Nathaniel Stevenson Odusola
How gendered ideas of virtue and vulnerability shape the contemporary debate and policy addressing women's experiences of environmental insecurity.
This research essay is going to examine the experiences of women as regards environmental insecurity, as well as the gendered ideas of virtue and vulnerability, on climate change. Analysts have argued that the effects of women activities make less destruction to the environment compared men activities that are more harmful to the environment (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 744). The examples from India and Sweden used qualitative analytical approach (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 744). The views considered are dual. The first analysis looked at women as vulnerable, while the other aspect examined women as virtuous in maintaining the environment. There is the argument that women are not decision makers when particularly when it has to do with the environment (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 744). This aspect of the society where women have no voice in the decision making of the society makes women vulnerable to the outcome of the policy adopted by the male counterparts. In the House of Representative of the United States of America, acknowledged of the adverse impact of climate change on women as well as women continuation in addressing the issues of climate change (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 744).
The decision of the US House of Representative called for policy gender mainstreaming that includes paying attention to the plight of women in making policy reforms, adoption and implementation (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 744). The ‘Indian Government's National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC 2008) and the Swedish Bill' on climate change emphasized the idea of giving special attention to the women as they are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The impact of climate change affects the supply of water apart from other health implications that climate change has on society.
The less developed nations are, the worse affected because they lack the relevant technology to manage the impact of climate change. Another reason for the impact of climate change has to do with being unable to manage conflict. Although in Sweden, gender as a concept relates to the ‘transport sector.' It was in the 1980s that the contribution and advocacy of women on climate change began to be felt (Arora- Jonsson 2011: 745). At the said period gender intersectionality played out in the areas of poverty, vulnerability, and virtuousness. Three schools of thoughts have emerged concerning climate change.
The first school of thought argues for gender mainstreaming to climate change due to analysis that ‘women are poorest of the poor.' The second argues for women because they are the vulnerable group who are prone to the effects of the immediate hazards of climate change. The third argument is to the effect that women are more environmentally conscious and can predict the climate more efficiently than the male counterparts (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 745).
Analysts have argued that climate change and the adverse effect of same have not been thoroughly researched to come to a valid conclusion as to how climate change has adversely affected the women more than the men (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 748). The argument that women are not entirely vulnerable to climate change may be valid since both the female and male counterparts are vulnerable to the effect of climate change. A good example is the rates at which India male farmers get frustrated as a result of climate change (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 748).
The ‘Colorado River' served as a source of drinking water to more than 40 million people, on the 15th of May 2014 it experienced huge overflow (Buechler and Hanson 2015:2). The article featured the poem of a ten years old girl child who was fascinated by the beauty of the river as well as concerned about the effect of climate change to the environment (Buechler and Hanson 2015:1). The analysis of the poem revealed the importance of water to life, both human and animal. In the US Southwestern region where there is climate change problem, the media have not been able to publicize the effect of climate change in the region mainly due to the overwhelming experience of migration issues in the region. The migration issues affect everyone both males and females fleeing from drug violence as well as poverty in Central America to the US (Buechler and Hanson 2015: 2-3). Recounting the effect of climate change on the American continent; the areas that were heavily devastated by hurricane include Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Citing MacLean and Hunter (2010), the article examined the vulnerability of the people living in the areas of the hurricane as horrific. Compared to the impact of the hurricane on neighboring Belize community that sustainable development (Buechler and Hanson 2015: 3).
The most vulnerable group to climate change are women and children the reasons may not be far-fetched because of the facts that they are prone to economic challenges in developing countries most especially (Buechler and Hanson 2015:4). The argument that everyone plays a role when it has to do with the environment remains valid (Nelson and Stathers 2009). The argument is valid to the extent that we all have one form of impact or the other on the environment (Buechler and Hanson 2015: 4).
Analysts have argued that women are more vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change because they interact more with the environment as well as are most economically disadvantaged particularly women that are full-time housewives located in rural areas. The role that women play in the areas of climate change is essential. Women are known for impacting children at an early age thus at that stage the children get background knowledge on climate change and the adverse effect to the ‘eco-systems.' Water is vital to human survival yet human activities cause pollution. When the source of water is not pure due to human activities, women are the worst hit particularly in developing nations where there are no adequate policies for water sustainability (Buechler and Hanson 2015:4).
Also, after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) interest in the relationship between women and climate change have snowballed, capturing the attention of academic analyst, policymakers across the board (Leach 1995: 121). Regardless of geography or intersectionality experiences ‘women in Asia, Africa and Latin America' encounter the same set back of climate change, thus they share similar problems (Leach 1995: 122). The concept of ‘Women, Environment and Development' (WED) is well captured in the book of Braidotti et al. cited by Leach (1995: 122). The theoretical concept of ‘ecofeminism and epistemology' is said to be said to be saddled with challenges which significantly influence the analysis of scholars when making empirical evidence of climate change on women (Leach 1995: 122).
Conversely, analysts have criticized the idea of giving the responsibility of environmental degradation which has brought about climate change to nations that are in the first place contributory to the degradation (Leach 1995:122). The idea of promoting traditional ‘ecofeminism' that further degrades the status of women in contributing to the environment is said to be questionable particularly in nations where women are not equal to the male counterparts. The UNCED strategic plan to develop a highly competitive concept for women's emancipation by creating opportunities for policy mainstreaming for nations are commendable (Leach 1995: 122).
Similarly, when making policies suitable for the adaptation of females who encounter differences from the perspectives of race, color, and culture, the idea that women intersectionality is also very essential(Leach 1995: 122). To ensure cross plantation of knowledge on the environment women often form groups that fight for the protection of the environment against climate change; examples of the women group range from Africa, to India, as well as nations across the world (Leach 1995: 123).
Without conceding to the efforts of international corporations at addressing climate change, the efforts of women at both the ‘micro and minor' local levels of the society (Leach 1995: 123). The idea of considering local knowledge of women in addressing climate change is very crucial because that is the only way by which expert can make the logical analysis of the effect of climate change.
To be specific, the fact that water is an essential part of human life makes women even more vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The efforts of women in addressing water problems that are caused by climate change are necessary (Buechler and Hanson 2015: 5). Women are always fighting back on climate change by working together with each other at the local peripherals and international platforms. Women form active groups in addressing the challenges of climate change. The drought in Africa to the water rising problems in the Pacific islands are severe issues of concern for women because the effect of the adversities affects them first as the girl child, as women, as mothers and as wives who perform daily house chores (Buechler and Hanson 2015: 5).
Women virtue and vulnerability:
Analysts have argued that women are the most vulnerable to climate change because of the level of poverty that affects women, particularly in developing countries. There has been the argument that most women in the developing nations have little or no say in climate change policy articulation (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 745). Also since 70% of the 1.3 billion poor people in developing countries are women (Arora- Jonsson 2011:745). Researchers have also argued that women and children are the most vulnerable to ‘disasters' when they break out (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 745). An example in hand is the Tsunami disaster that claimed the more women and children than men. Another example is Bangladesh where women are exposed to dangerous floods and are not able to escape due to harmful cultural practices which confine women to isolation.
Furthermore, one other feature of women is ‘virtue.' The word ‘virtue' is synonymous to the word ‘goodness.' Analysts have argued that women are more likely to support policies that are strong to reduce climate change than men (Arora- Jonsson 2011: 745). Similarly, it has been argued by analysts that men are the polluters of the environment and that men should be held accountable for the destruction of the environment. The class of individuals directly involved in the pollution of the environment are men largely because men are the ‘technicians and technologists' who invent different technologies that pollute the environment (Arora- Jonsson 2011: 745).
An analysis in Europe also reveals that men use cars more as well as travel by driving long distances which causes air pollution than women. Other hand women are more likely to use alternative means of transportation that are environmentally friendly. There are arguments to the effect that men are more active actors to environment degradation since men tend to consume more meat than women (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 745). Also ‘18% greenhouse gas consumption' are caused by animal house boundary (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 745).
The analysis that women are more environment ‘virtuous' is due to the contributions of the unenlightened or non-career women compared to well educated, and career women who seek for jobs in distant places as well as have to drive the long distance places to get to work (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 745).
Similarly, the argument that women are more prone to being concerned about climate change; is well articulated under the school of thoughts of ‘women and development (WAD)' or ‘women environment and development (WAD).' The two schools of thoughts share similar views that women are more conscious of the environment as well as the aftermath effect of climate change (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 745).
Conversely, there has been the use of the phrase ‘feminization of poverty' which in simple terms means poverty is prone to the females in the society as against males. The truth remains that gendered poverty is what is known as ‘feminization of poverty.' The concept is particularly familiar with the women who are household wives and do nothing else except take care of the home front while the male counterparts go to work to earn money for the family (Arora-Jonsson 2011:746).
Furthermore, women are more concerned about the effect of climate change than men. This aspect of the attribute of women can is known as ‘virtue.' There are two schools of thoughts that have emerged in the discourse of women's contribution to the environment. One school of thought argues that women's effort at addressing climate change is known as ‘progressive and environmental' (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 747). The second school of thought is known as ‘materialistic and virtually ignored' (Arora-Jonsson 2011: 747).
The idea of neo-liberalization in water governance has made it very competitive for women to have an impact on the water sector (Harris 2009:387). To engage the concept of neo-liberalization is very crucial to modern day water management. The question is what can be done to blend same with gender to help bring the women into the policy formulation and implementation? As much as the idea for a free water governance market is the key to steady water supply, for women to remain active in the scheme of neo-liberalization of water scheme participation is essential.
The roles of neo-liberalization and the inter-relationship with gender, both must be blended to ensure the participation of women in water governance. The vulnerability of women most times stems from the lack of participatory governance by which approach the domination of the environmental issues by the male counterpart is challenged (Harris 2009: 388). The reason women kick against privatization of water management is due to the top-bottom approach that tends to block the community participation where women of all classes would be able to make contributions to the water scheme in the form of suggestions as well as active participation.
The fact remains that women are vulnerable when it comes to water management; this is because water is essential to everyday life. The experience in Mexico and Bolivia is an excellent tool for addressing water management as well as ensuring community participation in the neoliberal scheme. The people of Mexico and Bolivia communities can participate in the water governance of the community by this arrangement women can take part in the policy decision making. Truth need be told for women vulnerability as regards environmental issues which extends to water management there is an urgent need for water management mainstreaming (Harris 2009: 392).
The idea of ‘neo-liberalization of water management' is another area where women in modern-day face challenge of water supply this largely due to ‘privatization and commercialization' of water management (Harris 2009:392-393). The hours used by women to carry out domestic chores are not paid for in the society yet while consuming water for the same domestic purpose women is expected to pay for the water utility. Before the reforms in Mexico, women were not allowed to own land as well as water rights (Harris 2009: 393). Citing Upadhyay (2003), Harris (2009: 394) reiterated that there could not be real water sustainability policy where women participation in the policy formulation and implementation is not involved.
While aligning to this argument the point must be clear that women are the most impacted by climate change ranging from water pollution to drought as well as other forms of environmental problems. Thus the idea of water management is mainstreamed to ensure that women's concern gets attention; it is essential for the development of water sustainability as well as the environment at large. Also, citing Kulipossa (2004), Harris (2009:394) is of the view that the ‘evidence' obtained from the knowledge of ‘participation' and democratization of centralized policy reforms do not necessarily guarantee sustainability.
Statistics have shown that more women are likely to lose their lives in the event of natural disasters (Arora-Jonsson 2011:746). Examples of disasters that have happened in the time past that affected women more include the ‘Tsunami 2006, European heat-wave in 2003, the cyclone in Bangladesh'. Also, after conducting quantitative analysis in 141 countries (between the year 1981-2002), it was revealed that women are more prone to disasters than men. Due to cultural practices and societal norms that put the women in the disadvantaged position (Arora-Jonsson 2011:746). The analysis is obvious particularly in developing countries where women are economically disadvantaged due to destructive practices of the society where women find themselves.
Similarly, reiterating Bradshaw (2000), Arora-Jonsson (2011: 747) have argued that to adequately address the challenges facing women as regards environmental issues are intersectional. The first perspective has to do with gender stereotyping or class. Using the case of India for example research revealed that the flooding in Orissa, India showed that women from the impoverished background were worst hit by the floods mainly because economically they were lower in class (Arora-Jonsson 2011:747). Sometimes being prone to disaster can be due to the idea of male masculinity in wanting to show off as strong hence the male may want to experience the disaster with the hope of conquering same.
The environmental insecurity that women face stems from the ways climate change has affected the daily human life from water pollution to agricultural challenges (Buechler and Hanson 2015:7). The concept of ‘feminist political ecology' has become a reliable tool for analyzing climate change problems. The concept was introduced in 1996 and have become popular with political analysts (Buechler and Hanson 2015: 8). Citing Radel (2009:334), Buechler and Hanson (2015: 8) reiterated the fact that the experience of both genders as regards the effect of climate change remains the same but the reactions to the environmental effects are different, and the approach to addressing the problems are not similar. The ‘intersectionality' inherent in the concept of ‘feminist political ecology' when analyzing the problems of climate change is obvious (Buechler and Hanson 2015:8). In addressing the problems of climate change analysts have engaged research tools such as ‘quantitative and qualitative analysis' to improve the knowledge base of climate change and the effect on the environment.
Privileged members of the society promote inequalities which exist between the two different genders. The idea of the power play as well as promoting rational interest to capture the issues of climate change and the adverse effects on the society (Buechler and Hanson 2015: 9). Also, analysts have identified various ways in which the concept of ‘intersectionality when combined with environmental justice' help to better understand the effect of climate change on humanity as a whole as well as women (Buechler and Hanson 2015:11). For example the experience of Indian women at Jharkhand where the women are in constant battle for the safety of water streams from mining activities. Whereas in the US water management has the topdown approach to water maintenance specifically in Los Angeles (Buechler and Hanson 2015:11). Conversely, in Brazil, the challenge of water provision is closely linked to the concept of ‘intersectionality' due to the social stratification that exists mainly in the Northeastern Brazil (Buechler and Hanson 2015:11).
Analysts have also mentioned that while the need to consider gender inequalities and vulnerability to the environment is vital; there is the need to also factor in the discussion the innovation of women in addressing climate change alongside water management.
Conversely, citing Leach(2007), Arora-Jonson (2011:747) elaborated the fact that women are close to nature and environment but are in pursuit of environmental protection as against just acknowledging women's efforts; the idea was to increase women burdensomeness in the environment. The paradigm shift of women and poverty to be linked to climate change is due to the desire to look for the additional platform to advocate for women empowerment by proponents of women empowerment.
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