Gender and the Environment

Should gender take a backseat for the environment?

Last week, a “talk” by an environmental group got canceled because of a gender-issue.

I went there expecting to gain substantial information on radical environmentalism, as opposed to the “conservative” view I may have had over the years. It was my intention to learn something new, as I am new to the United States myself. While the discussion I wanted did not take place (which made me sad), a new one popped up — gender.

Back in the Philippines, and to my knowledge, gender — and its connection to environment and education, is a much-respected concern. Most of the environmental movements in the country are led, run, and managed by women. I’d say perhaps it’s because of our maternal instinct so we feel so much for Mother Nature.

For over a decade, I have worked closely with people who place high importance on Environment and ‘Gender and Development’. In fact, my former boss, in one of our recent chats just a few days ago, even informed me of the office’s latest gender talks — Rediscovering Local Food Traditions for Health and Wellness, Poverty Alleviation, and Ecological Integrity; Lighting Up Homes, Offices and Communities: Economic Empowerment for Women and Men; and Crafts from Wastes.

Gender and Development Workshop held in the Philippines.  Discussion: Can Business and Environmental Management Go Hand-in-Hand?
Gender and Development Workshop held in the Philippines. Discussion (as translated): Can Business and Environmental Management Go Hand-in-Hand? [photo: EMB-DENR]
From work, I came to know that gender-sensitivity leads to more jobs and livelihood options for men and women. It is not so much in Metro Manila but more in the provinces, where we have seen so much growth in women in business, or women becoming part of a community livelihood program.

Women run the livelihood program in Lake Pandin.
Women run this tourism-livelihood program in Lake Pandin, Philippines. They are the rowers of the bamboo boats, they also prepare meals, and act as guides for the tourists. Men do fishing.

This is my simple view on gender and the environment. That’s it, my background. Little did I know that in other countries, there are even deeper concerns — along the lines of feminism and the environment, and transgender and the environment.  I admit, I barely know a thing about these two so when the discussion during the dialogue flowed, I was overwhelmed.

While I would not go into details of what were actually discussed, I would like to share what I have mostly learned, from what I have gathered from everyone in that meeting:

1. Go beyond the facade. There are millions of organizations in the world, each advocating causes close to their hearts. These groups have their own set of rules, guided by their principles and agreed upon by members which all are expected to respect. If you intend to join a group, wear your detective lenses — research and investigate! An organization advocating the protection of the environment may not support your gender concerns, or it could be the other way around. While it is a bold move to call for a boycott if you don’t see eye-to-eye with a certain group til their “talks” all get canceled, I feel it would be more unifying if you sit down and listen to their advocacy first, and then offer solutions and make these organizations see how valuable you could be for their cause. Sometimes, the more you shout in anger, the more you repel people. Talk with wisdom and you will gain people’s respect.

2. It is not always about the numbers. The success of your advocacy does not depend on how many people you can bring in for support. A team of five scientists working on a clean pollution-free fuel could be more instrumental in curbing air pollution than an organization with ten thousand members parading for cleaner air. I actually gathered this from my seatmate during that meeting which I thought was right. But then again, unifying all these people (no matter how many they are within their “groupies”) doing their respective acts for a single cause, in this case, the environment, is always best.

3. Be brave. What separates failure from success is courage. Do not be afraid to speak and represent yourself, to walk towards or walk away, to confront or compromise, to commit or abandon. Remember, however, to do any of these with respect, as respect mirrors not just the way you treat others, but mostly, the way you treat yourself. If you feel strongly about our climate, no matter what gender you have, talk to people about it (blog or post about it on social media), get involved in climate campaigns, or maybe try to slowly say no to car culture by using communal and/or non-motorized transport. You can get your message across without being stubborn. Respect is key.

Anyway, I am probably talking in circles right now. I am basically trying to answer the question I posted when I started this entry…  Should gender take a backseat for the environment?

I know I definitely need to be educated. But right now, all I feel is this — when that moment comes when we are all at the final week of our stay here on earth as a “human race”, trying our best to gasp for the remaining clean air or water or grass just to survive, we will not be thinking about any of our differences…

Hopefully, some of us would get lucky enough to survive to continue our kind. For now though, may we all just live happily together in oneness and love. May we all fully open our eyes and realize how privileged we are to experience Earth, our only home.

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