Women Are Leading on Climate Action

By Jennifer Roberts

Celebrating Mother’s Day this week gave me pause to think about all the women and mothers who have been leading. During this time of COVID-19, we have seen women on the frontlines of the health emergency, as doctors and nurses, scientists and researchers, and paramedics and caregivers.  Likewise in the climate movement, women and mothers have been leading, as scientists and professors, mayors and sustainability directors, and legislators and technicians.   

This year I have met local women leaders, from Michigan to Florida to California, who are working on climate solutions. Despite the differences in their geography, the variety of climate impacts they face, and the diversity of their political backgrounds, these women had views and ideas that were remarkably similar. Many spoke about clean air and water, adverse health impacts, and the need for local solutions. They were focused on equity, families, health, and solutions that benefited all communities – not just some. In honor of Mother’s Day, I want to bring forward some of the ideas women have shared with me in these gatherings. (Note: all photos of large gatherings were taken before COVID-19 restrictions).

ISC Partnership for Resilient Communities

At the Institute for Sustainable Communities/Partnership for Resilient Communities convening, several women of color spoke about the need to educate local leaders on the institutional and structural decisions that have led communities of color to suffer the most from climate impacts. Years of redlining have excluded communities of color from property that appreciates in value, and pushed them onto less desirable lands, those more subject to flooding, air pollution, and toxic contamination. Women, in particular, want to protect their children and families from the harm of pollution, and many are leaders in organizing their communities for advocacy and action. Women have practical ideas for solutions and want to lead their own communities forward, on policies and practices informed and designed by those closest to the problems. They stress the need to be at the table — early on — when cities and counties are planning for climate action. 

At Great Lakes Day on Capitol Hill, there were several women Senators and members of Congress who championed the community need for clean water and security. Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI), and representatives Debbie Dingell (MI12) and Marcie Kaptur (OH9), were among those legislators who spoke at the gathering. 

Senator Tammy Baldwin

They made the case for clean water and safe communities salient and real, by talking about actual impacts on families and households. They advocated for solutions based on collaboration and partnerships.  Senator Baldwin has said, “Climate change is certainly a big, global problem. But it is also, just as importantly, a local reality. We need to partner with our communities, counties and states to do more.”

Finally, the Organizing Meeting of Growing Climate  Solutions: Path to Positive Southwest Florida was attended by women (and men) from every sector. The director of this regional initiative, Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, is working to raise awareness and public support for climate action. Comments from two women (one works with the school system and the other with the Botanical Gardens) struck me especially. They stressed educating the public not only on local, tangible solutions, but also solutions that have the greatest impact and improve public health — and our climate — the most. Female leadership in the room came from every sector of the community: business, health, faith, education, civic, and non-profit. Even the Girl Scouts were represented, with a big new idea to create a Scouting badge on climate change!

Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, Growing Climate Solutions

These are the values that women champion in climate action: Fairness and inclusion. Partnership and collaboration. Education and public engagement. Effective solutions. A healthy environment. These are not just women’s values, they are human values. Women have led community engagement around climate change, and Path to Positive is grateful to have so many in our Leadership Circle, and so many leading the way in our communities. In the past month, I have been on many Zoom calls with working moms, who talk about complex issues and sustainability while their children climb on their laps — underscoring the double duty they serve, and also one of the best reasons for their climate work: our children. This month we are thankful for all the good work, multi-tasking, and solutions that moms have brought to our climate work, and their help in protecting a very important mother — Mother Earth. May women continue to shine a light forward on climate solutions that benefit us all!

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