A Look Back at Women and the Environment in 2010


It’s the end of June already, and the earth’s half-spin around the sun has brought us ladies plenty to wring our delicate little hands about. From Iranian clerics blaming earthquakes on our breasts to oil spills wreaking havoc on our pregnancies, 2010 has made us reach for the smelling salts on numerous occasions. Here at EcoSalon, we’ve covered women and the environment with vim, bringing you celebratory communiques alongside melancholic missives. Below, you’ll find a roundup of the news in 2010 thus far. If the past six months are any indication, the rest of the year will be a doozy. Feeling faint yet?

  • Is GINK the new DINK? It used to be that childfree couples were called DINKs – Double Income, No Kids. But the great American greenwash has influenced reproductive choices as well, with an increasing number of couples citing the environment as a reason to go kidless. A recent study by Oregon State University added fuel to the fire, revealing that not having kids is 20 times more environmentally friendly than any other day to day green task, like recycling. Lisa Hymas of Grist coined the term GINK – Green Inclinations, No Kids – to describe childfree tree huggers like herself.
  • Condoms came under attack earlier this year, with women’s health writers and scientists bemoaning the prophylactic’s sorry environmental record of sullying our beaches and clogging up our landfills. While greensters wondered whether condoms are biodegradable (likely not – their decomposable latex is mixed with human-made chemicals), we asked another question: why have this conversation in the first place? Condoms, as a blogger at EcoGeek noted, are “the single most important environmental innovation” ever, curbing environmentally-catastrophic population growth.
  • Congress attacked killer chemicals this spring when members of the House and Senate introduced versions of the Safe Chemicals Act, a bill meant to fortify a toothless, decades-old law against allowing dangerous chemicals in household products (we all know how well that one worked…hello bisphenol-a). Uteruses in America rejoiced at the news: the Safe Chemicals Act is a boon to women, whose reproductive systems have been under siege by infertility-causing chemicals in water bottles and other plastics.
  • In April, an Iranian cleric asserted that women who don’t cover up cause earthquakes. His declaration–meant to dissuade Iranian women from unveiling–ignited a response in the U.S., when blogger Jennifer McCreight organized a Boobquake, a day in which women wore low-cut tops without tectonic incident to prove the cleric wrong. But what could have been a bold political stunt turned into a ho-hum protest, with men egging on their breast-baring peers while feminists complained that the plight of Iranian women became fodder for a Girls Gone Wild spectacle.
  • As if the earthquake itself didn’t cause enough damage, sexual violence rates spiked in Haiti in the months after the disaster. According to an article in Women’s eNews, aid workers in a major Port-au-Prince refugee camp fielded daily reports of rape, prompting the United Nations to send a special unit of 130 female Bangladeshi soldiers to address the violence. Lamentably, the post-disaster rape crisis was not unique to Haiti alone; many Hurricane Katrina survivors were similarly re-victimized.
  • On the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill, we noted that the pill’s invention by women’s rights crusader Margaret Sanger initiated the era of modern family planning, allowing women to choose the number and spacing of their children – a boon for their health and the health of their babies alike. But while the pill has done its part to keep our skyrocketing population in check (if you think things are bad, just imagine the world without it) its environmental record isn’t spotless – the hormones in the pill, excreted into waste water through urine, cause fatal mutations in fish populations.
  • When a Houston tanning salon called upon the spirit of Coco Chanel to promote its new earth-friendly false tanning beet spray, we called foul. As legend has it, Chanel sparked the tanning craze in America when she stepped off a boat in Cannes with perfectly bronzed skin. Though Coco was a pioneering designer, breaching the boundary between menswear and womenswear, the tanning trendsetter didn’t galvanize women to leave the drudgery of housework in order to bask in the sunshine. Rather, Coco inadvertently created another unrealistic beauty standard.
  • While much of the initial news surrounding the BP oil spill focused on the disaster’s effect on wildlife, we asked about its impact on human livelihoods. Coastal Women for Change, a community organization that sprung out of the post-Katrina haze to bring attention to the need for improved childcare in Biloxi, Mississippi, has stepped up after the spill by serving as a conduit for information from the Environmental Protection Agency to the local fishers. The biggest challenge? Getting fishers of different ethnic and economic backgrounds to rally together for their interests.
  • Last year, journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn published their book Half the Sky, a groundbreaking tome arguing that international aid is more effective when directed toward women. While Kristof and WuDunn described women as the gatekeepers of health and well-being in their communities, they left out one green detail: the fact that women also hold the keys to conservation. In Indonesia, the Environmental Ministry has begun offering classes on water conservation to women in rural areas who are responsible for fetching and distributing water to their families.
  • Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but we all care equally about the earth, right? Wrong. According to several articles this year, men and women display their green pride differently, with men working for big picture sustainability while women, ever the quibblers, take on recycling and composting projects. We pointed out the ludicrousy in this theory, noting that a handful of anecdotes don’t constitute a trend. With all this talk about men, women, and their green differences, we lose sight of the why we should go green at all.
  • As if the oil spill wasn’t dangerous enough, the chemical dispersants used to clean it up could spell health risks for pregnant mothers and their unborn children. According to information recently released by the Environmental Protection Agency, chemicals that caused health problems in the cleanup workers on the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill are being used again today. Pregnant women have been advised to stay as far away from the contaminants as possible – a tall order for those women who actually live in the Gulf.

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