realising absolute gender equality
Will feminism bring down the patriarchy? No, but global warming will

Will feminism bring down the patriarchy? No, but global warming will

With the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2021 report there is now no denying that we are living in the age of the anthropocene where human activity is impacting the earth’s climate. Despite the UN warning that this is a ‘Code Red for Humanity’ we are told that we can still turn things around in the next decade by drastically cutting our carbon emissions.

This got me thinking about individual actions and whether they could ever gain enough momentum to grow into the global response that is needed to reverse global warming. Author Rebecca Solnit still reckons the final obstacles to turning the corner on global warming lies within collective action of individuals, and  a “great groundswell of civil society sufficient to counter” the “corrosive forces of corporations and politics” is needed. She argues that the fear of a far worse world due to global warming should spur us on and she places her hope of a better world as one that can motivate us to change. I agree with her: nothing is going to change unless we say it is going to change. (unless we are the change or unless we make the change)

I am reminded of Irish artist John Byrne’s 2003 video work “Would you Die for Ireland?” where he asks pedestrians in Cork, Dublin and Belfast the title question. The question was disarming in its simplicity and encourages further explanations of what ‘Ireland’ means to individuals. It also indirectly gauged the public’s appetite for collective action – are we all of the same ‘for Ireland’ mindset? As it turns out quite a few people would die for Ireland, but more for an Ireland linked to a cause they believed in such as family or individual freedoms. In the context of global warming, “would you die for the planet?” could be a fitting solution to humanity’s code red.

Setting aside mass global suicide as a solution, the biggest problem with reversing global warming is that we as individuals, although contributing to the cause, do not hold the solution. This lies firmly with corporations and States, in a word: Capitalism.

With my climate anxiety rising I questioned where this leaves the notion that every individual can make a difference in the fight against global warming. Columnist and writer Arwa Mahdawi glumly reminds me that, “[I]ts easier to imagine the end of the world than to end capitalism.” One thing is for certain, gone are the days of believing I could make a difference by going vegan once per month and diligently cleaning and separating my plastic waste. Capitalism had created a ‘green’  reality for me, and I was able to occupy it for a while, to feel content and satisfied that I was ‘doing my bit’ for the planet. My ‘green’ efforts now seem like silly, insufficient gestures born of powerlessness and blind indenture to a capitalist system.

Bringing down capitalism, and with it the patriarchy, is no easy task, as a system of politics and corporations that values money, profit and productivity above all else has little room for the greater good. Is it possible to harness capitalism and take ownership of the change that I want to see? A matriarchal model of capitalism could work provided it has real sustainable economies that serve the well-being of the communities it supports. Luckily for me (and humanity) some inspirational women have setup the framework for change so I don’t have to.

Community ownership as an alternative to the corporate ownership structure of the present patriarchal capitalist system can be achieved with minimal participants and huge amounts of goodwill and a shared collective drive to achieve something positive. This happened in Scotland when a community “achieved the impossible” by completing a land buy-out and preserving the land as a nature reserve. A similar success is seen with Power for People an organisation thhat campaigns for rapid transition to 100% clean energy through a community energy revolution.

Change from the inside is also crucial to altering the behaviour of global corporations that cause the most damage and can seem like unmoving monoliths that are too large to change. The not-for-profit organisation ShareAction wants to build a sustainable community-driven investment system that trains volunteer shareholders  to ask relevant questions on sustainability at annual general meetings that will influence the future decisions of the company. Change from the inside is also the mission at the centre of Women for Election. An Irish organisation that provides workshops to empower women to stand for elected office.

All of these movements have empowerment and change from within at the centre of their mission. ..the happenstance of my birth affords me the privilege to influence and affect change. There are women a lot cleverer than me who think they have a solution and I’d rather follow them than make a man who launches himself into space on the backs of underpaid workers even more rich.

An excerpt from Issue 3 of the r. a. g. e. zine. More available here