Climate change affects everyone, but it's the most vulnerable in society who bear the brunt of environmental, economic and social changes.
Locally, we’ve seen the worst droughts in Australia and the devastating effects of it in destroying crops, soils, flora and fauna. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve also seen the worst floods in Northern Queensland. The total damage bill from the Queensland floods, which inundated Townsville homes and killed masses of cattle in the state's north-west, is estimated to have topped $1 billion.
The inequality of climate change
In developing countries, climate change affects women the most. Women are often the last to eat or be rescued, especially in natural disasters. When it comes to deaths in disasters, the shocking figures show women tend to be affected significantly more than men. According to a study by Oxfam, following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, they found that in the most affected areas, up to four women died for every male. In some villages, all the deceased were women. This discrepancy can be explained by cultural restrictions on women’s behaviour. They face greater health and safety risks when water and sanitation systems become compromised. They also take on increased domestic and care work as resources disappear.
Women carry the burden of productive and parenting responsibilities in poorer countries, especially in communities that still rely on agriculture. This is because in economies that still depend on agriculture and the environment, women often have less access to opportunities, or control of resources such as money, education, healthcare, and even human rights.
What’s more, there is greater gender inequality from social exclusion from decision-making processes and labour markets, making women, in particular, less able to cope with and adapt to climate change impacts.
Collectively we can change
While the enormity of climate change won’t change overnight, every bit counts and overtime, collectively, we can shift the dial.
One person making waves 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. The Swedish teenager stepped in front of the world’s most powerful and influential leaders at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
She is one of the youngest participants and staying true to her values in reducing carbon emissions, she travelled 32 hours by train to get to the event in Davos, Switzerland.
She says in her speech, “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire because it is.”
You can watch her moving address in Davos here:
I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act.Greta Thunberg
And indeed, Aussie women are ‘panicking’
A recent survey by 1 Million Women confirmed women are worried and thinking about climate change. And the very fact that it's affecting us all now through drought, heat stress and rising utility costs such as electricity.
The survey of 6,500 women across metro and regional areas of Australia found that climate change is affecting huge life decisions:
- Almost 7 in 10 women said that they would vote for parties with clear policies to act on climate change at the next election.
- Nearly 9 in 10 women they are "extremely concerned" about climate change
- Everyone is acting on climate change in their daily lives - 5,403 said they had cut their household food waste, and a third of women said they had switched to a fossil fuel-free bank
- One in three women under thirty said they are reconsidering having children or more children because of concern about what sort of future those children will face
You can read the full report and insights here.
What you can do about climate change
We can all make a difference to climate change. Start simply with things you can change in your everyday environment – with a bit of practice, it’s possible for everyone to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Get children involved and make it fun. That way, they’ll be motivated to take positive action. It is important to talk about climate change with your children and listen to their ideas. This will help build strong relationships and resilience for the future.
Some ideas include:
- Reducing car emissions such as leave the car at home and using public transport instead or car-pool with workmates.
- Reducing energy expenditure in your homes such as turn off lights and appliances when not in use and replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
- Reducing your ‘carbon footprint’ when you shop such as buying local and seasonal produce to reduce energy use in transport and storage. Also buying items with minimal packaging whenever possible.
- Improving your physical and mental health. Studies show that a fit, healthy body is more resistant to hazards such as heat stress and a healthy mind is less prone to anxiety or depression.
- Talk to your children about climate change. Even young children can be affected by uncertainty or despair – that’s how It is important to talk about issues such as climate change with your child and help them find ways to deal with their fears.
· Building a strong community through activities such as establishing a community garden and educating yourselves and others about sustainable food practices. You can also recycle unwanted goods through a local ‘swap meet’ or invite your neighbours to hold a joint garage sale.
- And lastly, join the 1 Million Women global movement to fight climate change. Founder Natalie Isaac says “How we live each day matters. One small action at a time multiplied by millions and millions changes the system.”