Climate Action Day: equity and the environment

Katharine Wilkinson discussed the gender gap among climate science changemakers.

By
Adam Loyd
April 29, 2021
Katharine Wilkinson

Katharine Wilkinson. (Photo/Waterloo Global Science Initiative)

In recent decades, climate change has increasingly moved to forefront of the national and global conversation. But as Katharine Wilkinson explained in the keynote address of the Academy’s annual Climate Action Day, it’s a discussion that will remain incomplete without a broader diversity of voices. 

>> Watch: Wilkinson's keynote address

The co-editor of the 2020 book, All We Can Save, Wilkinson is an advocate for an increase in female involvement at the decision-making levels within the field of climate science. She told the virtual audience that the lack of women in leadership roles creates a “fractured and incomplete ‘we’ in the climate movement.”

“This book was, in some ways, born out of inspiration, but it was also born out of a bit of frustration,” she said. “It's about frustration from a status quo approach that hasn't gotten us where we need to go, and about the better futures that are possible, but keep getting delayed or denied.”

There's growing proof of the link between climate change and gender-based violence, including sexual assault, domestic abuse and forced prostitution, things that you might not think could be related to a warming world.”

Profiled by Time Magazine as one of 15 women leading the charge against climate change, Wilkinson explained how the crisis affects worldwide gender injustice.

“There's growing proof of the link between climate change and gender-based violence, including sexual assault, domestic abuse and forced prostitution, things that you might not think could be related to a warming world,” she said. “Gender justice, gender equality is an unattainable dream without taking bold climate action.”

Following her speech, Wilkinson took inquiries from the Exeter community in a Q&A session moderated by Safira Schiowitz ’23 and Tanya Das ’22. Among the questions was: How can people turn the guilt they feel partaking in everyday activities like driving or air travel that create carbon emissions into a more productive emotion?

“It's a matter of not getting so consumed with trying to perfect our own lives and feeling guilty about the things that we haven't done or still need to do, that we don't stay focused on how powerful we can be when we link arms and put pressure on those who really do hold the reins of decision-making,” Wilkinson replied.

Wilkinson’s appearance was part of the Academy’s annual celebration of its commitment to environmental activism. The all-virtual program encouraged students to reference a list of provided resources to continue their education and involvement.

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