Question: What makes women more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change?
Your answer must address the following: an explanation of Sylvia Chant’s concept of the feminization of poverty (Arora Climate Change); women agriculture and food security; gender equality and bio-diversity to include the role of indigenous women; gender perspectives in the four areas identified as critical building blocks in response to climate change (mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financing); climate change and women’s human rights; and women as agents of change.
FIRST use all the materials-readings, slides, etc. provided. When citing the readings, use APA style BOTH in your discussion and your response to classmates. BOTH in-text citations and a list of references at the end should be used to give credit to authors for their work. Your response should be at least 250 words.
Required reading/material: All, except in the Cohn article-read ONLY pages 750-52, "Climate breakdown as a threat to human security" and "Climate breakdown as a contributor to war."
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Identities Global Studies in Culture and Power
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Intersecting identities and global climate change
To cite this article: Joane Nagel (2012) Intersecting identities and global climate change, Identities, 19:4, 467-476, DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2012.710550
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/1070289X.2012.710550
Published online: 01 Aug 2012.
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Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power Vol. 19, No. 4, July 2012, 467–476
Intersecting identities and global climate change
(Received 1 July 2012)
This article explores the place of race, class, gender, sexual and national identities and cultures in global climate change. Research on gendered vul- nerabilities to disasters suggests that women are more vulnerable than men to many meteorological disasters related to climate change, specifically flooding and drought. This is because of their relative poverty, economic activi- ties (especially subsistence agriculture) and the moral economies governing women’s modesty in many cultures. Research on historical and contempo- rary links between masculinity and the military in environmental politics, polar research and large-scale strategies for managing risk, including from climate change, suggests that men and their perspectives have more influence over climate change policies because of their historical domination of science and government. I expect that masculinist identities, cultures and militarised institutions will tend to favour large-scale remedies, such as geoengineering, minimise mitigation strategies, such as reducing energy use, and emphasise ‘security’ problems of global climate change.
Keywords: gender; masculinity; climate change; militarism; identity
Identities and cultures based on race, class, gender, sexuality and nationalism are critical to understanding all social processes, especially those associated with human well-being. Global climate change is no exception. There is a growing international scientific and political consensus that climate change poses one of the greatest contemporary challenges to human civilization (IPCC 2007, Roston 2008, Hoegh-Guldberg and Bruno 2010). Research on climate change is based mainly on the natural sciences and engineering, and these disciplines and perspectives set the research priorities and inform the policy agenda. These investigators recog- nise that social factors play a critical role in both the causes and consequences of climate change, but they generally do not collaborate with social scientists and have only the most rudimentary understanding of social processes relating to climate change causation, mitigation and adaptation. Even when social factors are considered, studies tend to be applied and descriptive: public opinion surveys, policy analyses and economic models (Stern 2007, Nordhaus 2011, Pidgeon and Fischoff 2011, Weber 2011). There is relatively little recognition in the climate change literature of the relevance of gender, race, class and nationalism and cer- tainly not sexuality. When I recently commented to a natural science colleague
ISSN 1070-289X print/ISSN 1547-3384 online © 2012 Taylor & Francis http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1070289X.2012.710550 http://www.tandfonline.com
468 J. Nagel
that there might be a gendered dimension to climate change, he laughed out loud: ‘Doesn’t climate change affect everyone?!’ The answer to that incredulous ques- tion is ‘no’, climate change does not affect everyone equally, nor does everyone respond uniformly to climate change. This article presents three examples of how identities and cultures based on gender, race, class, sexuality and nationalism are relevant to understanding the impacts of, and adaptations to, climate change.1
Gender, sexuality and the nation
The two consequences of increased global temperatures observed in the last cen- tury are the warming of the Earth’s oceans and the melting of polar ice sheets (IPCC 2007, NSIDC 2012). These combine with an observed and predicted increased intensity of hurricanes and associated storm surges to make coastal flooding a highly expected outcome of global climate change (Webster et al. 2005, Stammerjohn et al. 2008, Sallenger et al., 2012). A widely studied hurricane in Bangladesh in 1991 illustrates the interplay among gender, sexuality and the nation in the kinds of large storms researchers expect to increase in frequency and inten- sity as the Earth’s oceans warm and sea level rises. Cannon (2002) notes that Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world where men live longer than women. Researchers argue that women’s poverty and vulnerability to weather- related flooding are among the reasons for women’s shorter lives. (Begum 1993, Choudhury et al. 1993). When the flood waters receded after the 1991 monsoon, the International Federated Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimated that 140,000 had died in the flooding; 90% of the deaths were women and children (Schmuck 2002). What accounts for this disproportionate number of women’s deaths?
Research on gender and nationalism tells us that women and men occupy different spaces in national economies – both material (work) and moral (respectability). Women’s domestic responsibilities and cultural expectations for their modesty can expose them to extreme weather events, particularly in the case of ‘hydrometeorological’ disasters such as floods or storm surges (Spring 2006). A number of material and moral economic factors combined to make Bangladeshi women especially vulnerable when the waters rose in 1991. They were responsible for the home – caring for children, finding food, water and fuel, cooking meals, growing crops and tending livestock – which tied poor women to low-lying residences. Their mobility was limited by cultural prescriptions for women’s proper dress, demeanour and public visibility – their long, loose cloth- ing restricted movement through water; they were ashamed to seek higher ground occupied by unrelated men; they could not swim. Women’s relative poverty made them less resilient – they had poor nutrition, poor health care and limited fam- ily support as divorced and widowed women were discouraged from remarrying (Cannon 2002).2 National and ethnic cultures, which restrict women’s mobility and resilience, make them more vulnerable to the effects of climate change – not only from storms and flooding but also from drought, in cases where women are
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subsistence farmers, and from forced migrations out of drought and flooding con- ditions. While it is true that both men and women are affected by climate change, the effects are not always the same, nor are they always equal.
Race, class, gender and the moral economy
It is not only in developing countries or the Global South that gendered local and national identities and cultures shape vulnerabilities to storms and flooding. Seager (2006, p. 30) studied the natural and political disasters associated with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and noted that:
Poverty combines with race and ideologies about gender to produce a metric of deep disadvantage in terms of mobility: even in a country as awash in cars as the United States, women are less likely to have a car or a driver’s license than their male counterparts.
Reports about post-Katrina New Orleans revealed a moral economy of raced, classed and gendered valuations of worth, credibility, dangerousness and deservingness that often shape responses to disasters like Katrina which affect the vulnerabilities of different groups. Officials and reporters described post-Katrina New Orleans as a ‘war zone’, where ‘anarchy’ reigned replete with sniping, loot- ing and raping (Tierney et al. 2006, Stock 2007). Contrary to initial media reports, the notorious murders in the Superdome were never documented, although several people died from natural causes or suicide, nor was there clearly documented evi- dence of widespread rape or sexual assault (Rosenblatt and Rainey 2005, Thevenot and Russell 2005). Racial cosmologies of Black male dangerousness, especially as sexual threats, no doubt added fuel to the rumours of rape and mayhem that char- acterised much early reporting about post-Katrina New Orleans. Ransby (2006, p. 218) found little sympathy for the presumed victims of this crime wave, Black women, who were depicted as ‘culprits in their own misfortune’ because of their presumed laziness, promiscuity and irresponsibility rather than because of low pay, lack of jobs and lack of affordable housing (see also Giroux 2006).3 Raced, gendered, sexual and other moral stereotypes, calculations of worth and blame, questions of responsibility, and notions of fairness can influence plans for and responses to disasters in different national settings and in the international arena.
Nation, class and the global system
The melting of the Arctic permafrost and polar ice sheets combined with coastal flooding resulting from climate change will have dramatic effects on many island nations and coastal communities globally. Coastlines around the world – in both rich and poor countries – will be reshaped by rising sea levels and storm surges, and the consequences and coping capacity of nations to these changes will be greatly influenced by national wealth and standing in the international system.
470 J. Nagel
Rich countries will have more resources to adapt to the impacts of climate change by designing barriers to storm surges, refitting buildings and coastal facilities, or rebuilding away from coastlines. Poor countries, especially island nations whose land and fresh water supplies are vulnerable to sea level rise, will have to rely on others in the global system to provide them with resources to adapt or migrate. While there is broad agreement that national wealth has contributed to climate change by industrialisation’s contribution to increased greenhouse gas emissions, there is no credible commitment by these global climate changers to assist poorer nations to cope with changes they did not cause. Small island states such as Tuvalu, Micronesia, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Maldives and mostly rural Indigenous occupants of Arctic coastal communities in Siberia, Alaska, Canada, Norway and Greenland have neither the resources nor the local or international influence to economically or culturally maintain their communities by remaining in place or migrating en masse as climate change floods or melts their homelands.4 Developed countries have not been quick to take on the responsibility for aiding relatively poor countries affected by other outcomes of rising global temperatures such as heat and drought, the negative consequences of which are easier to ignore or to dismiss as simply ‘weather’, misfortune, outcomes of war and conflict, or the result of poorly managed development policies.5 As in the case of Hurricane Katrina, the often non-white victims of these slowly unfolding climate-related disasters are dismissed as, at least in part, designers of their own demise by living in places where bad things just seem to happen naturally. The climate change-related ‘bad luck’ of poor countries and their populations illustrates both the vulnerabilities of some national identities and cultures to the actions and assumptions of other national identities and cultures. The power of national identities and cultures to keep in place conceptions of who ‘we’ are and what ‘we’ represent compared to ‘them’ is illustrated by the durability of this point of view even in the face of our obvious role in causing their problem.
Masculinity, militarism and science
Climate-related environmental transformations underway are escalating and will impact virtually all human communities. Identities and cultures play a role in vulnerability to or responsibility for causing global climate change. Responses to climate change also have a classed, raced, gendered and nationalist face. Strategies for mitigation (stopping or reducing the causes of climate change) and adaptation (learning to live with the consequences of climate change) are not merely technical matters (increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing alternative energy sources, redesigning housing, transporta- tion and communities). The policies that shape local, national and international responses to climate change reflect the gendered power, privilege and preoccu- pations of mostly male policy-makers around the world (see, e.g. Bulhaug et al. 2008). Researchers note the paucity of representatives from Indigenous communi- ties, women’s groups and underclasses in shaping climate change mitigation and
Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 471
adaptation policies, despite the relative vulnerability of these groups to the effects of climate change (Rohr 2009, UNEP 2009). Less documented is the place of gendered national institutional identities and cultures in shaping climate change responses and setting research priorities.
‘Gender’ is not synonymous with ‘women’, and understanding men’s place and perspectives in how nations respond to climate change is an important aspect of the relationship between gender and climate change. Men are influential in determining the causes of and responses to climate change through their domi- nation of politics and policy-making around the world. Masculine interests, and cultures imbedded in scientific and military organisations come to the fore in set- ting climate change research priorities and approaches to addressing the causes and impacts of climate change.
The marriage of militarism and science is reflected in the history of both polar exploration and climate research. Dodds (2006, p. 61, 2009) described Antarctica as ‘a stage on which men (and it has been men in the main) and their nations either carved out claims to the continent or initiated scientific programmes’. Unlike Antarctica, a competitive (and sometimes cooperative) arena for the men driv- ing international relations and scientific inquiries, Rosner (2009) observes that the Arctic has long been gender integrated, occupied by both women and men. It was into this already-inhabited northern realm that European and American often military-backed male explorer/scientists inserted themselves, exploiting Indigenous knowledge, while claiming Western discovery, conquest and owner- ship. Women largely were erased from the personal accounts and professional publications of these men of science and discovery, thus avoiding female pollution of the pure masculine challenge of men against nature. The Arctic reality, however, was more feminised. Palsson (2008) describes long-term intimate and profes- sional liaisons between some of the most famous early twentieth-century Arctic explorers, such as Robert Peary and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, and the Indigenous women and men with whom these Westerners lived and worked for extended periods of time over decades. Not only were Inuit women seen as convenient sex- ual partners by many Arctic ‘explorers’, and as means to keep the men in their crews ‘contented’, Native women also had essential skills in hunting and fish- ing, skinning, seamstressing, cooking local fish and animals and polar survival. They sometimes became mothers of explorers’ children, suitable partners in their place, but invisible in the lives of these men when they returned home to honour and fame.
It is not only in the history of polar exploration that we find a marriage of mas- culinity, militarism and science. Fleming (2007, 2010) catalogues historical efforts (stretching back two centuries and beyond) by the United States and other govern- ments to use and control climate for military purposes. These projects included timing war campaigns to weather forecasts, cloud seeding to create storms and other techniques designed to shift weather patterns. He describes ‘a long paper trail of climate and weather modification studies by the Pentagon and other [US] government agencies’ in the twentieth century (2007, p. 49). For instance, ‘In the
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1950s the Pentagon convened a committee to study the development of a Cold War weather weapon’, and ‘During Operation Popeye in the Vietnam war, the Air Force flew more than 2600 cloud seeding sorties over the Ho Chi Minh Trail to . . .
Make mud, not war’ (2007, p. 56). The so-called ‘geoengineers’, who imagine and design massive projects to
alter the global climate, are the contemporary incarnations of these climate war- riors. These male natural scientists and engineers are described by Fleming (2007, p. 50) as ‘The new titans who see themselves as heroic pioneers, capable of alleviating or averting natural disasters’ by large-scale projects to stop global warming. For instance, physicist Lowell Wood, a protégé of Edward Teller (father of the hydrogen bomb), who worked for 40 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has suggested building up the Arctic ice by using large artillery pieces to shoot tons of sulphate aerosols or nanoparticles into the stratosphere to deflect the Sun’s rays and cool the planet or alternatively by hooking a 25-km long ‘sky hose’ to a high-flying military superblimp to pump reflective particles into the atmosphere. Another is chemist Paul Crutzen whose idea is to create a ‘minor nuclear winter’ by shooting or ballooning millions of metric tons of sulphur each year over the tropics to simulate a Mount Pinatubo-scale eruption (Crutzen 2006, Fleming 2007, p. 48). There are a variety of problems with these kinds of schemes: they are likely to be expensive and ineffectual, they relegate to the back burner any plans to mitigate or reduce greenhouse gases; they might actually be dangerous.6
They represent an imperialistic, militaristic bent – large-scale projects undertaken by one country (usually the United States) to dominate the global environmental system, or as Fleming (2007, p. 48) aptly summarises, ‘basically declaring war on the stratosphere’.
The militarisation of climate change studies is evidenced in geoengineering designs. Militarised responses to global climate change can be heard in alarms sounded about ‘national security’ – as in the 2007 report, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change (CNA-Center for Naval Analysis 2007), the 2008 ‘National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030’ (US. House of Representatives 2008) and the 2012 National Council for Science and the Environment conference on ‘Environment and Security’ (2012). The institutionalisation of a militarised mas- culinist mentality into the climate-related policies and operations of government agencies can be seen in plans to protect borders from climate refugees or use rail guns designed during Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) to fire tons of material into space to deflect the Sun’s rays. The implications for climate science and policy of redeploying the resources of US national lab- oratories previously engaged in nuclear weapons production (e.g. Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore) for climate change modelling and geoengineering projects should not be presumed to be purely innocuous. Even when these facil- ities contribute valuable technology and expertise to the research enterprise, they also bring along their budgetary needs, ‘strategic’ goals and militaristic assumptions.
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Sociological studies of organisational culture suggest that organisations impose their own agendas and worldviews on the problem at hand: to a man with a ham- mer, everything looks like a nail. Researchers need to ask: What perspectives and plans will the United States and other national militaries and their organisa- tional apparati bring to the policy table when planning responses to global climate change? (Climate security?) What strategies for addressing the effects of climate change should we expect from national weapons laboratories? (Geoengineering?) It is important to not only ask the question, What is the role of gender in shaping vulnerabilities to climate change? but also to ask the question, What is the role of gendered institutions and ideologies in creating the world that will result from gendered responses to climate change? A major challenge for researchers working on identities and cultures not only is to continue to document inequalities, but also to be willing to examine the identities and cultures of those in positions of power. Exploring the place of dominant group identities and cultures in unlikely topics such as global climate change, allows us to see more easily the opaque workings and interests of privilege and interests. Once exposed, our responsibility is to use this knowledge in policy arenas.
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