Where Humans Destroy Nature, Women Also Suffer More Violence
By Julia Conley
Climate action leaders have warned for years that marginalized frontline communities in poor countries are already facing the most destructive impacts of the climate crisis, and a new study confirms those fears, detailing how women in those regions are at greater risk for violence and abuse as the environment is degraded.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released its study on Wednesday after conducting more than 80 case studies and speaking to more than 300 sources over the course of a two-year project.
"This study adds to the urgency of halting environmental degradation alongside action to stop gender-based violence in all its forms, and demonstrates that the two issues often need to be addressed together," said Dr. Grethel Aguilar, IUCN's acting director-general.
The study is the largest and most comprehensive to ever examine the gender-specific effects of the climate crisis, IUCN says.
Of the more than 300 responses IUCN compiled from international organizations working in developing countries, six in 10 respondents said they had observed gender-based violence directed at female environmental defenders, climate refugees and migrants, and an increase in such violence in areas where the climate crisis and global heating has put a strain on resources.
Abuses the organizations uncovered include child marriage and forced marriage, forced prostitution, sexual violence and assault, and human trafficking.
"As environmental degradation and stress on ecosystems increases, that in turn creates scarcity and stress for people, and the evidence shows that, where environmental pressures increase, gender-based violence increases," said Cate Owren, lead author of the report.
The publication was praised by women's rights advocates on social media.
"The fight against the climate crisis will have far more of an impact if represented by those most affected," tweeted the British Women's Equality Party.
One more illustration of the need to consider impact on #gender upfront in any policy. Climate breakdown 'is incr… https://t.co/KzT4jytnOZ— Melinda Simmons (@Melinda Simmons)1580323811.0
The correlation between increasing #environmental stresses and #genderviolence highlights the imminent need to elec… https://t.co/07bpOGKXFN— WomensEqualityUK (@WomensEqualityUK)1580310361.0
The study found that both human trafficking and forced child marriage are becoming increasingly common in places where chronic drought, flooding and heatwaves have caused crop yields to suffer and brought on a scarcity of resources.
"When families struggle to meet basic needs, marrying off young daughters is seen as a way to lighten financial burdens," the report reads. "There is growing concern around reports of an increase in child marriage associated with conflict and natural disasters and environmental shocks."
According to The Guardian, about 12 million more young girls are believed to have been married off after extreme weather events increased, while human trafficking increases by 20 to 30% after weather disasters.
"In most parts of the world, women are already disadvantaged and lack land rights and legal rights, so are vulnerable to exploitation," wrote Fiona Harvey in The Guardian. "When the additional stresses caused by the climate crises bite, they are the first to be targeted."
The destruction of the environment by extractive industries has significant effects on women's safety, as an influx of male miners, construction workers and security guards is linked to an increase in gender-based and sexual violence, often with Indigenous women as targets.
"Mining areas, many of which are in Indigenous territories, have seen heavy military presence, resulting in various human rights violations, such as torture, psychological disturbance, destruction and divestment of properties (livestock and crops), as well as violence against women, including rape," reads the study in a section about the Mindanao region of the Philippines.
Sexual violence is also used to suppress women who attempt to defend their homes and environments from extractive industries, and to intimidate others who may come forward in protest.
"Environmental crimes degrade ecosystems, and also often bring new, worsening patterns of violence against women, minorities, and marginalized communities," said Jenny Springer, director of IUCN's global program on governance and rights. "Many Indigenous women in particular face gender-based and other violence as their communities act to defend their territories, resources and rights from such illegal activities."
Since women in many parts of the world are responsible for gathering water and provisions for their families, they are often at an increasingly greater risk for gender-based violence as they have to travel farther from home, as resources shrink.
IUCN surveyed the Danish Refugee Council, which conducted a study at Doro Refugee Camp in South Sudan regarding dangers faced by residents there. Women in the study identified collecting firewood outside the camp as the biggest risk they regularly took.
"Food insecurity and the lack of firewood forces women and girls to go outside of the camps to collect firewood despite the risks of suffering violence by militias, private forest owners, rangers or other unknown perpetrators," the report reads. "Many ... survey respondents also raised these concerns as one of the major threats in refugee camps as related to emergency responses and protracted crises."
IUCN's study was released a day after CARE International published its report "Suffering in Silence," showing how the climate crisis has exacerbated conflicts and economic and political instability across Africa, making the continent home to nine of the 10 most-overlooked humanitarian crises in the world.
"Environmental degradation now affects our lives in ways that are becoming impossible to ignore, from food to jobs to security," said Aguilar. "This study shows that the damage humanity is inflicting on nature is also fueling violence against women around the world — a link that has so far been largely overlooked."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.