. According to the Women’s Environment & Development Organization, women and children are 14 times more likely to die in disasters. As a result of women dying, there is an increase in orphans, early marriage, school dropout rates, trafficking, prostitution, and AIDS/HIV. Migration, of primarily men, adds to AIDS/HIV and results in the reduction of available, healthy men who are needed to operate irrigation.
MDG #7 (ensuring environmental stability) is threatened by climate change via extinctions and general disruptions in ecosystem productivity. As we cannot believe in the news today, there is a substantial increase in disastrous and deadly occurrences such as floods, droughts, tsunamis, and melting glaciers. Seems like nature’s way of validating overpopulation. As women have less access and control over natural resources, it is harder for them to cope with change and too many people. Again their work is increased. This increase goes hand in hand with the expectation for them to contribute more unpaid labor. Meanwhile, they have fewer options for medicine and treatment. This is leads to the fact that there is a general lack of women’s representation and participation in decision making locally, nationally, internationally, and globally.
MDG #8 (developing a global partnership) is, of course, under threat if most or all of the other MDGs cannot be accomplished. Yet this is the one MDG where women need to be included the most, as equal partners, since they already hold up half the sky. And why are not we revering those who gave birth to us?
All of this might not matter to you if you live in a (more) developed country. But it matters to everyone. Women’s issues in underdeveloped countries are quite similar to women’s issues in developed countries. In either type of country, women are primarily the caregivers. Whether men leave to emigrate (temporarily, for years, or permanently) to a developed country or due to military service or the end of a marriage or relationship, the main theme is the increase in the women’s workload. Even in developed countries where women receive salaries for working outside the home, their labor at home is unpaid. It is said that the average American housewife/stay-at-home mother would receive $150,000 per year if her husband had to hire others to do all she does, according to U.S. government statistics. What do the women who work outside the home and still do 80% of the household chores have to say?
Domestically and globally, we need to constantly consider gender roles. Rigid ones need to go. It is crucial to look at and curb the causes of violence against women as well as how being taught to be a violent man strips him of his soul. Or how men’s lives are not valued because they are encouraged to go or sent off to fight or die in the military. And won’t men always take that out on women? In any case, whether roles are followed rigidly or not, they need to be respected and eventually paid in some way. Resources for all with valued labor.
How can you help? By speaking up often so that others are aware of the links among gender issues, overpopulation, and climate change. Do not rid the room of debate, especially when it comes to overpopulation and climate-change deniers. Both theories, true or not, are grandiose enough if true that we are far better off safe than sorry. Like a “good” atheist asks--what if I’m wrong? Of course the problems are deep and complicated. But we must maintain common sense and trust our intuition, whether we are female or male, or both. Our time is best spent away from taking sides or attacking people but toward solving the problems.
Back at the bar? What kind of umbrella are you carrying? What lenses are you looking through? Back at the ranch, I hear it is raining cows. Get on your boots!
* Global Gender and Climate Change. “Incorporating a gender perspective in all climate change policies and initiatives is critical to solving the climate crisis.” Accessed March 1, 2011. http://www.gender-climate.org
Bronwyn Kay Galloway has an M.A. in Social Psychology from San Francisco State University and a J.D. in Public Interest Law from John F. Kennedy University. With the United Nations Association-San Francisco Chapter, she is a board member, the Executive Committee Secretary, and a Women’s Committee Co-Chair. In addition, Bronwyn will be a Committee President and Debate Leader at the International UN Charter Review Conference in Mexico City in 2011.