On Earth Day, we need to acknowledge women

This Earth Day, as we grapple with the reality of climate change, we can take heart in the initiatives that many women are taking to overcome it.

We can look back on a year of record-breaking extreme weather on every continent and raging conflict over natural resources. These are the symptoms of a global crisis that threatens the very viability of our planet. But we are also on the verge of another tipping point, as hopeful as the threat is grave.

More and more people are realizing that we cannot continue to live outside the laws of nature. They see that we have the capability to reinvent our economies and lifestyles on a sustainable basis and in ways that safeguard human rights. Increasingly, people are focused on creating concrete, realizable solutions that are both local and systemic.

Women are at the center of this movement to reset the course of the world. Working through local organizations in every region, women are improving health systems, combating hunger and poverty, preserving biodiversity, mitigating climate change and demanding human rights.

In Nicaragua, women are developing small-scale, organic family farms.

In Kenya, women are leading projects to dig wells and build pipelines for access to clean water.

In Sudan, women farmers hit hard by climate change are unionizing to demand the resources and training they need to earn income and develop their communities.

Women have always been at the center of both economy and ecology. Both words come from the Greek term for household — the arena of women’s traditional roles as primary caretakers of families and communities. Even today, in nearly every society, women are mainly responsible for providing families with healthy food, clean water and — particularly in the Global South — sufficient fuel. These resources depend on the health of the environment, and that’s why women play such a vital role.

But the ecosystems that have always provided food and energy have been exploited to their breaking points. That’s because our global economy is irrational and amoral: It seeks infinite growth on a finite planet without regard for people’s well-being.

Today, our success depends on rejecting an economic model that prioritizes profit above all else. In its place, we can look to the nascent solutions that women are developing in communities worldwide.

Yifat Susskind is the executive director of MADRE. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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