Women and Climate Change

In Spring 2020, I had the opportunity to teach “Women and Climate Change” for University of Maine’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. The class aimed to examine the disproportionate effect that climate change has on women. We also looked at why women remain underrepresented in key political, scientific, and media discourse in the U.S. – despite vast evidence that their unique skills and perspective can contribute positively to climate science, policy, and negotiations. As womens’ voices emerge in these spaces, how are they being received and effecting change? We discussed two solutions to mitigating climate crisis as the semester ended: how to best empower women, and strengthening our interpersonal connections with each other.


Below are our weekly topics, and readings. Assigned content spanned academic papers, student-recommended articles, and popular press. I keep my topical and elective courses well-grounded in current events, so you’ll see that much of the reading focuses on emerging journalists and topics relevant to 2019-2020.

In seminar-style courses, I encourage “Unessay” semester projects that are in different media, such as presentations, podcasts, teaching modules, virtual reality gallery walks, posters, videos, and zines.  Project guidelines are downloadable as editable .docx files, and resources for students to do this work are here.

Week 1: Introduction

United Nations Fact Sheet: Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change
Reid, 2014. “Why is it so hard to get people to talk about women and climate change?” Eco-Business.
Ho, 2019. “California power shutoff: how PG&E’s actions hit the medically vulnerable the hardest.” The Guardian.
Allam, 2019. “For First Nations people the bushfires bring a particular grief, burning what makes us who we are.” The Guardian.

Week 2: How does climate change uniquely affect women?

Oksala, 2018. “Feminism, Capitalism, and Ecology.”  Hypatia.
United Nations. “Climate Action by, and for, Women.”
     wonderful interactive features
Coulton, 2017. “A feminist approach to climate change.” Birdee magazine.
Smith, 2014. “Elegy for a Country’s Seasons.” The New York Review of Books.
     *Paywall. Full text can be obtained through most academic libraries. You can also reach out to me.
Kinnard, 2017. “Climate Change is a Feminist Issue, Too: 8 Ways for Students to Resist The Paris Decision.” Feminist Campus.

Additional readings (optional):
Summers, 2019. “Everything Burns.” Jezebel.
Shabir, 2015. “Women and Climate Change Injustice: Thoughts from the Paris talks.” The Guardian.
Galey and Fillon, 2019. “Agriculture’s secret weapon: empowering women.” phys.org
OneZero. “Black in the Time of Climate Change.
     article series

Week 3: Gender and Climate Change

Gaard, 2015. “Ecofeminism and Climate Change.” Women’s Studies International Forum.
Holthaus, 2018. “What is a Gender Action Plan?” Gender Chemicals
U.N. Women, 2017. “First-ever Gender Action Plan to support gender-responsive climate action adopted.”
IUCN, 2020. “Climate Change Gender Action Plans.”

Additional readings (optional):
Arora-Jonsson, 2011. Virtue and vulnerability: Discourses on women, gender and climate change. Global Environmental Change.
     this link starts download of .pdf
Ettig, 2017. “Gender Impact Assessment – an instrument to create gender-just chemicals and waste policy.” gender-chemicals.org
Heglar, 2019. “After the Storm.” Guernica.
Harvey, 2020. “Climate breakdown ‘is increasing violence against women.” The Guardian.
U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2017. “Gender and Climate.
     policy document
Massive U.N. resource on Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change:

Week 4: How did we get here? Capitalism and the carbon economy.

King, 2012. “The Woman Who Took on the Tycoon.” Smithsonian Magazine.
Yergin, 2009. “Hydrocarbon Man,” chapter from The Prize.
Westervelt, 2018. “Drilled” Podcast – S1E1 “The Bell Labs of Energy.” Critical Frequency.
Climate Reality, 2019. “The Climate Denial Machine: How the Fossil Fuel Industry Blocks Climate Action.”
Juniper, 2014. “Capitalism v environment: can greed ever be green?” The Guardian.

Additional readings (optional):
Lawrence, et al., 2019. “How vested interests tried to turn the world against climate science.” The Guardian.
Westervelt, 2020. “Drilled” podcast – S3E1 – “The Father of Public Relations.” Critical Frequency.
Davidson, 2010. “From tobacco to climate change, ‘merchants of doubt’ undermined the science.” Grist.

Week 5: Emerging voices in climate media

Klein, 2018. “Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, not ‘Human Nature.'” The Intercept.
Westervelt, 2019. “The Case for Climate Rage.” Popula.
Samuel, 2019. “The controversy over Jonathan Franzen’s climate change opinions, explained.” Vox.
Heglar, 2019. “Home is Always Worth It.” Medium.
Bagley, 2019. “From a Young Climate Movement Leader a Determined Call to Action.” Yale Environment 360.
Li, 2019. “‘It Will Be Too Late for My Generation.’ Meet the Young People Organizing a Massive Climate Change Protest.” Time Magazine.
Glass, 2020. “Climate Changes. People Don’t.” NPR: This American Life.
Gibson, 2019. “How climate experts think about raising children who will inherit a planet in crisis.” Washington Post.
Felsenthal, 2019. “Why TIME Devoted an Entire Issue to Climate Change.” Time Magazine.

Week 6: Knowledge creators: who gets to create and disseminate climate science?

Carney, 2016. “Glaciers, Gender, and Science.” Progress in Human Geography.
Dutt, 2019. “Race and racism in the geosciences.” Nature.
Lady Science, 2019. “Why we need a feminist climate science and how we might get it.” ladyscience.com
In-class exercise – gender analysis for Carbon Brief’s Top 10 Climate Papers in the news and social media
Yong, 2018. “I Spent Two Years Trying to Fix the Gender Imbalance in my Stories.” The Atlantic.

Week 7: Knowledge keepers: indigenous ways of knowing

Daniel, 2019. “Understanding Our Environment Requires an Indigenous Worldview.” Eos.
Harris, 2019. “Indigenous Knowledge has Been Warning us About Climate Change for Centuries.” Pacific Standard.
Vinyeta and Lynn, 2013. “Exploring the Role of Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Climate Change Initiatives.” USDA.
Loew, 2017. “We are the Seventh Generation.” Edge Effects.
Ellsmore, 2019. “Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Fights Back With Clean Energy.” Forbes
Langlois, 2018. “Why Scientists Are Starting to Care About Cultures That Talk to Whales.” Smithsonian
Weiss, 2019. “Who gets to have ecoanxiety?” Edge Effects.

Week 8: How can decolonization reshape climate science and policy?

Tuck, 2013. Commentary: “Decolonizing Methodologies” 15 years later. AlterNative.
Chavez, 2019. “Governor orders Mauna Kea stand down.” Indian Country Today.
Kahanamoku et al., 2020. “A Native Hawaiian-led summary of the current impact of constructing the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.” National Academy of Science Astro2020 Decadal Review.
Kolinjivadi, 2019. “Why a ‘Green New Deal’ must be decolonial.” Al Jazeera.
Crocker, 2018. “Híyoge owísisi tánga itá (Cricket egg stories).” Carte Blanche.
Lane, 2016. “Why ‘Climate Change’ Must Become a Promise to Decolonize.” TRUTHOUT.
Page, no date. “U.S. Protest Law Tracker.” International Center for Not-For-Profit Law.
Keep track of U.S. states passing legislation that restrict the right to lawful assembly, with language that especially prohibits protest around pipelines and other “critical infrastructure.”

Week 9: Climate Memoir and Fiction

excerpts from Rush, 2018. “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore.” Milkweed Editions.

This was our first week of a challenging transition to remote instruction during COVID-19. I eased on reading requirements, and students were spending more time on their projects at this point. A reading list that spanned #CliFi (my original hope) was not well-developed. Suggestions are welcome.

Week 10: Womens’ Voices in Climate Science, Policy, and Activism I: Podcast-as-method

Kinkaid et al., 2020. “The Podcast-as-Method? Critical reflections on using podcasts to produce geographic knowledge.” Geographic Review.

Podcasts on course topics:

Our Warm Regards – co-created by Jacquelyn Gill (here at U Maine)
Drilled Season 3 – investigative “crime thriller” on oil industry’s role in creating and denying climate crisis.
Hot Take – new podcast on how climate is covered in the media and discussed, spearheaded by Amy Westervelt and Mary Annaise Heglar.
No Place Like Home – personal storytelling on climate change.
We Persist – podcast started by former U Maine grad student Mariama Dryak, featuring underrepresented voices in climate science.

Weeks 11 – 12: Women’s Voices in Climate Science, Policy, and Activism II

Harrington, 2019. “Countries with more female politicians pass more ambitious climate policies, study suggests.” Yale Climate Connetions. [extra]
Baskaran and Hessami (2020). “Women as Policymakers do make a difference.” Vox.
Fahys, 2020. “In the Face of a Pandemic, Climate Activists Reevaluate their tactics.” Inside Climate News.
EARTHDAY.ORG, 2020. “Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate provides a voice for the Global South.”
Margolin, 2020. “We were already over 350 ppm when I was born.” The Guardian.
Rodrick, 2020. “Greta’s World.” Rolling Stone Magazine.
Anna Siegal, 2019. “Youth Leadership in the Climate Crisis.” TEDxDirigo
Zhao, 2020. “Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Prevails as Federal Judge Strikes Down DAPL Permits.” Earthjustice.

Week 13: Pathways Forward I: Empowering women as a solution to climate crisis

Wilkinson, 2018. “How empowering women and girls can help stop global warming.” TED Talk.
Kearns, 2015. “Fighting climate change will take more than science.” New Republic.
Andrews, 2018. “Why didn’t reproductive rights show up in the National Climate Assessment?” Grist.
“The Power of Women: Intersections in the Global Climate and Reproductive Rights Movements,” 2020. Center for American Progress [~75 min video]
A panel discussion on the intersection between climate change and womens’ reproductive rights, hosted by the Center for American Progress in March.
Gunn-Wright, 2020. “Think the pandemic is bad? We have another crisis coming.” New York Times.

Week 14: Pathways Forward II: The solution to climate change is each other

Woodard, 2019. “Our Solution to Climate Crisis is Each Other.” Autostraddle.
Heglar, 2020. “We Can’t Tackle Climate Change Without You.” Wired.