On May 2nd, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) Co-Founder and Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, spoke at the local ‘It’s Time 2015 – A Partnership Summit to Elevate Women’s Leadership’ in San Francisco, California.
Osprey’s speech is presented below in its entirely, in the hope that its powerful message and insights will inspire more women to discover the agency they hold, and to begin applying their diverse skills and interests towards the fight for climate justice and solutions worldwide.
Hello dear friends and allies,
I would like to talk with you about two main points today. The first, that the climate crisis is urgent and that we have only a very small window of time to take bold action. The second, that women can and are making a significant difference in changing our current trajectory concerning global warming.
Last September, I was asked to present at a forum in New York about climate change and health impacts. At the forum a panel of scientists were reporting on their research concerning the harmful effects of increasing CO2 emissions on pregnant women and their growing babies.
It was almost too difficult for me to comprehend the fact that as a species, we are literally weighing the very health of our babies against a destructive system that values money above the well-being of the lives of our children and the planet as a whole.
In this moment it became poignantly clear to me, once again, that we have really gone off the cliff, and that we absolutely must stand up to stop this insanity and build a healthy world for our children and all the species of this magnificent Earth.
Right now we are on a trajectory that has made 2015 the hottest year on record, with extreme weather events already leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. We have been experiencing a massive drought in California where I live, and water and food shortages are intensifying globally.
If we continue with business as usual, the climate disruptions that we are creating will continue to lead, quite literally, to fatal changes in the very web of life itself.
Meanwhile, as citizens of the United States, we live in country where climate denial still prevails despite the fact that we are looking at the greatest existential crisis that humanity has ever faced. Just yesterday Congress passed a bill to decrease funds for NASA at a time when we need science more than ever.
It is from this landscape that the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network was born, and what we are seeing across our international network is the power of women rising up to face this challenge in truly remarkable ways.
While women are the most negatively impacted by climate change and environmental degradation, they are also key to solutions. Women are central stakeholders in re-visioning a new way of living with the earth.
WECAN International is working with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Middle East/North African Region, across Latin America, and beyond and the things we are seeing are incredible. Women saving seeds, women developing small-scale solar businesses, women planting trees to heal destroyed lands, women building resistance movements to keep fossil fuels in the ground, protect their territories, and so much more.
This year WECAN is launching a Women’s Climate Justice Initiative here in the United States, and I invite all of you to unite with us. We have started this initiative in recognition of the fact that the US represents approximately 4% of the world’s population, yet we are producing upwards of 25% of the world’s carbon emissions–this tells me we have a real responsibility to act.
There is so much good work we can do together, so here is a sample of what the U.S. initiative includes:
- A Women for 100% Renewable Energy campaign.
- Calls to action to advocate with frontline and Indigenous women such as those living in the Bakken oil fields where a huge amount of devastating fracking is happening.
- Strategizing to ensure we vote in climate leaders in the 2016 election.
- Wide scale education and advocacy about environmental injustice and frontline communities.
No matter what issues you are involved with, we invite your collaboration because we firmly believe that the root cause of the climate crisis is the unjust nature of current social and economic systems. All of our issues are unequivocally linked.
The old, dominating structures of inequality must go, as exemplified by the fight to end the fossil fuel era.
As some of you may know, this year is a pivotal time, with international U.N. Climate Negotiations happening in Paris in December. There has never been a more crucial moment to send a powerful message to leaders from U.S women, and from women around the world: Enough is enough, it is time to move to immediately begin leaving fossil fuels in the ground and to transition to a clean, just, decentralized, democratized, and sustainable energy future.
We, as women, must continue to stand up to fight for the rights of our communities and nature. As we say at WECAN International: WE CAN act now, WE MUST act now. And we must demand this from our leaders.
Certainly Nature, our Mother Earth, is not waiting for politicians to negotiate. And there is no way that we can argue or buy our way out of the climate crisis or the laws of the natural world.
It is time for us to respect these natural laws, to respect the rights of Mother Earth, and this is something I feel we women understand deep in our bones.
What continues to inspire me is that we have many successful women’s movements to draw upon: the power of the Chipko Movement in India where women saved entire forests, the Suffrage Movement, the Rural Women’s Movement, and the Liberian Women’s Peace Movement to name a few.
When women are united, we have a profound ability to create an unstoppable force, and that is just what we need to face the climate crisis.
As a global network, women are calling for system change, not climate change. We are asking, ‘does it make any sense to try to protect the Earth and heal damaged ecosystems by further subjecting Nature to the very systems, like our current economic structure, that caused the damage in the first place?’
We need climate justice and we need to have the courage to change everything about how we are living with each other and the Earth, and I am certain women can and will lead the way.
Osprey Orielle Lake speaking at the local ‘It’s Time 2015 – A Partnership Summit to Elevate Women’s Leadership’ in San Francisco, California.