Leveraging the Economic Power of Women for Climate Action
1 Million Women (1MW) is a movement of women taking personal responsibility to drive practical action on climate change in their daily lives, and then focusing their collective power to change the economy. 1MW began in Australia as an idea from a kitchen table chat in 2007 between two girlfriends, Natalie Isaacs and Michelle Grosvenor. We launched in June 2009 to inspire women to take practical action on climate change through simple mitigation activities in their daily lives leading to longer term behaviour change i.e. lifestyle adaptations. Our community-based campaign focuses on uniting women to lead action in their households, workplaces and communities. We're 'daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers getting on with climate action': initially, in our case, in Australia - which has one of the highest standards of living in the world, and also one of the highest per capita levels of greenhouse gas emissions. From launch, 1MW provided its members with an online activity centre to support them to cut 1 tonne of CO2-equivalent pollution from their everyday lives within one year of joining. Three years+ later, nearly 80,000 women have joined the campaign with commitments to cut over 100,000 tonnes of CO2-e pollution from their lives in areas such as home energy use, food, reduced overall consumption, travel and transport and renewable energy. In 2009-10, we initiated a major national event series called Women in Climate Change, with forums in six capital cities of Australia being attended by nearly 2000 women (all up over 11,000 women and girls have attended one of our events). In 2011, 1MW launched its SAVE program - a blend of mitigation and adaptation - which concentrated on supporting our members to save energy, cut waste and pollution, and save money at the same time around a series of themes - Food, Drive, Power, Wear, Shop, Build and Invest. Our SAVE summit events in metropolitan and regional cities attracted over 1500 participants. SAVE includes a practical guide to save $1000 a year off household bills by cutting waste. Our 10,000 TEENS youth program aimed at schoolgirls 11-18 also was launched in 2011. In 2012, we ran our Recipe for Change big weekend, with 1100+ 'girls get-togethers' with 5000+ participants around Australia over one weekend to share stories and practical solutions for living more sustainably, and the final outputs will be presented as an online resource for women everywhere. Our website http://www.1millionwomen.com.au and our Facebook page http://facebook.com/1millionwomen are the best reference points for 1MW.
Reasons for working in this topic, project or business:
1MW is based on a belief that climate change is real and that the timetable for decisive action globally is urgent. Dramatic economic and cultural/behavioural transformation is required within a generation to avert the more dangerous climate change scenarios, and to adapt to impacts that already are inevitable. We also see climate change as a symptom of a much bigger problem, the overconsumption and waste that characterises contemporary developed world lifestyles (while Australia is geographically part of the Global South, 1MW's home country economically is more typical of the Global North). Women can drive change through what they do in their own daily lives and collectively can be an economic force for good. Such change must start in developed economies such as that of Australia.
Root causes of the problems in this field and main barriers:
The overconsumption and waste of resources that characterise today's developed world lifestyles and economies. Statistics tell the story:
- Currently, around 20 percent of the world’s population account for around 80 percent of consumption of global resources, and the world is consuming 50 percent more than can be sustained environmentally.
- By 2030, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) expects the global middle class, which currently is defined by taking more, to grow from 2 billion now to 5 billion people.
- By 2050, total global population is expected to climb to about 9 billion people from over 7 billion now; and it is estimated that the world needs to produce more food for people in the next 40 years than humanity has produced in the past 8000 years.
What is needed to overcome barriers to implement solutions:
Our programs and activities already assist to nurture a less-wasteful, more resilient, lower-risk society, but this impact must be stepped up through our major new focus on the economic power of women and promoting a philosophy of 'less is more'. We have to directly challenge, as women acting individually and collectively, the 'growth at all costs' paradigm that has dominated late 20th century/early 21st century economic thinking, and that is reflected in current high-consumption high-waste lifestyles in the developed world.
Specific needs and/or support requests:
The global sustainability challenge is now so daunting that there is no solution unless everyone actively participates in achieving less harm while ensuring more equity in terms of quality of life and socio-economic well-being. We need to find ways and gain support to make 1MW a global sisterhood organisation that engages women and girls everywhere, charing challenges and solutions. This is central to our plans for the next three years, and longer-term to 2020 by which time we aim to have achieved recruitment of 1 million members or more. We need to enlist the support of like-minded women around the world.
Suggested best local solution for this topic:
Women exerting our economic influence through the choices we make and the way that we live:
- Spending – what we buy
- Saving – what we put aside
- Services – what we choose
- Investment – where we invest
- Enterprise – the businesses we create
- Work – where and how we do our jobs
- Advocacy – what we stand up for
- Giving – the causes we support
1MW seeks to drive cultural change among the developed world women we primarily engage - from wanting 'more stuff' and measuring personal and broader economic success by 'traditional growth' - to an appreciation of what is 'enough' and an appreciation that 'less is more'. Such ideas can be counter-intutitive and culturally discordant for the majority of consumers now, but a mood for change is emerging and needs to be fostered.
Partnering has been fundamental to the 1MW modus operandi since our formation, including working with businesses, governments and official agencies, academic institutions, civil society organisations, philanthropists and others who share our commitment to women getting on with practical action to stop dangerous climate change. 1MW itself is moving towards a social enterprise model for our own operations, with the potential to provide training and other fee-based services to our members while remaining a not-for-profit company.
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