"Women hold up half the sky"
Women are climate defenders. Image Credit: MADRE organization
Climate change threatens the lives of all across the world. The Earth consistently undergoes natural changes, but human activity since the 1800s has propelled such shifts into a eminent threat not only against humanity but to all life forms. As a result of climate change the world will continue to see an increase in detrimental shifts in the temperature and weather patterns. Currently the Earth is 1.5°C warmer than the late 1800s, with the last decade being the the warmest. While scientists have deemed a higher temperature would jeaporadize a livable climate, it is projected that by the end of the century the Earth will have warmed by 2.7°C. Thus, all hands need to be on deck in order to ensure this is not the fate of the planet.
Women face inequalities due to climate change, not only directly through farming during extreme weather events but also in the opportunities present for them to become scientists. They are significantly underrepresented in all facets of the fight against climate change from representation in the field of science to decision-making processes. What remains the same is that the inclusion of women is integral to averting climate change.
Women leading climate change solutions - Video Credit: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security
This article will showcase some of the many incredible women across the world that are dedicating themselves to tackling climate change. Here we take look at each continent and the great work taking place in each.
- AFRICA -
Eritrea - Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe is a Professor of Soil Biochemistry at the University of California. Before moving to the United States, Asmeret's completed a BSc in Soil and Water Conservation at the University of Asmara, Eritrea. Asmeret then continued her pursuit of a career in soil science and global by gaining an MSc in Resource Development (Political Ecology) at Michigan State University and a PhD in Biogeochemistry at the University of California.
Her research interests lie in understanding soil processes and the everchanging environmental conditions effect such processes. Within her research group, she is working on understanding the processes and mechanisms that regulate soil organic matter (SOM) and the greenhouse gases (GHG) released into the atmosphere from soil. Asmeret has also given a TED talk about the integral role of soil management and degradation within climate change. If you would like to listen to her insightful talk click here.
Rwanda - Dr. Myriam Mujawamariya is a lecturer at the University of Rwanda. In 2007, she received a BSc in Biology at the University of Rwanda. After this Myriam went on to complete a masters in Plant Sciences at Wageningen University, Netherlands and a PhD in Natural Sciences at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research focus is plant ecology and eco-physiology. Myriam's field of interest is in understanding how tropical forests and different indigenous trees respond to climate change.
She was also named one of the winners for the 2022 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World. This was due to her research surrounding climate change and the environment.
- ASIA -
INDIA - Dr. Ketna Matkar is the Founder and Managing Director at Cipher Environmental Solutions LLP, offering ethical advisor and consulting. Using her expertise Ketna offers support in developing plans, policy advocacy and solutions to environmental concerns. She has worked with clients such as Centre for Sustainable Governance, Mumbai, Indian Pollution Control Association. Through her work she provides support in the environmental research projects of others. Her extensive background includes a PhD in Microbiology and training in Environmental Law and Policy, Climate change and Environment Impact Assessment.
- EUROPE -
NORTH MACEDONIA - Macedonian climate and social justice organiser, Simona Getova, dedicated many years raising awareness of the exploitative and harmful mining in the village of Kazandol. Simona is currently a PhD candidate in the field of political ecology and is interested in researching socio-ecological justice and low-carbon transitions in the post-socialist Western Balkan countries. Before starting her PhD she was awarded a MSc in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management from the Central European University. Her work has centred around climate change policy-making and climate justice training for civil society. Simona also volunteers with Young Friends of the Earth Europe.
- NORTH AMERICA -
CANADA - Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao are the cofounder's of Novoloop (previously BioCellection). Novoloop is a "low-carbon advanced recycling and sustainable materials provider that upgrades common plastic waste into performance materials." At the core of this company and central to its founding story is the pressing matter of plastic waste. Post-consumer, end-of-life polyethylene is intercepted from landfill. The polyethylene waste is upcycled into chemical materials that are useful. This ensures such plastics are saved from landfills and repurposed. If you would like to see the full process of how this repurposing takes place click here. Plastic waste is detrimental to the health of the planet and all beings that share it. For humans we are becoming increasingly exposed to plastics, causing health complications such as reproductive issues and cancers. Animals on both land and sea are also mistaking such plastics for food and consume these causing diseases and death. It also pollutes their habitats and effects the biodiversity in many places.
Miranda attended the University of Pennsylvania and in 2016 was awarded her BA in Biology with minors in philosophy and engineering entrepreneurship. Jeanny holds a HBSc in Biochemistry and Environmental Sciences from the University of Toronto. The pair attended the McGee Secondary, Vancouver together where they met at a recycling club. Perhaps a foreshadow of the brilliant work the pair would go on to do together. These young women are phenomenal examples of the great things women in STEM are accomplishing. Jeanny remarks:
"Every single time I fail something, I try again, I get closer."
- SOUTH AMERICA -
MEXICO - Climatologist Ruth Cerezo-Mota has been working with regional climate models for more than 15 years. In this field she studies extreme precipitation events and the interannual variability of rainfall, particularly in Mexico. Extreme precipitation refers to the ability for warmer air to hold more water vapor, with such accumulated moisture increasing intense precipitation events. Though not limited to, flooding is an imminent threat of heavy precipitation.
Ruth graduated with a BS in Oceanography from UABC, a master's in Physical Oceanography from CICESE and a PhD in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Sciences from the University of Oxford.
- AUSTRALIA/OCEANIA -
MICRONESIA - Nicole Yamase grew up in Pohnpei but moved within the Micronesian region, regardless she was always surrounded by the ocean. Being exposed to the coral and ocean life through snorkelling sparked her dream of pursuing a career in marine biology. Nicole is now a PhD candidate in Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she is researching how climate change effects photosynthesis and the growth rates of tropical macroalgae. Prior to this she was awarded a BA in Biology and a BS in Environmental Studies at the Chaminade University of Honolulu. Last year Nicole made history when she became the first Pacific Islander to embark on the Challenger Deep voyage taking her to the deepest known part of the ocean, Mariana Trench.
It is incredibly important to Nicole to encourage more Pacific Islanders to pursue the field of STEM and as such wishes one day to return to Pohnpei and start her own marine lab and bring on board local scientists.
- ANTARTICA -
Glaciologist Dr. Indrani Das works in both Antarctica and Greenland studying the ice sheets and the processes that influence them to change mass. She does this via satellite and airborne remote sensing. In the early stages of her career, Indrani was awarded both a BSc and MSc in Physics before completing a PhD in Atmospheric Physics at the Indian Space Research Organization.
Her research interests include ice-ocean interaction, artic studies and ice-atmosphere interaction. Indrani also works on the climate history of Greenland ice sheets as well as paleo observations of accumulation rates. Amongst many other things she is also a council member of the International Glaciological Society.
For us to have fighting change to secure the health of the planet for all living beings now and in the future, women must be supported. Recognising those that are achieving incredible things in regard to climate change is an important step in providing this support. From activists to soil scientists and climatologists, we celebrate all women in the fight against climate change.
Happy International Women's Day from all of us at Astronoir!