Skip to main content

Students take part in a protest calling for action on climate change, in Ottawa, on March 15, 2019.Chris Wattie/Reuters

This is the weekly Amplify newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this e-mail newsletter to you, you can sign up for Amplify and all Globe newsletters here.

Sierra Bein is a content editor and author of Globe Climate, The Globe’s climate change newsletter.

Of the many things on my mind these days, I expect that climate change will forever be in my top three.

Last week the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the most comprehensive and strongly worded assessment of the current and future impacts of climate change to date. The biggest take-away is that climate change is definitely tied to human influence, and a lot of effects are irreversible.

All this was published in the middle of another gruelling wildfire season, record high summer temperatures and damaging floods. And even as I write this from downtown Toronto, the Air Quality Index that has recently appeared on my weather app tells me that it would be better to stay inside today.

I write The Globe’s climate newsletter each week, and have watched our coverage expand dramatically since it launched in June, 2020. The pandemic was in full swing, and the prospect of a green recovery was a leading news story. Readers have since shown us a hunger for this topic and after this summer I think it’s safe to say it’s marked as highly urgent on a lot of people’s radars – right before an election too, and not to mention the UN’s landmark COP26 climate summit.

But on top of my professional commitments to understanding the climate crisis, I also experience it with personal anxiety. I think of the small ways I can change my life for the better. I think of the big questions too, like do I want to have kids if we know things aren’t going to improve?

Now, obviously this crisis affects everyone on Earth, so I was surprised to learn that there is still a gender divide in how Canadians view what is happening.

Earlier this year, the UN released a survey, part of which focused on the “influence of gender on belief in the climate emergency.” Of the 50 countries that participated, Canada’s gender gap was the most pronounced, where women and girls were more likely to say that climate change is an emergency than men and boys by 12 per cent. This is an overwhelming difference (and opposite) from the global average where 4 per cent more men and boys were more likely to see climate change as an emergency.

Another chart shows women were 18 per cent more likely than men to support local communities, Indigenous peoples and women who are environmental stewards, compared with a three per cent gender gap globally.

In some ways, this isn’t completely surprising, considering that women are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change all over the world. Historically, marginalized women are even more affected. I think of Indigenous women, whose knowledge and experience in fighting climate change are unmatched both traditionally and today, and whose voices are some of the most valuable in leading us to a better future. Are they being heard?

Elevating women’s voices as we tackle the climate crisis will be paramount to our success.

I think of those who have been leading the way in Canada, and the first name that comes to mind is always Autumn Peltier, who was appointed chief water commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation and is a globally renowned water protector at only 16 years old. While at the World Economic Forum she had this to say about the federal government, while sharing the stage with well-known Swedish activist Greta Thunberg: “It is almost like they don’t believe climate change is real.”

This sentiment reminds me of another young woman, Indigenous environmental activist Giiwedinong Kisinaaikwe, who told me “it’s not a choice to fight, it’s the only option because the courts won’t hear you, the government doesn’t listen and people in your community are dying.”

Each week in The Globe’s climate newsletter, we profile a Canadian changemaker, someone who is dedicating their time to help make a positive difference in our country’s environment. An overwhelming amount of the people nominated for this profile series are women, and young women at that.

One woman we highlighted is 24-year-old Shaelyn Wabegijig, who grew up in Rama First Nation, and is a co-ordinator for the Kawartha World Issues Centre. She says her work addressing the Ontario government’s inadequate climate targets has given her solace: “I focus on that and try to leave a positive impact.”

Maryam and Nivaal Rehman, 19-year-old twins from Clarington, Ont., are co-founders of the World With MNR, a non-profit that uses advocacy, storytelling and development projects to take action for climate justice, gender equality and inclusivity. “We have always believed that climate action is in our hands, and we encourage you to continue joining efforts for environmental change because together, we can protect the people and places we love,” they wrote in the newsletter.

And then there’s Kyla Pascal, who is of Métis-Dominican descent and is a community builder with Indigenous Climate Action. Lately, she’s turned her focus to healing justice. “We can accomplish a lot by healing our own wounds and relationships with one another. Whether it is working with our grief of loss of land as Indigenous peoples, or navigating the impacts environmental racism has on racialized folks or unpacking our own privileges. Healing ourselves is healing the Earth. This too is climate work.”

As clearly outlined in the IPCC report, we need massive change to alter our path forward. We need to call upon our institutions to accept this challenge of extraordinary transformation, and to let each of us play our part.

Governments need to listen to what these women, and countless others, have been saying, and take swift action. We won’t succeed until all voices are heard.

What else we’re thinking about:

I’ve been thinking a lot about the names of things in nature. A fun one for Canadians (and maybe especially those who live in Toronto) is the word “raccoon,” which comes from the Algonquian/Powhatan word arahkunem, meaning he who scratches with his hands. But the raccoon is also known for being drawn to water, so it’s funny to me that the German name translates to washbear and the French word, raton laveur, similarly means washing rat. I see a deep value in the names we give to all things in nature. This is a conversation among bird watchers too, with some arguing to decolonize the names of birds that were named after the people who discovered them.

Inspired by something in this newsletter? If so, we hope you’ll amplify it by passing it on. And if there’s something we should know, or feedback you’d like to share, send us an e-mail at amplify@globeandmail.com.