By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

I hate to get all gender-political.

So I’ll try to say this as delicately as possible. IT’S ABOUT TIME WOMEN SEIZE THE REINS OF THE CLIMATE ACTION MOVEMENT!

Women's Climate Conference - IWECI-YouTube-ImageI’ll get to why in a minute. First, let me say that many women already are leading green groups and businesses. They’re in the trenches at NGOs, think tanks, businesses, grassroots organizations. Millions of women worldwide are passionately, ardently working for a better environment.

For every man in the movement to slow climate change and build a more sustainable world, there’s a women working equally as hard, in leadership positions and in the trenches.

Just take a look around.

If you follow the environmental landscape or watch documentaries, you are probably as familiar with Dr. Vandana Shiva, the head of the movement to green India, as you are with Bill McKibben, the founder of You’ve seen Van Jones, founder of Green For All, on TV, and also Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, the CEO of  Green for All. You know Dr. James E. Hansen, the outspoken climate action advocate and former NASA official, and also Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe, the mother/daughter minds behind the Small Planet Institute. Your surely know conservationist Ted Turner. He’s done a lot for wildlife, in the tradition of Jane Goodall, another household name.

You’ve seen celebrity activists Leonardo DiCaprio and also Selma Hayek speak out about environmental causes. You’ve read Thomas Friedman (Hot, Flat, and Crowded), and also Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine). (At least we hope you have.)

IWECI Collage image

Women, affected by climate change, needed in the climate movement.

Al Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize for his climate work, and so did Wangari Maathai, the woman who single-handedly launched the reforestation of Kenya.

Dynamic NGO leaders of both genders hammer at governments every day to curb carbon emissions and save natural resources. Think: Sierra Club CEO Michael Brune and Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke.

I could go on like this all day.

But here’s the caveat, the men still outnumber the women on the dais at conferences, and in leadership positions, certainly in the executive suites of government and big businesses. So while women are present, we need a higher profile. And I’m not speaking out of ignorance. I’ve been to wind and solar energy conferences where the men outnumber the women 3 to 1. I’ve sat through countless presentations at green gatherings. Men edge out the women.

And yet, at community events, it’s plain to see women are as committed as men, if not more so, in multiple green venues. They’re organizing community gardens and farmers markets, raising chickens, installing solar panels, converting to electric cars and buying into greener communities.

We need women to keep stepping up, and speaking out.  They are the caregivers, the village organizers, the multi-taskers, problem-solvers and peacemakers (anyone want to try arguing with that last one?). We need their special perspective.

This isn’t about parity. It’s about being as effective as we can be on behalf of our future.

Quite frankly, if we can get more women at the helm of the climate action movement, I believe we can pull this planet out of the ditch a little faster. And I suspect Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Van Jones, Al Gore and Michael Brune would agree.

So I’m pleased to tell you that next week a women’s conference in New York will bring together 100 women leaders from around the world, 50 from the Southern hemisphere and 50 from the Northern. (The Southerners being more at risk from changes already occurring; the Northerners have those excessive consumption and carbon emissions issues). The invited delegates represent 48 countries and include business leaders, scientists, government officials, indigenous leaders, activists, teachers and community organizers.

The  International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit will be Sept. 20-23rd, 2013, and as women leaders from around the globe engage with each other, you’re invited to participate.

Follow the event via YouTube Live Stream and comment via Twitter using the hashtag #IWECI.

Here’s more about the conference from Osprey Orielle Lake, founder and co-director of the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative (IWECI).

The bottomline: This is urgent, as the IWECI stresses in a cogent call to action:

“Global climate change is no longer a distant warning but is rapidly approaching a tipping point of no return. Scientists warn that the opportunity to prevent the worst impacts of climate change will be “lost forever” unless the global community changes course by 2017. This means we have four years to cap global emissions in order to reverse the current trajectory and change the deadly course we are on presently.

“It is internationally recognized that women are critical to implementing climate change and sustainability solutions, yet there is currently not enough prominent mechanisms to wield a united effort into a defined movement. IWECI is engaging women’s organizations worldwide, inside and outside the environmental arena, to join together and create a groundbreaking movement.”

See you at the conference.

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