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By Paola Salwan, Programme Assistant for Africa, Middle East and Europe at the World YWCA, Geneva

 

Being a World YWCA staff means always having something new to learn. I became fully aware of that last week, when our World Board meeting was held. Being a faith based organisation, the World YWCA often starts its meetings’ sessions by prayers, a meditation or a reflection.

 

Last Wednesday, world Board member Deborah Thomas led us through a very meaningful reflection on gender and climate change. Being from Trinidad, a Caribbean island vulnerable to severe weather conditions, Deborah underlined the awful and sad truth of climate change: global warming is leading to a rise in sea level and to various weather disorders, which could lead to the very submersion of small islands, be it in the Caribbean’s or in the Pacific. She stressed the dramatic climate change effects on communities, notably in the Pacific, where islanders consider their land to be sacred. The extreme weather conditions that seem to hit them more and more often are leading their elders to advise them to flee, which constitutes an absolute trauma for these populations.

 

If Climate Change is touching communities as a whole, it should not be forgotten that once again, women pay the high price of global warming. Indeed, in a large number of rural communities, women bear the burden of having the major responsibility for food security, which makes them highly dependent on local natural resources, thus on the variations in temperature and weather. The fact that they’re often put aside when it comes to policy making and environmental decisions increases their vulnerability towards climate change, all the more so if we consider the gender inequalities of access to resources.

 

But back to Deborah’s meditation. Amidst these grim facts and figures, she introduced a concept I had never heard of before: the Green Bible. In front of our bewildered faces, she must have understood that her audience was not familiar with the subject, and she proceeded to quickly explain it to us : “Have you ever heard of the Green Bible? No? Well, it’s a Bible printed on recycled paper, with every verses related to the environment printed in Green. While producing these Green Bible, people realised that the Bible mentioned the environment over a thousand times, while it mentioned love and heaven around five hundred times”.

 

Amazed and intrigued by these figures, I decided I needed to know more.

 

After a bit of research, here it was: The Green Bible, printed on recycled paper, using soy-based ink with a cotton/linen cover, produced to make Christians understand the importance of protecting the environment God has created for us. By using green ink to make the environment-related paragraphs stand out, the reader realises that going green is not merely a fashion, nor is it simply a political statement: it becomes God’s will and is therefore a faithful commitment that is to be respected.

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However, far from being acclaimed by all Christians as a spiritual way of fighting climate change and respecting the environment, the Green Bible sparked controversy as some congregations seemed to think that it was not a Christian initiative but rather, a political one. Their fear is that the political aspect of environmentalism will overcome the spiritual message and interpretation of the Bible and distract believers from their mission that is to spread the Gospel.

 

Nevertheless, even if the Green Bible doesn’t seem to make consensus, more and more Christians are becoming aware of the need to respect our environment more, and to force governments to act against Global Warming. This movement, called Creation Care, is spreading more and more, outnumbering more conservative Christian streams who would like to preserve Christianity from what they consider to be a political opportunistic movement.

 

Although there is definitely a marketing argument to the Green Bible, it is important that Christians are given a tool that shows with such evidence the caring for the environment message that the Bible entails. Every effort to make this planet a better place is not to be disregarded. Besides, the Bible being the absolute all time best seller, it was time it was printed on recycled paper…

 

 

This morning, I attended ECOSOC’s special event, “Achieving the MDG’s and coping with the challenges of climage change.”  It was of course interesting, as I usually find most things related to climate change, but what I found particularly moving were the comments spoken by the delegate from Belgium (who did not speak on behalf of Belgium, but for the committee for CSW).  He outlined how climate change disproportionately and negatively affects women, and spoke about how women can acts as agents of change in the mitigation of global warming.

Of course, this year’s 52nd session of the CSW chose as it’s emerging issue “Gender perspectives on climate change“, where we learned that women’s lives are effected in large part due to their domestic responsibilities.  As the moderator’s summary stresses,

In Africa, for example, women have primary responsibility for food security, household water supply, and the provision of energy for cooking and heating. Conditions such as drought, deforestation and erratic rainfall have a disproportionate negative affect on their ability to carry out these duties. As climate change causes African women to work harder to secure these basic resources, they have less time to secure an education or earn an income. Girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school to help their mothers gather fuel, wood and water.

The unequal effects that climate change already has, and will likely continue to have, along the lines of gender, are rarely mentioned.  As we move towards mitigation and adaptation to climate change, we must do so with a lens that prioritizes women as the large majority of those greatly affected by climate change. 

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