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May 08, 2014

Our mothers, mother nature, and the effects of climate disruption

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14050816/cacbf175-38f7-4466-b6e4-b865973d227c.png
Photo taken by a Sierra Club volunteer on a study abroad tour to the Phillipines with the Global Population and Environment Program.

Mother’s Day is not only a time to celebrate our own mothers and mothers around the world, it’s also a time to think about the things our mothers need to take care of their families. And it’s a time to remember the importance of Mother Nature.

As our use of fossil fuels has drastically increased over the last several decades, mothers everywhere have experienced undue stress. These dirty fossil fuels -- like coal, oil, and natural gas -- have not only exacerbated climate disruption but have directly impacted mothers everywhere, especially those in the developing world who are least prepared for and hardest hit by climate disruption.

Currently, 70 percent of the global population living below the poverty line are women. Without adequate access to basic resources, these women are particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change. Many poor women depend on the land for food, water and fuel, and are thus affected disproportionately by erratic weather patterns and natural disasters. In fact, women and children are 14 times more likely to die from a natural disaster than their male counterparts.

Droughts, floods, and other effects on water hit women especially hard. Water supplies are rarely close to communities and villages. In fact, roughly 25 percent of a woman’s day is spent on securing water for her family’s needs in the developing world. That’s 25 percent of a mother’s time that she could be providing for her family in other ways.

Children -- usually daughters -- are also responsible for assisting with this task, which keeps them from attending school and often leaves them illiterate. In fact, women account for two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate adults globally. Without a reliable education, these children are unable to advance in the workforce and are less educated about a variety of topics including reproductive health.

More than 222 million women would like to plan their family size, but they lack the adequate resources, education, access to contraception or method of choice, or power to make decisions about childbearing. Thus, women in developing countries are more likely to have larger families than they desire which compromises the health of mothers and their children, contributes to global population growth, and ultimately fosters the cycle of poverty.

Luckily, this is a cycle that can be broken.

As we continue to work to combat climate disruption and its often disastrous effects, we must also actively work to increase access to basic resources, ensure education and economic opportunities for women, and increase access to voluntary family planning.

The Sierra Club recognizes that there are many reasons to celebrate mothers and Mother Nature -- not just on Mother’s Day, but every day. The Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment Program is working to ensure that mothers around the globe have access to the resources they need to take care of their families, adapt to climate disruption, and make informed decisions about their own reproductive health.

-- Kim Lovell, Director, Sierra Club’s Global Population & Environment Program


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