The climate crisis is so epic, so vicious, so wide-reaching, that at this point there are few aspects of the human experience it isn’t transforming. Supercharged wildfires are devastating California, heat waves are killing more people and more crops, cities are struggling to adapt to strange new climates. The global transformation underway is also increasingly exposing a fundamental yet often hidden factor complicating matters: gender.
Today in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers published an analysis of 25 studies looking at how climate change is imperiling the agency of women in Africa and Asia. “We’ve been looking for more technical solutions, whether in terms of better varieties of seeds or breeds of cattle, but we’re not really looking at the way social institutions are affecting people’s abilities to adapt,” says University of East Anglia gender analyst Nitya Rao, lead author on the study.
The struggles are coming fast, and they’re coming hard. For farmers, drought or even just less reliable rainfall means crop failure and less water for cattle. Landslides from stronger monsoons wipe away farmland. Living alongside rivers is increasingly perilous, as stronger—yet often less frequent—storms flood communities.
All terrible crises in their own right, but exacerbated by underlying societal norms. In East Africa, for instance, men in pastoral communities have traditionally wandered 15, maybe 30 kilometers from home in search of water for their cattle, returning to their families periodically. But with climate change, now they’re having to travel up to 150 kilometers. Before, women would go with the men and milk the cattle, using the product both for their family’s own nutrition and as an extra source of income, and heading home as needed. Now that the men have to cover much greater distances, the women end up staying at home base, thus losing out on the invaluable resource that is milk. [Continue reading…]