Katie Sims / Sun Staff Photographer

Hilary Faxon, PhD Candidate, discusses climate risk in Myanmar and the impacts on women farmers at "Engendering Change" presentation.

October 2, 2016

Panelists Explore How Environmental Effects Vary Based on Gender Identity

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Three student panelists explored how environmental issues, such as climate change, impact individuals differently based on their gender identification at a panel presentation Friday.

Cornell Environmental Collective Director Cole Norgaarden ’17 said the event aimed to “challenge the gender binary,” but the panelists primarily focused on the effect environmental change has on women.

“We will be talking about how women are disproportionately impacted by climate change and environmental issues, as opposed to men, and how those experiences are very different depending on your identity,” Norgaarden said.

Tamar Law ’17 and Lisa Malloy ’17 discussed the idea of solastalgia — a loss of “solace in a place that you find as your home environment.”

“Since the woman’s task is often correlated to providing for their family or … [nourishing] the land, we see that these women have very specific relationships to the land,” Malloy said.

Law and Malloy questioned “how nature, culture and gender overlap” and raised the topic of ecofeminism — the idea of “reclaiming femininity.”

“There is not one ecofeminism, but there is an agreement among theorists in the ecofeminist perspective that the domination of women and the domination of nature are interconnected and related,” Law said. “Environmental efforts are vital to integrate with feminist work.”

Doctoral student Hilary Faxon discussed women, farmlands and floods. Faxon said her presentation was inspired by the time she spent in Myanmar — the second most vulnerable country in the world to climate change.

Faxon said the division of labor was a significant issue as “certain tasks were shared and certain were very gendered.”

“In Myanmar, and a lot of places, women deal with seeds and seed saving,” she said. “Men plow … and also men and women share the task of harvesting.”

Faxon also described the legal, technical and cultural barriers women farmers in Myanmar face.

“There is an assumption often that the female farmer is a phrase that makes sense, but for a lot of women in Myanmar, they see themselves culturally as workers, helpers and not farmers,” she said.

Faxon also highlighted the way floods disrupt livelihoods and said women often do no have a much control in relocating.

“The emotion of humor is really big in my work and really big for mobilizing women in Myanmar,” she said. “Maybe that’s one way we can think about the power of emotion in these resistances.”

The panel was hosted by the Cornell Environmental Collaborative, Cornell Women’s Resource Center, The F Word, Think Big Live Green, Planned Parenthood Generation Action and Climate Justice Cornell.