Seeking Refuge

In Tunisia, scarce rainfall and saltwater intrusion in the water table caused by rising sea levels are killing the Gabès Oasis.
Credit: Paula Gonzalez / Oxfam
In Tunisia, scarce rainfall and saltwater intrusion in the water table caused by rising sea levels are killing the Gabès Oasis.
  • In Tunisia, scarce rainfall and saltwater intrusion in the water table caused by rising sea levels are killing the Gabès Oasis.
  • Tawab wades through the water with his two-year-old son. In April 2019, Cyclone Kenneth brought torrential rains to northern Mozambique.
  • Halima rolls her water container with her foot. When the nearest well is empty because of a drought, her walk is longer.
  • Economist Kate Raworth's notion of the doughnut economy.
  • Aerial drone view of Loreto Island, off the coast of Malaita, which is threatened by rising sea levels.
Seeking Refuge

Unequal in the face of the climate crisis

Confronted with climate change, all of us are vulnerable, but at different levels. Our vulnerability varies based on a certain number of factors: the place we live, our economic situation, our gender. In countries of the Global South, the risk of population displacement owing to climate-related disasters is four times higher than elsewhere in the world.

In addition, the human consequences are more dramatic in countries lacking the resources needed to respond to their populations’ needs in cases of flooding, drought, hurricanes and other crises.

Women are more affected by the consequences of climate change…

Generally speaking, we know that women are more affected by the effects of climate change than men, because existing inequalities are often exaggerated in crisis situations. Those situations add to women’s workloads and may present new threats to their safety, notably in the face of aggression and other forms of abuse. Take the example of drought exacerbated by climate change: in many rural areas it’s still the women who collect water. If that water becomes scarcer, the women’s task grows more complicated. On top of that, if they have to flee a climate disaster , they’re then obliged to find water in unfamiliar areas. Frequently they travel with their children, and so have to take care of them as well.

…but are also leaders in finding solutions!

What do we have to do for women to have a say? We have to change social and economic norms, create spaces, and support their leadership. That way they may very well propose new solutions for adapting to climate change. Women have knowledge, skills and concrete ideas for developing and implementing more equitable environmental solutions.

Important changes are necessary if women are to be allowed to participate fully in the decision-making that affects them, so that their whole community can attain greater resiliency in the face of climate change in general.

Towards an economy that’s fair for people and good for the planet

On a planet with limited resources, it’s essential to reduce our environmental impact in order to lessen the damage caused by climate change.

The economist Kate Raworth’s notion of doughnut economics can help us strike a social, ecological and economic balance. This concept informs us about the various ecological “ceilings” that are not to be exceeded: greenhouse gases (GHG), water consumption, chemical pollution, and others. It also defines social thresholds that form a social “floor”: health, education, peace, and so on. A truly sustainable economy is situated somewhere between the ceiling beyond which we’re racing to ecological catastrophe, and the floor below which living conditions are unworthy. A commitment from the richest – who in general are more polluting than others – is crucial to building a fair and sustainable economy.

It’s urgent to act, and right now! Climate-related disasters are affecting all countries, from north to south. We have to open our eyes to the reality of those who are suffering the most and give them a chance to put forward concrete, viable solutions.

The race against the clock to reduce GHG emissions has begun, and helping the hardest-hit populations deal with the effects of climate change is vital.

Don’t miss the exhibition Seeking Refuge, presented at the Biosphère starting May 11, 2024.

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2 Comment(s)
felixandrea's picture

This is a very good article and has a strong message about the inequality in climate change, especially for women. The story of the rice purity test burdens and safety threats that women endure is truly moving.

ypaella's picture

It's true that vulnerability varies greatly depending on where you live, your economic status, and even your gender. I think it's especially important to emphasize the point about women being disproportionately affected tunnel rush, yet also being key to finding solutions.

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