Violence against Women, Resource Extraction and Climate Change

Wherever women have acted against resource extraction, ecological destruction, threat of atomic annihilation they become aware of the connection between patriarchal violence against women, other people and the earth. For women, there is no separation between production and reproduction, land and life, resistance and survival.

Patriarchal systems of capitalism and colonialism don’t recognize or value inherent worth in women’s bodies and the work women do, and instead commodify them. Once women’s bodies are objectified in this way, it positions violence against women as justified, embedding it into the fabric of society. Violence against women is and remains the bedrock for all other kinds of violence.

The impacts of resource extraction operations are not gender neutral. Women can experience the direct and indirect consequences of mining operations in different, and often more pronounced, ways than men. Within resource extraction, the primary benefit forwarded by industry is jobs, which are disproportionately held by men. Women are hired by mining companies but a gender division of labour often occurs where women are relegated to ‘traditional female’ occupations, such as kitchen work, housekeeping, cleaning or laundry and are paid much less, comparatively. Women bear the brunt of many of the negative impacts felt at home: water resources drained and poisoned, women’s capacity to provide food and clean water for their families is undermined, and subsequently lead to an increase in their workload such as having to walk greater distances to access water, fuel/wood, forest products and land to plant food crops, mine blasting creates cracks through people’s homes, increased domestic violence, alcoholism and other licit and illicit substance abuse. It has been suggested that having women around diffuses “industrial tensions” through sexual distraction and sexual relations. This gender stereotyping can then spill over into the community. While mining culture is not responsible for creating a particular form of male culture in regard to women and while there are very many other factors adding to a patriarchal and patronizing way of regarding women, the connections between physical and sexual violence against women and the exploitation of land aren’t random.

In the northeastern B.C. boomtown, of Fort St John, the average income for men in 2006 was $56,000 – $12,000 more than the national average – due largely to new jobs in construction, oil and gas, transportation and communication and mining. By contrast, the average income for women in Fort St. John that year was just $27,000. This income disparity results in women becoming financially dependent on their male partners. Economic dependence is a risk factor for relationship violence. Due to the decline of traditional mechanisms of social control and the influx of a transient male workforce, social and health problems can become more prevalent in communities. These problems can include increased alcohol use, domestic violence, sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections and HIV and AIDS, and sexual exploitation of girls and women.

In a lot of countries Indigenous women are on the frontline of exploitation because the exploitation and rape of land is profoundly and deeply connected with the exploitation and rape of Indigenous girls and women. In Canada, there are over 1,200 reported cases of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women and in Mexico, six women a day are killed many of whom are Indigenous

More than 80 per cent of all lands utilized or occupied by Indigenous peoples lack legal protection, and are highly vulnerable to being seized by private companies, individuals, and governments themselves, in a non-stop drive toward carbon-intensive investments in agriculture, logging, mining, oil and gas, dams and roads, and tourism. “The same development that fuels climate change, continues to rob Indigenous peoples of their human rights,” Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said, stressing the need to protect those right and the traditional knowledge that has kept ecosystems healthy.

The Fashion Industry is Implicated

The facts and figures are in and including the relevant segments of agriculture and manufacturing, 1 in 6 humans on Earth are somehow involved in the global fashion industry. In the mid-1960s, 95 percent of Canadian’s clothes were made domestically; today, 97 percent are made abroad. Eighty million pieces of clothing are sold annually. And an especially disconcerting one: Fashion—a $2.5 trillion sector—is the second most polluting industry on Earth, right behind oil. Manufacturing a piece of clothing has a tremendous impact on the environment—for example, beyond the carbon emissions caused by energy consumption, the typical pair of jeans eats up 1,664 gallons of water in its lifetime. Regardless of this ecological toll, the average Canadian still throws 70 pounds of clothing and textiles into the trash every year.

We’re disconnected from the people who make our clothing as 97% of items are now made overseas. There are roughly 40 million garment workers in the world today; many of whom do not share the same rights or protections that many people in the West do. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world and roughly 85% of all garment workers are women. The human factor of the garment industry is too big to ignore; as we consistently see the exploitation of cheap labor and the violation of workers’, women’s, and human rights through globalization and as direct result of unchecked consumerism.

Climate Change in British Columbia

Fires are scorching British Columbia. This is the province’s second worst fire season on record. There is no doubt that increasing wildfires are a symptom of climate change. Wildfire causes thousands of people to be evacuated as flames scorch forests and any communities and homes in its path. Research shows that intimate partner violence can increase following a natural disaster. After Hurricane Katrina, violence against women rose by 98%, the Black Saturday bushfires in Australia also caused and increase in reported cases of violence against women in 2009. Similarly, in May 2016, a wildfire engulfed Fort McMurray, Alberta, and thousands of people were evacuated. Following the fire, police reported an increase in violence in Calgary.

On August 10, 2017, the B.C. provincial government announced they plan to fight the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. We are hopeful that these challenges will prevent the expansion of the project which will include 980 kilometres of new pipeline, 12 new pump stations, and 20 new tanks.

Climate change is not gender-neutral. There are social and cultural stratification’s in our society so women and men are affected differently by the negative impacts of climate change.

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