Why Women Will Save the Planet
Women’s empowerment is critical to environmental sustainability, isn’t it? When Friends of the Earth asked this question on Facebook half of respondents said yes and half said no, with women as likely to say no as men.
This collection of articles and interviews, from some of the leading lights of the environmental and feminist movements, demonstrates that achieving gender equality is vital if we are to protect the environment upon which we all depend. It is a rallying call to environmental campaigning groups and other environmentalists who have, on the whole, neglected women’s empowerment in their work.
We hope that the book will encourage the environmental movement and women’s movement to join in fighting the twin evils of women’s oppression and environmental degradation, because social justice and environmental sustainability are two sides of the same coin.
Why women will save the planet: 8 reasons to be confident
Jenny Hawley, 11th November 2015
Eight extraordinary women who have stood up against discrimination, corporate interests and violent repression for a better, cleaner environment.
I’m the editor of Friends of the Earth’s new book, Why Women Will Save the Planet.
The book shows that women’s equality and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. Buy it for a special discounted price – use the code at the end of the article.
In researching the book, I’ve been struck by the huge impact that women have had as pioneers of the environment movement. Here we’ve highlighted just a few of these.
8 women whose contributions are often unrecognised, underestimated or opposed.
1. Bina Agarwal (1951 – present)
“I believe we want a world that is pro-poor, pro-development, and pro-environment.” Indian economist, a leading thinker and advocate of women’s roles in land management and conservation since the 1980s, she has influenced governments, international agencies and others worldwide.
You might not know: In 2004-5, Agarwal led a successful campaign in India to secure equal rights for Hindu men and women to own and inherit property, including land, in the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act.
2. Gro Harlem Brundtland (1939 – present)
“It is simple, really. Human health and the health of ecosystems are inseparable.” First female Prime Minister of Norway and chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development, whose 1987 Brundtland Report led to international action on sustainable development, including Agenda 21.
You might not know: Brundtland was one of the main targets of the massacre on Utøya island in 2011, but had left the island shortly before Anders Behring Breivik arrived.
3. Erin Brockovich (1960 – present)
“When women get together, they’re a pretty tough force to push back.” American activist made famous by a 2000 film about her work on the legal case against Pacific Gas and Electric Company for water contamination. She continues to bring legal cases for environmental pollution and public health.
You might not know: Brockovich has recently focused on cases related to women’s reproductive and pharmaceutical care.
4. Petra Kelly (1947 – 1992)
“If there is a future, it will be Green.” Co-founder of the German Green Party and leading international activist for peace and non-violence, ecology, feminism and human rights.
You might not know: Petra Kelly spent her teenage years in the USA where she was inspired by the civil rights movement.
5. Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964)
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” American scientist and conservationist whose 1962 book Silent Spring on artificial pesticides is credited with sparking the environment movement. Her powerful style of writing attracted widespread media attention, inspiring people to take action across the world.
You might not know: Before writing Silent Spring Carson worked as a marine biologist and wrote bestselling books, articles and radio scripts about marine life.
6. Daryl Hannah (1960 – present)
“The younger generation is doing things that are so ingenious. And for them it’s not a matter of a political belief or an environmental stance. It’s really just common sense.” American actor and environmental activist, she has used her media fame to draw attention to campaigns such as the protests against the TransCanada Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and the Gulf coast.
You might not know: Hannah narrated the 2012 film Arise about women and the environment worldwide.
7. Octavia Hill (1838 – 1912)
“The need of quiet, the need of air, the need of exercise, the sight of sky and of things growing seem human needs, common to all.” English social reformer who co-founded the National Trust and saved iconic London green spaces such as Brockwell Park to improve the health and wellbeing of the poor.
You might not know: Hill was the first to use the term Green Belt for London.
8. Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011)
“It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.” Kenyan activist and politician, renowned for using community based tree planting to reduce poverty and conserve the environment, and for being the founder of the Green Belt Movement.
You might not know: When Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, she was the first African woman and the first environmentalist to do so. The Green Belt Movement has now planted more than 51 million trees across Kenya.