Gender and Environment

Gender and environment are a phenomenon less known to the world. Gender and the environment are closely related through the different ways goods are consumed by both genders. The term that bridges the gap between gender and the environment is consumption.

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Environmental damage is an important issue known to most of the people across the globe. The environment is deteriorating day by day and many environmentalists are investing in efforts to bring about and environmental revolution. However, the environment unlike the many other issues is considered to be gender-neutral. This demeans the idea of solving the crisis without knowing the root causes deeply. For this reason, environmentalists have come down to the conclusion that environmental damage can only be countered if we look at it through a gender lens.

Key Global Environmental Challenges

The environmental challenges are widely recognized as important issues for the international community to address. The environmental challenges encompass a wide range of issues. For example, climate change, loss of biodiversity, natural disasters (floods, droughts), air pollution, water pollution, waste disposal, and population growth.

While some of the environmental challenges are manmade, some of them have a direct impact on the biodiversity of human life. The role of biodiversity is one that cannot be neglected neither can it be taken as something of little value. There are a lot of aspects to the topic of biodiversity and environmental damage. 80% of the human food supply comes from 20 kinds of plants, but humans use 40000 species for food, shelter, and clothing.

Biodiversity provides for a variety of foods for the planet.  Biodiversity also plays a major role when it comes to human health. A lot of species of plants and animals are used for drug and medicine purposes. Medicines in nature account for usage by 80% of the human population.

Moreover, biodiversity also provides for industrial purposes. Sources such as oil, coal, and timber are used as industrial materials for the production of goods and provision of services. Biodiversity can also be accounted for as a source of recreation. This is referred to as biodiversity’s role in the culture. Sights such as bird watching, fishing, and trekking e.t.c are a few examples of activities that inspire musicians and artists.

Why study Gender and Environment?

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The reasons why we need to study in-depth the relationship between gender and environment are both instrumental and ethical.  The instrumental reason relates to the overall goal of sustainability, providing different perspectives to the environmental challenges, and understanding a diverse range of experiences. Segmenting and giving a gender perspective to the environmental challenge will help humans to choose diverse and effective paths to solve the issue and ensure sustainability.

The ethical reason behind the idea of including gender is that currently, the distribution of environmental ills and environmental benefits are uneven across the international system. This is because the community most marginalized and discriminated at multiple levels and multiple categories are more likely to face negative consequences of environmental damage. This includes people from a certain gender, race, and ethnicity. Gender inclusion paves a way forward to help us understand the gender manifestations of injustice that remain unexplored.

Sustainability through a Gender Lens

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Sustainability is a very important concept that contains an element of protecting, conserving, and being considerate towards our planetary resources. However, understanding sustainability through a gender lens is really important because society’s understanding and enforcement of gender norms influence how we interact with the environment in diverse ways.

Men and women are given a distinct value and level of importance by the society. Similarly, both men and women are placed differently in terms of their vulnerabilities to environmental change and their agency in addressing the issue. Including gender allows us to holistically approach and address the issue.

Environmental Processes

The processes involved in the environment challenge are gendered. It deals with activities one performs and what institutions have control of certain policies. The environmental processes are influenced by the power relations prevalent in the society and intersect with the political, economic, and social aspects.

The political aspect deals with environmental decision making, the engagement of the government, and the interaction of officials while constructing certain policies. This is to note that most highly ranked positions are held by men. The economic aspect deals with the resources available to invest in sustainability programs. Lastly, the social aspect deals with what work are people doing and what prescribes roles they have attained in society.

Implications on Human Beings

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Countries, where agriculture and farming are the basis of most earned income, women are the ones working in fields and working to fetch water. Environmental degradation also tends to have a greater bearing on the community marginalized. Environmental damage means, women have to walk to further lengths to fetch water or fuelwood and have to face greater insecurity. On the other hand greater environmental damage calls for greener technology and green policies/laws. Where most of the authoritative and decision making positions are held by men, the responsibility falls on their shoulders, another aspect of this is implanting greener technologies may increase costs for firms by drastic levels, leaving men with pay cuts and lesser opportunities for promotion.

Moreover, another aspect of this can be connected to consumer culture. That is regarding women as the major customers of most of the industries. That implies that since most of the goods produced are for women to buy they have a greater bearing on the exploitation of natural resources.

Historical Perspective

Environmental damage has always been a cause of concern for most of the people across the globe. Most of the people identify the environmental damage is a consequence of the industrial revolution and the process of industrialization. With extensive research, it was identified later that the environmental challenge is indeed a political issue. Subsequently, many NGOs were established to counter the negative impacts of the environment.

The United Nations environment program has established many efforts to empower men and women in order to bring an environmental revolution. The program aims to spread awareness amongst men and women on how to use resources efficiently while farming/agriculture to ensure a sustainable future.

Also read: gender and consumer culture