Emily Arasim, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network
Women’s voices must be at the forefront of conversations on climate change if we are to rebuild an equitable and healthy world. Women are critical stakeholders both because they experience climate impacts with disproportionate severity and because of the unique and critical insights, skills, and solutions that they bring to the table. Women are central to farming, water stewardship, biodiversity protection, clean energy promotion, and household purchase decisions. As givers of life, they also hold on to a deeply felt and fundamental connection to the Earth and its natural regenerative processes. When women are involved in environmental policy decisions, we see major shifts toward actions to protect people and planet for generations to come.
As we enter into pivotal COP21 United Nation climate talks in December, women’s leadership is more vital than ever. The Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International (WECAN) and allies across the globe will be highlighting women’s leadership, struggles, and solutions at COP21 to make it clear that climate justice and gender justice are inseparable. This collection of voices from outstanding women leaders is presented in honor of women shaping bold, transformative climate solutions. You can learn more about WECAN International initiatives on the road to Paris and beyond at wecaninternational.org.
Sally Ann Ranney
President + Cofounder, American Renewable Energy Institute (AREI) & AREDAY Summit
Cofounder, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
Patron of Nature, International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Show up! Stand up! Speak up! Flex your citizenship muscle and VOTE. Buy and eat only what you need, and what is sustainably produced and disposed. Understand that women have real power, making 80% of purchases in the Global North. A transaction is not just between me and the clerk. Legions of impacts trail behind everything single thing I buy—supporting and restoring, or destroying and depleting. Where did the raw resources come from: was a forest felled or burned? A river poisoned? Species put on the brink? Indigenous rights violated? Think about what it really costs to get that new “thing.” Then stop shopping.
Photo: Brian Clopp
Climate Scientist, Texas Tech University
We must prepare for a changing climate by incorporating climate preparedness into every aspect of our planning—for food, water, health, energy, even national security. We must reduce our emissions to prevent even more dangerous change. The IMF estimates carbon emissions are already subsidized at over five trillion dollars per year; the impact on our economy may be even greater. We need a price on carbon that accurately reflects its real costs on our society and our wellbeing. And lastly, we must also suffer the consequences of our past decisions. And for that, we must open our hearts to those in need.
Photo: Ashley Rogers
Executive Director, Honor the Earth
White Earth Nation, Minnesota
It’s time to transition beyond our fossil fuel addiction to a just economy based on green jobs, renewable energy, and local organic food. It’s time to respect the treaties our ancestors signed and care for our land, water, and cultures so that they remain healthy for our future generations. The time is now for a graceful transition from this destructive economy and way of life, back towards land-based economics. We must keep these waters for wild rice, these trees for maple syrup, our lakes for fish, and our land and aquifers for all of our relatives—whether they have fins, roots, wings, or paws. Let us be the ancestors our descendants will thank.
Photo: Tomas Alejo
Executive Director, Amazon Watch
If we want to defend our global climate, we must defend the Amazon, the lungs and heart of our planet. If we want to defend the Amazon, we must support indigenous rights and territories which are continually under threat by deforestation and unwarranted industrial development. We must stand with indigenous peoples from the Amazon to the Arctic to keep fossil fuels in the ground and promote 100% renewable energy. This will require a global shift in how we live our lives on Mother Earth. This is what we need to do to ensure life for all future generations.
Photo: Rucha Chitnis
Osprey Orielle Lake
Cofounder + Executive Director, Women’s Earth &
Climate Action Network
Bay Area, California
Nature will not wait while politicians debate. We cannot negotiate or buy our way out of the climate crisis. We must keep 80% of fossil fuels in the ground and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050. To achieve these pressing goals, it is essential to look to women worldwide who are already creating small-scale solutions with large impacts. Reclaiming power at the local level and restructuring our systems of production towards circular, local economies is central. We must respect the Rights of Women, Indigenous Peoples, Nature, and Future Generations, and ensure that their voices and leadership are recognized as the backbone of climate justice and solutions for a livable future.
Photo: Emily Arasim
If we do not deal with climate change today, then none of our other achievements matter. Women in South Asia are not resilient enough to face climate impacts and uncertainty—why? Because we, the women, are socially marginalized, economically poor, and marginalized by the system. On top of all that, we are challenged by multiple climate change impacts in our everyday life here in Bangladesh. Science tells us that this will become worse, our successes will become unsustainable, and we will be forced to live in greater uncertainty. We, the women, must act and lead by example to create our own spaces contributing to sustainable development.
Photo: ActionAid / Amir
Director, NAACP, Environmental and Climate Justice Program
Our priorities must be on frontline community building and leadership. Strengthening local self-reliance, local economies, and local resilience are the keys to reducing harmful industries and practices, decentralizing power currently held by big corporations, and simultaneously mitigating the progression of climate change while enabling communities to withstand existing and future effects. Historically, our culture of domination and extraction led us to the path we are on towards catastrophic climate change. However, with a society of communities making decisions based on principles of sustainability and human rights and well-being, we can live in harmony with each other and with the Earth.
Global Senior Gender Adviser, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Women empowerment should be one of the priorities in adaptation and mitigation efforts. Women in developing countries confront climate change from two different scenarios. On one hand, they are disproportionately and adversely exposed to the effects of climate change; on the other hand, they are active leaders in providing solutions. Recognizing women’s special skill sets and environmental knowledge—specifically, viewing women as powerful agents of change that can lead us to a more sustainable, equitable, and less vulnerable future—will unlock powerful solutions for combating climate change and securing improved livelihoods and a sustainable future for all.
Executive Director, Women of Wind Energy (WoWE)(IUCN)
Brooklyn, New York
We can and must take charge of our energy future. Energy decisions are made at all levels—in our homes and offices, our communities, and our governments. We can educate ourselves about our energy choices. We are all accountable for the story, the collective decisions, and for moving toward clean renewable energy as quickly as possible. We must think long term, lift our voices, and take action. And whenever possible, if we have the privilege, we can hand over the microphone or the megaphone to lift the voices of those that aren’t being heard as clearly or as often.
Indigenous Rights + Environmental Activist
Sarayaku, Ecuador + Lund, Sweden
We must keep fossil fuels in the ground, starting in Earth’s most biodiverse places, like the Amazon. This means stopping oil expansion and the burning of carbon, and reforesting areas that have been lost. International governments, organizations, corporations, and other institutions should prioritize these conversations at the global level and take responsibility to end further fossil fuel extraction. While we continue to fight the root causes of climate change on the local level in our communities, as an interconnected world society we must support people on the front lines whose daily lives are most affected.
Photo: Caroline Bennett / Amazon Watch
National Coordinator, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
To truly tackle the climate crisis, we must not only demand deep and immediate cuts to carbon emissions at the source, we must challenge the fundamental nature of the extractive economy as a whole. I see the struggle for climate justice as inseparable from the Movement for Black Lives,
migrant rights movements, and the anti-austerity fights growing across Europe. We must look to the strategic leadership of women of color leading intersectional movements for our survival and building new alternative economic models based on an internationalist strategy of Just Transition toward renewable energy, cooperative economies, and community control.
Photo: Christian Losson, Libération magazine
Cofounder + Chief Collaboration Officer, Solar Sister
I am a Solar Sister. I believe in light, hope, and opportunity for all. Climate change, energy access, and women’s empowerment are closely related. This means that we must equip women and girls around the world with skills and confidence to be on the front lines of climate change solutions. This means helping them help their communities leapfrog to a sustainable energy future. Investing in women as climate leaders is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Every Solar Sister is a testimony to this. WECAN and we must grow
Photo: Solar Sister
Executive Director, SAFECO (Synergy of Congolese
DR Congo Regional Coordinator, WECAN International
Marunde Village, Democratic Republic of Congo
We must inform and educate about climate change. People living in the remote forested areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo recognize that the weather has changed, but are not aware that what they are experiencing is a global issue, nor that Congo holds the second-largest rain forest in the world, giving us an opportunity to make a large impact. When women learn that how they use the forest impacts the whole world, a revolutionary change in thinking happens. Growing the tree-planting, reforestation movement in every locale throughout Congo and the world is another critical action we can take now to change course.
Photo: Neema Namadamu