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Girls & Women

Women Will Bear the Brunt of Climate Change, 'Handmaid's Tale' Author Predicts

Margaret Atwood, the author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” has painted a picture of the future at an event exploring the impact of climate change on women. 

And it isn’t pretty. 

Much like a plot of one of her dystopian novels, the Booker prize-winning author said that women will bear the disproportionate burden of hunger, war, and repression — all sparked by climate change. 

Take action: Help Women and Girls Adapt to Climate Change

“This isn’t climate change — it’s everything change,” she said, at the “Under Her Eye” conference that's being held on Friday and Saturday at the British Library in London. 

“Women will be directly and adversely affected by climate change,” she is quoted as saying in the Guardian

Atwood has become something of a figurehead for the women’s rights movement, after the huge success of the TV adaptation of her novel “The Handmaid’s Tale."

The plot of the novel, and the ensuing TV show, sees women essentially reduced to their wombs, with their sole purpose being to reproduce. 

Read more: Costa Rican Women Wore 'The Handmaid's Tale' Costumes to the Polls

It sparked serious questions about women’s reproductive rights around the world, particularly in countries in which those rights are under threat.

But several of Atwood’s novels are also concerned with environmentalism and the impact humans are having on our environment, for example, the trilogy of “Oryx and Crake,” “The Year of the Flood,” and “MaddAddam.” 

“More extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels that will destroy arable land, and disruption of marine life will all result in less food,” Atwood continued. “Less food will mean that women and children get less, as the remaining food supplies will be unevenly distributed, even more than they are.” 

“[Climate change] will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars and then brutal repressions and totalitarianisms," she added. "Women do badly in wars — worse than in peacetime.” 

Read more: 'The Handmaid's Tale' Got 13 Emmy Noms — Here's More Inspiration From Margaret Atwood

The two-day “Under Her Eye” conference is an international summit and arts festival to explore and celebrate the role of women taking action on climate change, and is one of a string of events across the country held to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage in Britain. 

As well as Atwood, speakers at the conference include co-leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas; author Mel Evans, previously head of art at Greenpeace; and “renegade economist” and author, Kate Raworth. 

“Climate change remains one of the greatest threats to achieving sustainable development and its effects fall hardest on women,” said former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, another speaker. "More women than men are killed by natural disasters, and women and girls are often last to receive humanitarian assistance in the event of climate shocks." 

“Countering this reality is the gritty determination, boundless energy, and unwavering spirit of women across the world, whose knowledge, skills, and leadership are being harnessed in delivering solutions,” she added, writing a guest blog post for the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Read more: Why Gender Equality Is the Missing Link Between Food Security and Climate Change

It’s widely believed that the impacts of climate change will be, and already are being, felt by women more than men. 

“Women are more vulnerable to climate change, with women accounting for 70% of the 1.2 billion people earning less than $1 a day,” according to a 2017 report from the European Parliament. 

“Climate change exacerbates existing inequalities and … women and girls are among the most affected by climate change,” continued the report. “People in rural areas in developing countries, in particular women, are especially vulnerable, as they are often dependent on natural resources, do much of the agricultural work, particularly in food production, and collecting water and fuel for the family, and are very often responsible for the bulk of unpaid work in households and communities.”

The report also cited “women’s limited access to and control over production resources, and restricted rights [that give] them fewer opportunities to shape decision and influence policy.”

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