Editor’s note: This is a guest opinion post.
It’s official: The Women’s March Global movement, the international arm of the Women’s March on Washington, now covers all seven continents. “Women’s March–Antarctic Peninsula” is the latest to join the growing list of 161 sister marches happening in 61 countries around the world, standing in solidarity with 350-plus marches being held in the United States on Jan. 21, in what might be the largest grassroots campaign in history.
The latest addition, an unaffiliated and international expedition of eco-minded visitors, will be holding their ship-board rally in the international waters off of the coast of Antarctica, aptly a continent recognized as a symbol of global cooperation.
The Women’s March Global leadership team has clarified that the global effort on Jan. 21 is not a protest, but the beginning of a peaceful, proactive movement that has grown out of the rhetoric of the recent U.S. election cycle and galvanized people across the world to defend women’s rights and the rights of others. The proposed global organizing framework concentrates on Health, Economic Security, Representation, and Safety (H.E.R.S.), along with critical issues such as climate change that cut across all of the H.E.R.S. themes.
This nexus of gender and climate change has been highlighted by the United Nations (the U.N. Population Fund and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change) and is even mentioned in the 2015 Paris Agreement: Climate change places a disproportionate burden on women. Women’s health, safety, and economic security are more at risk from the impacts of climate change than the rest of the population, but the silver lining is that representation by women in environmental decision-making has the potential to change this equation.
Many of the Women’s March organizers around the world recognize this and are incorporating environmental angles into their marches:
- Environmental justice is highlighted as one of the eight Unity Principles of the mother march in Washington D.C.: “We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed — especially at the risk of public safety and health.”
- The mission statement for the Geneva, Switzerland, march emphasizes “the importance of climate change, and the role of environmental sustainability in supporting human rights and development.”
- According to Brit-Agnes Svaeri, the organizer for Oslo, Norway, “Environmental sustainability is one of the core values of our march.” One of their endorsements came from the Grandparents’ Climate Campaign: “Working to secure our grandchildren a healthy planet, we strongly support The Women’s March for human rights and women’s rights — which also includes children’s rights.”
- The organizers in Brussels, Belgium, found that they had applied for a permit to hold a rally at the same time and place as Climat et Justice Sociale, an organization with the motto “Change the world, not the climate.” The two groups and their coalitions joined forces and will be coming together and raising candles in support of the shared values of peaceful activism in solidarity with those fighting for women’s rights and social justice around the world.
- A number of environmental partners, including the Green Party, are supporting the London, U.K., march. Beth Garner, one of the organizers, stated, “We are working diligently with climate change groups to join forces and make it clear that we cannot and will not accept climate change denial and that action is imperative in order to tackle this global epidemic.”
- The Sydney, Australia, march will be using solar-powered audio equipment, and organizers are working with a local recycling organization to utilize otherwise-wasted supplies in the creation of the posters that will be distributed at the march. Additionally, the march organizers have committed to approaching the H.E.R.S. framework with an environmental consciousness.
- The Antarctica organizers are considering highlighting the fragile environment and imperiled wildlife with posters and chants such as “Penguins for Peace,” “Cormorants for Climate,” “Seals for Science,” and “Women for Earth.”
Most striking to me is that climate change is a truly global issue — there are no borders when it comes to air quality, rising sea levels, droughts, changing weather patterns, or warming oceans. Like the other tenets of the Women’s March, the environmental focus is about our future — this is the time to determine together the kind of world we want to inhabit and how we wish to leave it for those who come after us.
The Antarctic Treaty is often given as an example of “the common heritage of mankind,” a principle in international law. And many who will be marching on Saturday want to hold not just Antarctica, but the planet, in trust for future generations.