Climate change is real and a women’s rights issue

03 : 10 : 2017 Sustainability : Automotive : Climate Change
Reimagining Climate Change at the Museum of the Future, Dubai Reimagining Climate Change at the Museum of the Future, Dubai

In many contexts, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men, primarily because they comprise the majority of the world’s poor and are at a higher risk of receiving a lower standard of care than men in times of crisis.

Victoria Buchanan, strategic researcher, The Future Laboratory

Last week I came across the following tweet: ‘Toxic masculinity, as we all know, is the leading cause of climate change.’ This struck me as odd. To my knowledge, global warming is largely driven by human-produced greenhouse gases.

Climate change is one of the most urgent global challenges facing the world today. The effects of our rampant consumerism on the world are increasingly clear and we are likely the last generation with the ability to do anything about it. Globally, 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000, according to the UN World Meteorological Organisation. With this in mind, the link between climate change and women’s rights feels a little tenuous.

However, climate change is arguably a more personal problem for women than it is for men. Women in the US are 17% more likely than men to say that climate change is a somewhat or very serious problem, according to Pew Research Center.

Sadly, in many contexts, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men, primarily because they comprise the majority of the world’s poor and are at a higher risk of receiving a lower standard of care than men in times of crisis. A report by global volunteer organisation Soroptimist International of the Americas shows that women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die during a natural disaster. This is compounded by the under-representation of women on committees that make decisions about environmental sustainability.

Enter President Trump. As chief climate change denier, Trump’s own brand of toxic masculinity is reflective of an economic, political and social system that refuses to acknowledge the fact that it puts the lives and livelihood of many women around the world at risk.

Notions of masculinity are amplified and exploited by people who have a far greater presence in voters’ lives than politicians – advertisers.

According to Jane Kato-Wallace, senior programme officer at Promundo, the problem is partly rooted in gender socialisation on an individual level. ‘Young men are often taught to be assertive, unfeeling and unafraid, while girls and young women are taught to be passive and emotionally caring, particularly towards their families,’ she explains. Kato-Wallace believes that this shapes how men and women view and respond to climate change.

Notions of masculinity are amplified and exploited by people who have a far greater presence in voters’ lives than politicians – advertisers. Take cars for example. Ford has crafted an image of toughness, self-reliance and hard work, using slogans such as ‘Built Ford Tough’ and ‘Like a Rock’ to engage men in America who do not necessarily need the brand to get by, but who associate with the lifestyle the brand portrays. The sentiment extends to meme culture, with a recent image stating: ‘You keep your fuel mileage, we’ll keep our manhood’.

The production of eco-friendly cars is viewed by some as an assault on an industry in which men’s jobs are increasingly threatened. ‘[According to this sentiment] if you still choose to drive a Prius, you’re in opposition to not just the occasional person in a dying industry, you’re also opposing the identity of the truck owner – an identity people value,’ says Michael Sweeney, a film and tv editor at Time.

Fortunately, several mega-cities have committed to opposing Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group hosted the Women 4 Climate summit in Manhattan, which brought together female mayors from around the world to explore the critical role women can play in championing climate change policies. ‘After so many events with male speakers only, it’s so great to hear many powerful female voices,’ Emmanuelle Pinault, head of city diplomacy at C40, explained to delegates at the event. It is imperative that both governments and businesses take similar steps to place feminine values at the centre of the climate change debate – the health of the world depends on it.

For more on why your business should take a leading role in the fight against climate change, read our Civic Brands macrotrend.