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Climate change is sexist – and it’s our fault

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Cards on the table: I’m a woman. So the fact that climate change is posing a particularly acute threat to the entirety of womankind is one that I find slightly terrifying. What truly worries me though is that, like the whole smoking mass of mistakes that is man-made climate change, we can’t put the blame on nature. Kate Hawkes is a blogger and marketing assistant with Irish eco-business Celestial Green Ventures.

When I first came across the idea of a ‘gender-sensitive’ approach to climate change and its consequences, I admit that I came over pretty gender-sensitive myself. A ‘Discrimination!’ flag popped up somewhere in my head, and I was ready to go from zero to Ferociously Indignant in under seven seconds. ‘Gender is a human construct,’ I fumed – floods, droughts and food shortages don’t discriminate between young and old, rich and poor, and certainly not between men and women.

But then I found a statement from The Commission on the Status of Women in 2008, which agrees that ‘climate change is not a gender-neutral phenomenon’.  A bit of digging uncovers research from respected global organisations like the United Nations and the Population Reference Bureau proving that, whilst the effects of rising temperatures are having devastating consequences for all humans, women are particularly vulnerable in everything from losing their livelihoods to losing their lives – and not for the reasons you might think.

Yes, basic differences in biology do have an effect on survival rates in climate-linked disasters. This is actually sometimes in favour of women, who, for example, can cope with food shortages better than men due to their higher body fat. Even so, more women are killed by natural disasters, and a 2006 study by London School of Economics suggests the real reason behind this disparity. The research, which took data from 4,605 natural disasters, found that where the population enjoyed equal rights for men and women in their everyday lives, the survival rate was roughly equal. However, where women experienced lower economic and social rights, more women than men were killed in disasters, and in many places across the globe it’s this situation that is the reality. Their social standing and cultural roles mean that women are put at a considerable and needless disadvantage when it comes to thriving or even surviving through the consequences of climate change.

According to the UN, women still ‘constitute the majority of the world’s poor’, making them likely to be affected particularly harshly by the economic fallout from climate change. In developing countries this is especially true, as women are ‘more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.’ It’s also largely women who have the responsibility of fetching water and food for their families from already scant sources. You’d be mistaken in thinking this is limited to lower-income countries: when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005 it was women, mostly African-Americans, who were the hardest hit, as the most impoverished sector of the population.

As well as imbalanced access to resources, gender-unequal social standing can lead to limited mobility, and in the context of natural disasters this can be deadly. Responding to floods, cyclones and tsunamis needs immediate mobility, but cultural constraints on women’s movements could restrict their escape, their access to shelter or to healthcare. Whilst extreme weather events linked to climate change are out of human hands, these limiting factors are entirely the creation of them. “For example, women have physical limitations because of the clothes they wear or because in some cultures, girls are not taught how to swim,” reported Verona Collantes, Intergovernmental Specialist for UN Women at the 2015 Road to Sendai conference. Citing Collantes in a piece written earlier this year, climate campaigner Renee Juliene Karunungan explains that “for many affected by Typhoon Haiyan, simple decisions such as the freedom to decide when to evacuate could not be made without their husbands’ permission.” Particularly troubling is the observation that some women avoid using emergency shelters as it would leave them vulnerable to domestic and sexual violence. Spaces intended to offer safety are essentially out of bounds for women, and transformed into somewhere that seem to pose an even higher risk than the devastation outside.

The fact I found most shocking of all? A UN factsheet on climate change notes that ‘boys are likely to receive preferential treatment in rescue efforts’. I really want to believe that I’m misunderstanding the reality behind this statement – but I just don’t think I am. The word ‘preferential’ gives an unmistakeable message about the intentions of those rescuers. Maybe the theory is that boys have a better chance of actually surviving their rescue – but surely rescue should be about aiming to save everyone, not about picking and choosing.

The irony in this is that these same female social roles that are the source of vulnerability also put women in an ideal position to combat climate change. As the individuals in charge of household resources, they have the capacity to make a difference on the day-to-day emissions and environmental impact of families worldwide, and as primary care-givers they have the power to bring up an ethically responsible new generation. The majority of energy in developing nations still comes from biomass fuels like wood and charcoal, the management of which is the work of the women. In OECD countries, women are more likely to recycle and make more ethical consumer choices, and the International Labour Organisation reports that ‘women have a smaller carbon footprint than men due to different consumption patterns and lifestyle (…) regardless of whether they are rich or poor.’ Yet in many countries there are still gender differences in training and expectations, and therefore women are often not included in discussions on energy and climate change mitigation.

So, yes, I am frustrated and frightened by this partly because I am a woman. But those feelings are largely because, as a human, I resent the fact we’re putting up even more barriers to climate action than there needs to be. The current social limitations on women mean that a ‘gender sensitive’ response to climate change is clearly necessary, but surely the real solution would be to address the constructs that are causing these disparities, rather than embedding them in environmental policy. As a result, we’d also be opening up the climate discussion to a group of individuals that could have valuable knowledge, experience and influence on the topic, and as 50% of the world population that’s one statistic that certainly can’t be ignored.

Environment

5 Eco-friendly Appliance Maintenance Tips

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Eco-friendly Appliance
Shutterstock Photos - By Punyhong | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/punyhong

Modern day society is becoming ever more conscious about the effects of human consumption on the environment & the planet.

As a collective, more people are considering taking action to positively counteract their environmental footprint. This is accomplished by cutting down on water consumption, recycling and switching from plastic to more sustainable materials. Although most people forget about the additional things that can be done at home to improve your individual eco footprint.

Appliances, for example, can be overlooked when it comes to helping the environment, despite the fact they are items which are found in every household, and if they are not maintained effectively they can be detrimental to the environment. The longer an appliance is used, the less of an impact it has on the environment, so it is essential for you to keep them well maintained.

If you’re considering becoming more eco-conscious, here are 5 handy appliance maintenance tips to help you.

Don’t Forget to Disconnect From Power First

General maintenance of all your appliances start with disconnecting them from power; microwaves, washing machines and ovens all use residual energy when plugged in, so it’s essential to unplug them.

Disconnecting the plugs can help keep them in their best condition, as it ensures no electrical current is running through them whilst they are supposed to be out of use. Additionally, this can help you save on energy bills. By doing this you are minimising your energy footprint.

Here we break down 4 tips to keep the most popular household appliances maintained.

Eco-Friendly Oven Maintenance

Ovens generally require very little maintenance, although it is essential to stay on top of cleaning.

A simple task to make sure you don’t have any issues in the future is to check the oven door has a tight seal. To do this ensure the oven is cold, open the oven door and use your hands to locate the rubber seal. You can now feel for any tears or breaks. If any have occurred simply replace the seal. More oven tips can be read here.

Eco-Friendly Refrigerator Maintenance

When keeping a fridge in good condition, don’t forget about exterior maintenance. Refrigerator coils, although an external fixture, can cause damage when overlooked.

Refrigerator coils can be found either at the front or rear of a fridge (check you user manual if you are unsure of its location). These tend to accumulate various sources of dust and dirt over a substantial time-period, which clog refrigerator coils, causing the refrigerator to have to work twice as hard to stay cool. An easy tip to solve this is to periodically use a vacuum to get rid of any loose dirt.

Eco-Friendly Washing Machine Maintenance

Most people tend to remember the basics tasks for maintaining a washing machine, such as not to overload the machine, not to slam the door and to ensure the washing machine is on a solid and level platform.

In addition, it is necessary to routinely do a maintenance wash for your washing machine. This means running an empty wash on the highest temperature setting and letting it complete a full wash to erase any build up and residue. You should repeat this task at least once a month.

Try to schedule this task around your bulk wash load times to save on water consumption.

This will help keep your washing machine in peak working condition.

Eco-Friendly Dishwasher Maintenance Tips

Dishwasher maintenance can be simple if implemented after every wash cycle.

To keep your best dishwasher hygiene standards, scrape away excess food whilst making sure to keep the filter at the bottom of the cavity empty between cycles. This simple task can be highly effective at preventing food build up from occurring in your dishwasher.

If you need additional tips or tasks you, can reference your manufacturer’s guidebook to check for a full breakdown. You can also head to Service Force’s extensive database of repair and maintenance manuals – including extensive troubleshooting guides for all of the critical appliance maintenance procedures.

In conclusion, you can save both money and energy by keeping your appliances in peak condition. The steps outlined in this guide will help us all preserve the environment and reduce industrial waste from discarded appliances.

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Environment

Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living

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Eco-Living
Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.

Mottainai

Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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