The Link Between Gender Equality and the Environment

The Link Between Gender Equality and the Environment

This week, we will celebrate Earth Day, first created on April 22, 1970. Prior to the first Earth Day, Americans were burning significant amounts of leaded gasoline, factories were producing unmitigated amounts of smoke and sludge, and there was little attention to the environmental threats to human health and the planet.

Author Rachel Carson’s 1962 publication of Silent Spring, documenting the devastating effects of pesticide use, particularly DDT, and industry’s coverup of research proving its deadly effects, had a powerful effect on public awareness.

In 1969, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, became concerned about student protests about environmental abuse and a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara California, and announced the idea of a teach-in about pollution on college campuses. Nelson’s efforts and a partnership with student activist Denis Hayes, led to the choice of April 22, 1970, a weekday between spring break and final exams, to be named “Earth Day” in order to increase student participation in its recognition. The concept sparked national media attention, causing the first Earth Day to inspire the later development of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the first environmental laws including the National Environment Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.

Environmental concerns challenge the rights of women and girls and exacerbate social and economic risk factors that are already causing danger for safety. In various countries, climate disasters further expose girls and women to sexual harassment and abuse caused by overcrowding and a lack of appropriate services. It forces a decline in livelihood in countries supported by agriculture and livestock production, driving families into coping strategies including child marriage to earn money. Decreased water sources require women and girls to travel further to collect water, increasing their exposure to violence. Water pollution increases pregnancy risk and death during childbirth. The list is long and growing.

International Gender Champions issued a video last year highlighting the rights of all girls and women for a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. It outlines the harm of climate change, pollution, and loss of biodiversity. And it emphasizes the critical link between gender equality and our environment.

It also calls attention to the lack of diverse representation in decision-making, particularly for those most effected. Without acknowledgement of the disparate impact that actions and laws may have on girls and women, we continue to deal with the complicated issues that result. This is one of the most important messages Chrysalis can bring to stakeholders and policymakers at all levels.

*The theme for Earth Day 2024 is Planet vs. Plastics. This global campaign emphasizes the urgent need to address plastic pollution and its detrimental effects on the environment and human health.

The key goals of the campaign include:

Promoting widespread public awareness of the damage caused by plastics to health and demanding more research on its health implications1.

Phasing out all single-use plastics by 2030, with a commitment to this phase-out in the United Nations Treaty on Plastic Pollution in 20241.

Demanding policies to end the fast fashion industry's reliance on plastics, which contributes significantly to plastic waste1.

Investing in innovative technologies and materials to create a plastic-free future1.

The campaign calls for a 60% reduction in the production of plastics by 2040 and encourages individuals, businesses, governments, and organizations to take action towards building a plastic-free future1.

Earth Day 2024 will be an opportunity for people around the world to come together and take meaningful steps to combat plastic pollution.