BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Women’s Role in Protecting Our Environment

Posted by egehl on May 3, 2010

I was thinking this morning that it’s a shame “the worst” must be a description associated with my state yet again.  The worst natural disaster in history and now the worst environmental catastrophe since the Exxon Valdez spill.  As an oil slick barrels toward our fragile coastline and dwindling wetlands, I am reminded again how much we take our environment for granted until it’s at risk.

I am saddened by the explosion and destruction of the Deep Horizon exploration rig in the Gulf of Mexico which resulted in the presumed deaths of 11 people and injuries and stress to many more who were able to survive the catastrophe.  The looming threat from the oil spill to my state’s wetlands and local communities will have a huge impact on our economy and protection against future storms as the oil destroys more of our natural defenses.  In addition, our commercial fishing industry–a critical $2.4 billion economic engine for the region–is in grave jeopardy, which will impact thousands of families and businesses. 

Since Hurricane Katrina, our state has struggled so hard to promote the restoration and protection of our coast because of land loss.  Our coastline has barely recovered after five years so it’s difficult to think of it being hurt on top of what’s already happened—and just a month before hurricane season. 

Recently we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and the catastrophe in the Gulf is a reminder of how fragile our environment is and the consequences that can happen due to human interference. 

Women play an important part in environmental protection and in fact right now two women are playing a significant role in the oil clean up, Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano and EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson.   Ironically Lisa Jackson is from New Orleans which is advantageous for Louisiana as she helps to lead the Administration’s efforts to address the oil slick.

On a local level I got an email this morning from a good friend, Sharon, who is the Executive Director of Bayou Interfaith Shared Initiatives (BISCO), a nonprofit organization in Thibodeaux, LA that is part of the efforts to prevent the oil’s mass destruction.  She is working with local, state and federal officials and making sure that the local people are part of the discussion and solution.   BISCO will be one of the first groups to respond on the ground when emergencies like this occur and their leadership will help guide government officials.  Sharon’s leadership is another example of the influence women can have when their communities need help. 

Worldwide everyday women play a significant role in preserving our earth as mothers, consumers, small business owners, bread winners and activists.
Environmental issues such as climate change, clean water, air pollution and preserving natural resources are important to women and their families, and women have the opportunity to inspire and lead others to act consciously about how their actions can help or harm the earth.  Women make up the majority of the earth’s population and are vulnerable to detrimental changes to the planet therefore we have a vested interest in taking care of it.  
Especially in third world countries, millions of women are struggling with environmental risk factors that can harm them.  These include issues such as air pollution, contaminated water, lack of adequate sanitation, disease vectors and degraded ecosystems.  Women depend on natural resources for their economic and physical health, and providing for their families. 
Nearly all of the United Nations millennium development goals have implications for women and the environment.  Since 2005, the U.N. has supported women’s roles in protecting biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and overseeing environmental resources.

Women should be empowered so that their actions lead to a healthier, more peaceful planet.  Because women have a special vulnerability when it comes to the earth’s sustainability, their involvement with environmental efforts is crucial.  And there are many efforts taking place worldwide that are addressing climate change, corporate accountability, United Nations reform and women’s political participation. 

Women can be real catalysts for change for our environment through their everyday actions, by holding political office to lead a national response, or through their grassroots organizing to empower their local communities to be informed and poised for action.


One Response to “Women’s Role in Protecting Our Environment”

  1. Read yesterday that the Gulf Coast contains 40 percent of the US continental wetlands. This is will be a major environmental disaster for the whole country.

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