Why almost every world leader at COP26 is male

A short meditation on patriarchy in 2021

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Today we really need to talk about THIS.

THIS, as you might have already seen, is a photo of the world leaders who have been negotiating the future of our planet at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this week.

Concepts like ”patriarchy” can often seem hard to grasp.

Or exaggerated.

Then you see this type of an image and it suddenly strikes you that YES: we are on a planet ruled by men.

And when it comes to climate change this is particularly bad news.

There’s a phenomenon that journalist Emily Atkin has named “first time climate dudes”. It’s about when (clever) mostly white men come down from their mountains to tell the rest of us the TRUTH about climate change. And usually “first time climate dudes” are all about telling us how DOOMED we all are.

There has been a lot of this type of rhetoric in the last week: about climate bombs we need to “defuse” and climate “wars” we need to fight,

I’m not saying that there’s no place for this type of rhetoric. (After all we do know that if we don’t limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius we will be in very serious trouble and right now he planet is at least 1.1 degrees hotter.)

But let’s just note how much more power this type of talk has when it comes from someone like Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados.

When she stood up on Monday and said :

“1.5 degrees is what we need to survive.”

Everyone can feel both the truth and the desperation of that simple sentence because of who she is. This is coming from somebody who is LITERALLY trying to figure out if big parts of their country will have to be given up to hurricanes, drought and rising sea levels.

“Two degrees is a death sentence for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, for the people of the Maldives, for the people of Dominica and Fiji, for the people of Kenya and Mozambique, and yes, for the people of Samoa and Barbados.”

The climate emergency is about precisely this. About risk to BODIES, HOMES, COMMUNITIES and LIVELIHOODS.

80 percent of the people who are displaced by the impacts of climate change are women. And women, particularly women of colour, are on the frontlines of environmental work almost all over the world. Not because women are better. But because this is a crisis that affects women, particularly women of colour, more.

So why are there almost only men in that photo from COP26 ?

I’ll tell you why!

Because around 4000 years ago when women’s average life span may have been less than 28 years (and infant mortality was 70 to 75 percent) someone came up with the idea that men should be on top.

That was patriarchy.

And in 2021 it’s still there, happily posing for photos…

Happy Friday indeed!

Katrine

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