Women Declare It’s Time for Action on Climate Change

Oct 2nd, 2013 | By | Category: Climate Change

By Suzanne York, www.howmany.org

[photo credit:http://ourdhstreets.blogspot.com]

“We are going to create something that will explode beautifully into the world,” stated Osprey Orielle Lake, organizer of the first International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative Summit.  She echoed the heartfelt sentiments of 100 women environmental leaders who gathered for the conference in late September and came from more than 35 countries. The time for talk is over, they believe, and the time for real action on climate change is now.

The women represented a variety of backgrounds, including scientists, environmentalists, grassroots organizers, human rights activists, indigenous leaders, policymakers, and former heads of state.  The focus was on women, environmental degradation, and climate change.

Words of Wisdom

Though many words of wisdom and much knowledge was shared by all, it was the kick-off panel the first evening that set the stage and momentum of the gathering.  Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! led an informal chat with primatologist Jane Goodall and physicist and activist Vandana Shiva.

Dr. Goodall was asked why women are key to solving the big issues facing the world.  She responded that women are moving into leadership positions and bringing not anger, but femininity, and that women understand the disconnect between the head and the heart. Dr. Goodall also noted the need to share personal stories, and that society must address the ever-growing numbers of people on the planet, one with finite resources.

Dr. Shiva stressed that all our problems are interconnected and that we need to break away from corporate patriarchy that thinks humans are separate from the earth and reduces everything to a commodity.  She believes that this is our moment, and to keep in mind that every action we take should consider the Seventh Generation (the idea that decisions should be considered for impact on the seventh generation to come).

Amy Goodman with Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall [photo credit: islandclimate.net]

The Power of Sharing

Many attendees talked about the need to join our voices and to share our stories with women around the world.  Lucy Mulenkei, director of the Indigenous Information Network in Kenya, said women must be able to support each other and share experiences; after all, “We have one sky that we all look up to.”

Mary Boeve, of the energized 350.org movement, called on conference participants to take action.   Voicing great enthusiasm, Boeve remarked that “Once we know what we need to do, it is a remarkable moment.  With climate change, we know what we need to do.”  She said we also know who we have to confront, and that we have to build a movement.  “All that is left is to do it!”

A True Vision for People and the Planet

There have been other gatherings of climate activists, and women activists in past years.  This particular one, though, had a definite feeling of momentum and change.  Lake stated many times that women are key to solutions, and now there is an enormous opportunity to engage women and create a new narrative on women’s values.  And more “outside the box” efforts, such as rights of future generations, rights of indigenous peoples, and rights of nature were a big part of the four day summit, voices that have often been missing from other big events.

These 100 women leaders have the will to set in place a vigorous women and climate movement, and collaborated on a declaration that they all signed the first evening as a path forward.

As Dr. Goodall put it, “We have to take matters into our own hands; we just have to do it.”


Suzanne York is senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies.  She was one of the 100 women leaders at the International Women’s Earth & Climate Summit in Suffern, New York.


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