Coal may be the dirtiest fuel in climate change terms but testosterone is more dangerous. With male leaders in many parts of the world becoming less environmentally progressive – and in some countries, such as the US, Russia and Brazil, actively celebrating moving backwards – it’s about time they made way for women.
A new podcast, Mothers of Invention, takes a look at the big environmental issues of the day from a female perspective, interviewing women around the world to hear their responses to the crisis. As its presenters, comedian Maeve Higgins and Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland turned climate justice activist, say: climate change “is most definitely a man-made problem, [but] it has a wonderfully feminist solution.”
The six episodes cover everything from environmental law and finance to plastic, public health and food. As MFMers know, meat eating and livestock farming is one of the major contributors to global warming, and the fifth episode, ‘Against the Grain’, touches on the issue as part of a wider exploration of our food systems and how they need to change if we are to prevent runaway global warming.
One of the episode’s “mothers of invention” is Dr Katharine Wilkinson of Project Drawdown, the author of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. She explains that of the top 20 solutions for halting and reversing climate change, eight are to do with food – making it the largest sector for potential impact overall.
She gives a stark example of how significant a role our growing appetite for meat plays in terms of the world’s health: if all the world’s cows, sheep, goats and other ruminants were a country, they would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US.
Another interviewee, the eminent physicist and climate campaigner Dr Vandana Shiva, explains that 50 per cent of greenhouse gases come from the industrial globalised food system, and that “100 per cent of the solution lies in regenerating our forests, rejuvenating farms with more biodiversity, and making our soils organic” – something distinctly at odds with the rush to create more land to raise cattle and grow monocultural food crops to feed them.
Neha Mistra, the co-founder of Solar Sister, which supports women in Africa to create clean energy businesses, and associate Blessing Ekanem, from Nigeria, talk about helping families using old stoves powered using dirty and hazardous fuels swap them in favour of clean ones powered by the sun.
Above all, the women make it clear that the response to climate change has to be collegiate and positive; persuasive rather than proscriptive – something that chimes with the Meat Free Monday approach. Encouraging works better than instructing when it comes to getting people to eat less meat, and if you can win over individuals then you’re on your way to forming a world-changing community. As Wilkinson explains, in order to fix entrenched systems of all kinds, “the biggest impact we can have is through collective action. [And] if climate change isn’t the ultimate we’re-all-in-it-together issue, I’m not sure what is.”