It’s said: “The bear has forty ballads to sing, all on wild pears.” That counts for our case too. We have to speak on all what have happened and all what may happen (and yes, the situation of women too!) connected to the risk of global climate meltdown. An exaggerated proposal? Not so, really.
That’s what the 15 year old Swedish activist girl “Striker Greta” says: Greta Thunberg, for three weeks until the general elections, ditching school and sitting-in in front of the parliament’s gates handed out leaflets every damn day to ask: “How can they expect that I feel safe albeit knowing that we are faced with the heaviest and most serious, most dreadful crisis of human history? How can I feel safe albeit knowing that unless we act now it will be too late very soon? Greta had realized the risk of the meltdown when she was just 12: “When I had first heard of global warming I had thought: ‘This can’t be true. Something as serious as to threaten our mere existence can’t happen!”
Why she thought so, then? “I had thought so, since if it were true we could not possibly speak about any other issue.”
Striker Greta pursued her activities after the elections; she could not do without calling people for civil disobedience to fight the climate meltdown before 10 thousand in the biggest climate action ever seen in Finland. Further she has become the major source of inspiration for Australia’s secondary school students who are planning to stage the most striking demonstration in the country’s history.
And to mention, girls are heading the planned climate actions in Australia.
“Greta at Strike” – Lesson 2: Civil Disobedience by Ditching Classes
Climate Revolt Spreads Across The World
This 15 year-old girl is not alone: 90 year-old celebrated thinker and activist Noam Chomsky too is of exactly the same opinion. In a striking interview he recently gave to Democracy Now radio/tv the professor told:
“We can’t overemphasize the fact that we’re in a unique moment of human history. In fact, we have been, ever since 1945. In 1945, human history changed dramatically. In August 1945, humans demonstrated that their vaunted intelligence had created a means to destroy life on Earth. Didn’t quite have it yet at that point, but it was obvious that it was going to extend and expand, as it in fact did.
“It was not known in 1945 that we were not only entering the nuclear age, but entering a new geological epoch, what geologists call the Anthropocene, an epoch in which human activity is having severe and deleterious effects on the environment in which human and other life can survive. We also entered into what’s now called the sixth extinction, a rapid extinction of species, which is comparable to the fifth extinction 65 million years ago when an asteroid, huge asteroid, hit the Earth, we know.
“[That is] a sharp escalation and destruction of the environment, not only global warming, carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases, but also such things as plastics in the ocean, which are predicted to be greater than the weight of fish in the ocean not far in the future.
“So we’re destroying the environment for organized human life. We’re threatening a terminal disaster with regular nuclear confrontations. Anybody who’s looked at the record, which is shocking, would have to conclude that it’s a miracle that we’ve survived this long. Humans beings, right now, this generation, for the first time in history, have to ask, “Will human life survive?
“And not in the far future will organized societies—those are the issues we should be concerned with. These are—everything else pales in significance in comparison with this.”
Yes. Everything else pales in significance in comparison with this! The first notice was thus issued by the activist girl Greta. The second notice came from the author of more than 100 books, emeritus professor and activist Noam Chomsky. And now it’s the turn for the fierce notice by poet-writer-inventor Margaret Atwood.
78 year-old Canadian author Margaret Atwood in her famous landmark novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” which has been turned into an acclaimed TV series, depicted a dystopian future in which women are deprived of all rights and turned into breeding machines for men. She had openly predicted for years now that much worse of the depictions of her post-apocalyptical dystopia would become reality.
In a two-day event, in early June, at the British Library, she had the opportunity to explicitly express -and thoroughly discuss- her fatal warnings once again. According to Atwood the situation was very clear. Contrary to the general belief this wasn’t climate change – it was “everything change”.
And the women? They would “be directly and adversely affected by climate change.” Atwood explains this catastrophic “scenario” in the “cold”, sharp and net discourse of the scientist than the poetic discourse of the belletrist: Atwood:”More extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels that will destroy arable land, and disruption of marine life will all result in less food. Less food will mean that women and children get less, as the remaining food supplies will be unevenly distributed, even more than they are.”
Atwood, further stating in stark words that “climate change will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars and then brutal repressions and totalitarianisms,” concludes that “women do badly in wars – worse than in peacetime.”
Under Her Eye: Women and Climate Change
Margaret Atwood: women will bear the brunt of climate future dystopia
“Everything change” is simply “fate change” for hundreds of millions of young girls across the earth. Investigative journalist Gethin Chamberlain, in an amazing reportage last year on the child brides in the poor African countries had slapped the issue on our faces just in the title of his article: “Why climate change is creating a new generation of child brides?“
“Everyone has their own idea of what climate change looks like.” says Chamberlain. “For some, it’s the walrus struggling to find space on melting ice floes on… For others, it’s an apocalyptic vision of cities disappearing beneath the waves. But for more and more girls across Africa, the most palpable manifestation of climate change is the baby in their arms as they sit watching their friends walk to school.” And this is a reality for ever increasing number of girls.
Many experts are warning that this is a real and growing crisis: The emergence of a “generation of child brides” as a direct result of a changing climate.
The Brides of the Sun reporting project, funded by the European Journalism Centre, set out to try to assess the scale the crisis: And time and again the child brides and their parents told an increasingly familiar story. In recent years they had noticed the temperatures rising, the rains becoming less predictable and coming later and sometimes flooding where there had not been flooding before. Families that would once have been able to afford to feed and educate several children reported that they now faced an impossible situation. And for the families whose incomes have plummeted the only solution was for one or more daughters to get married.
In 2015 the United Nations Population Fund estimated that 13.5 million children would marry under the age of 18 in that year alone – 37,000 child marriages every day – including 4.4 million married before they were 15. Every day 37 thousand “child bride”! Just in one country only (Malawi) 30% to 40% of child marriages are estimated due to the floods and drought caused by climate change.
According to an analysis by the World Bank and Save the Children One in every three girls in the developing (i.e. poor) countries marry before the age of 18! Amazing enough, but there is worse: According to UN Population Fund (UNFPA) given the present trend only in Africa the number of “child brides” would double to reach 310 million by 2050.
More than 20,000 underage girls marry illegally each day, claims study
UNICEF’s 2018 report displays a worsening trend: daily 39,000 will be prematurely married. According to the report, across the world live 700 million women who have married earlier than 18 years of age. They have not only been deprived of their childhood, but they are also socially isolated, deprived of familial and friendly relations, lacking material and immaterial resources. Education and employment conditions are almost non existent. Further, the situation of present and future generations looks even worse: In the coming 12 years the present number of 700 million child brides is calculated to increase up to 950 million, nearly 1 Bn. 1 Bn child brides!
Child Marriages: 39,000 Every Day
The course of things looks bleak. An example: In Southern Sudan where the severe climate change crisis leads to drought and hunger and for all those reasons is wretched in the nightmare of civil war and a wild devastation dubbed as “battle for cattle” is going on. Girls are forced to leave their schools as child brides who are exchanged for cattle. More than half of them are forced to get married before they reach 18 and other 10 percent even earlier than 15. Activists who have spoken to Chamberlain in another reportage on the same issue warn the world that these percentages are on the rise.
It is not clearly mentioned for how many cattle a girl becomes a bride. But one of the girls gives an approximate figure: 90. Give the cattle and get the bride. One of the girls who attended the school, was married at 15 to a man aged 29. Her father, a soldier, had been killed by a gunman and the family needed the 90 cows from her marriage in order to survive. “The main reason was hunger.” the girl says. “I am seeing a lot of my friends being married now because of the hunger.”
This child bride is now 21, a young mother. There is nothing she will be able to do to stop her husband selling their daughter for cows when the time comes. And then she wisely summarizes in a few sentences the social, cultural and ecological framework what determines the male female relations and ensuing male violence: “It is my husband’s choice,” she says. “In my husband’s house everything is by force – there is no request. If I refuse there will be a problem. My husband will beat me.”
South Sudan’s battle for cattle is forcing schoolgirls to become teenage brides
Let’s get back to the “climate change and … a new generation of child brides” reportage for a last time. In one of the striking, touching and distressful pictures the girl dressed in colorful garments, sitting in front of her adobe home is seen shyly smiling at her daughter who looks at her with a big laugh. The caption reads: “Majuma Julio, now 17, married at 15 and has a daughter nearly two: ‘I don’t blame anyone. The weather just changed.'”
“Why climate change is creating a new generation of child brides?
The statistics related to the situation of the child brides in Turkey in the UNICEF 2018 report reflects a not so bright situation. In Turkey the girls who have been forced to premature marriages before 15 years of age comprise 15 percent of the total. According to these figures Turkey, among 197 countries in the world, finds itself down on the 115th row in child marriages. (Better than the last country on the row, South Sudan, but worse than Myanmar for instance.)
Child Marriages: 39,000 Every Day
In this article more general and vital issues such as equality of women with men, empowering women and girls, equal opportunities for women and girls, elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence are excluded but the specific issue of “child brides” and climate change.
To pass by touching only a single point: In the 2018 UN Report on Sustainable Development, decrease is observed in some forms of discrimination of women and girls, and also 40 percent decrease in child marriage in Southeast Asia in 2000-2017. Nevertheless structural changes remain largely insufficient. Another more important, and even fatal shortcoming is that the 2018 UN Sustainable Development Report completely excludes the dramatic deterioration in the social, cultural and economic situation of women and girls due to climate change. This shortcoming, particularly in the aftermath of the publication of the alarming report by the Intergovernmental Climate Change Panel (“12 Years Remaining”) seems a a serious negligence indeed.
The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018
Finally, it could be helpful to refer in this article, a dramatic media report dating May 2018 on the situation not of the “child brides” but of pregnant children -most of whom are Syrian refugees- in Turkey: According to a report by Barış Terkoğlu of ODA TV, in a scandal what broke out after a complaint in a research hospital in Istanbul law enforcement authorities were uniformed of 392 cases of child pregnancy and the head prosecutor had ordered investigation into the case only after the scandal was heard.
“İstanbul’da bir hastaneye çoğu Suriyeli 392 hamile çocuk getirildi, savcılık 59 doktor hakkında soruşturma başlattı”
Yet this was not the first of its kind! Earlier, in another hospital in Istanbul, the law enforcement authorities had been uniformed of 115 cases of child pregnancy in five months. According to the daily Birgün report, “What is discerned is only the tip of the iceberg; the situation is the same across the country” said the social worker who revealed the case.
Hamile çocuk skandalını ortaya çıkaran uzman: Bunlar buz dağının görünen kısmı
Are these related to the climate crisis? Unfortunately we have to answer “yes”. “Yes very closely related.” One of the reasons behind that horrible civil -and regional- war what displaced almost half of the Syrian population was the drought arising out of climate change and of the domestic immigration emanating from that. The disappointment and revolt of the youth who were compelled to emigrate due to the drought later transformed into a wildfire of war spreading across the region.
Profesör Harvey Weiss ile İklim ve Uygarlık Üzerine Bir Söyleşi
In spite of the apparently destructive developments, some other inspiring changes should not be missed. Academician, writer and activist Andrew Simms who campaigns for The Rapid Transition Alliance against climate change and resulting destruction believes that changing the bitter fate is possible.
In his last month’s Guardian article, Simms analyses the winds of change across the world. In these days when it is believed that many societies are dominated by anomie the opposite may also be observed he writes and says that new and far reaching social norms are rapidly arising and this transformation might be life saving.
“The latest science tells us that nothing short of rapid, transformative change in our infrastructure and behaviour can prevent the loss of the climate we depend on” the author says. He hopes that after smoking and drink-driving, climate change which provides the next big behaviour-change challenge could be defeated through a tough struggle.
One of his two most interesting examples to that change is the women’s #MeToo movement which rapidly expanded and blocked that arrogant hegemony of the rich&powerful men. (The other example is the unavoidable rise of the vegan diet in many countries).
“The speed of #MeToo movement gives me hope” says Simms. “We can still stop the climate change.”
The speed of #MeToo gives me hope – we can still stop climate change
Margaret Atwood is right: This is not Climate Change – Everything Change.
Ah, its OK then- Let’s change everything! (ÖM/ŞA/APA/EK)