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Truth Be Told: A Masculine Agenda for Gender and Climate Justice in the Caribbean

By: Vidyaratha Kissoon

Hibiscus and Mangoes

The heat is on, a couple of months of high temperatures and little or no rain. The double red hibiscus is flourishing though, I have not seen so many blooms on the tree in one go. The tree had withered up – leaves had disappeared after one rainy season and floods. I am not sure what the science is. 

The mangoes though, not ripening, are falling before they ripen. The blossoms come out, but not many around. Not sure if there are problems with bees and pollination or the other animals. There are lots of mosquitoes around in this dry heat, day and night. 

I know that climate change is happening. Not sure if I can do anything about it. We cannot remember the heat like this when we were children. We always had seasons of fruits and so, abundance.

"I understand climate justice is recognising that climate change will affect different people differently depending on their identities."

A man

I like flowers and wish I could plant more. I admire the bougainvillaea which thrives in the heat. Lots of women plant and show off their flowers.  Men show off the vegetables and fruits. I am wondering if men would convert flower plant spaces to food plant spaces?

It is mostly the women around me talking about climate change and working on advocacy. 

Caring for the earth is women’s work, apparently.  The men I know talk about the oil and gas. I am watching in Guyana, not counting, but watching how men are dying violently – in road accidents, murdered by friends or other men and maybe in other ways not reported.  

I have realised that men’s relationship with the earth and the environment is about exploitation, and extraction, and even for the men who talk about dharti maa, Mother Earth, the puja sometimes is about seeking apologies before ‘causing the harm’ and being grateful for the sustenance which they will extract.

The researchers talk about the link between climate change and masculine dominance over anything which is not masculine. This dominance manifests as intimate partner violence and other forms of gender based violence. I wrote about preventing gender-based violence and protecting the environment when I realised that the destruction of the environment is part of this culture of dominance.

Climate Justice, Gender Justice and Men

Australian Professor Bob Pease has explained his research into men and masculinity and climate change. He has analysed the increase in men’s violence after disasters and other crises. We have seen with Covid-19, that intimate partner violence intensified.  Men are involved as firefighters and others as first responders in disasters and the talk of ‘heroes’ negates any discussion about the trauma and other impacts on the men who ‘do their jobs’.

Immaculata Casimero has written her concerns about men drinking more in Indigenous communities as their livelihoods are threatened by climate change, and thus more domestic violence. Women have to deal with rising costs of food and other household items, while finding ways to adapt to the climate crisis.

Bob Pease and others have noted that masculine solutions push ‘technology’ as ways of adapting to climate change. There is no social recognition about dealing with the inequalities which exist, and which are reinforced by climate-related and other crises. Men are also involved in denying climate change.  There is the connection with masculine power and the military – and wars and conflicts consume energy and other resources. There are consumption patterns associated with masculinity – the latest technology, vehicles and meat as food – patterns which are not sustainable. 

We recognise that transforming masculinity is necessary to achieve gender justice. The relationships among the masculine and those who are not masculine have to change from dominance and hierarchy into mutual nurturing and care. This requires learning new emotions to acknowledge vulnerabilities, to show compassion and empathy.  To recognise our intersectional experiences as humans and to challenge all oppressive practices.

A masculine Agenda to achieve Gender Justice and Climate Justice in the Caribbean

I learn from the other men who are also learning and doing the work, and from the women who have been involved that change is possible, and difficult.  A masculine agenda for achieving gender and climate justice should include:

  • Learning and recognising how patriarchy contributes to the climate crisis, and learning their roles in ensuring that everyone is involved in decisions to live in the crisis.

  • Acknowledging our privileges even as we lose some depending on our circumstances, and ensuring that everyone is included and participates in the decisions to deal with the climate crisis.

  • Transforming our relationships with other men, and with people who are women and who identify as other genders so that we are not fighting for dominance and control.

  • Transforming our relationship with the environment and the earth, to recognise that we cannot be destroying it while worshipping it.

  • Working with women and to be accountable to the women who have been working for gender justice and climate justice.

  • Recognising that our Caribbean was created out of violence and that the legacies of violence continue, and that we have to find ways to heal from the violence.

  • Working with others to identify other tasks and issues to add to this agenda, and to implement the agenda.

It will not be easy, but it is necessary if we are to thrive.

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