How Homemakers' Clubs Could Help Women Save the Planet

Editor's note: This story is part of PolicyMic's Millennials Take On Climate Change series this week.

Disappearing Caribbean islands with residents are already planning inland moves. Somali famine. Entire American coastlines, potentially gone. Bill McKibben's besties aren't the only ones saying we must plan for the future world landscape due to climate change. Even the World Bank has issued a Guide to Climate Change Adaptation in Cities.

Climate change-caused devastation is imminent. Scarred landscapes and property damage from extreme forest fires and stronger and more frequent hurricanes won't be the only immolation's to come; the toll will certainly be human suffering. Due to gender bias and simple population differences, women (especially those in poor, coastal areas) will bear the brunt of damage and death.

Women make up 70% of the 1.3 billion people residing below the poverty line, and as is often the case, the poor are expected to feel the devastation of climate change much more severely and long before the wealthy do.

Gender bias will inflict causality on women in many ways, such as not being able to swim when disasters like flood and hurricane hit, or an increased risk of being subjected to violence and rape in a refugee camp.

“Gender bias in the impact of disasters is also under-reported. When disasters strike, they hurt whole communities – but women often bear the brunt. Floods frequently claim far more female victims because their mobility is restricted and they have not been taught to swim … In the aftermath of a disaster, restrictions on the legal rights and entitlements of women to land and property can limit access to credit needed for recovery," states a report on the Women's Environment Network website.

But just as Occupy Sandy provided much needed emergency response and community building in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and FEMA fell short, feminists and women can come together to plan for the alleviation of pain and suffering of climate change today.

The model already exists. In many cases, it could be as easy as asking an older relative about "homemaker clubs." (Yes, these clubs don't sound very feminist, but stay with me.)

In the early 1920s, women's or homemaker clubs were commonplace. According to the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural History and Rural Studies, the women's movement of the '20s spurred a wave of organizations calling for volunteerism and community service all over the country. It used to be that simply moving into a community meant you were invited to join it. Today, young mothers are left alone to raise children, cook for households and help care for aging parents, all with working a full time, but for our grandparents, these clubs provided support and a social outlet. If you had a husband or a child in the hospital, the entire membership brought a dish to your home. Babysitting was provided. If your garden needed watering, all you had to do was ask.

June Dalos, of Buhl, Idaho, talked last year about her decades-long membership with the Northview Ladies Club, which was formed in 1926.

"We've been through a lot together. We've raised children, gone through death and had a lot of fun. I don't remember ever not being a member ... the club has always just been a part of my life. I can't think of what life would have been without it. Probably empty," she said.

Although clubs throughout the country were organized on the premise that members wouldn't challenge a husband's authority or patriarchy in general, forming similarly structured clubs in America wouldn't have to follow those same assumptions of power. Instead, they could give women much-needed support and the ability to gather and plan for the future.

As women are sure to feel the biggest brunt from climate change, the time to mitigate for damages is now.

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Blair Koch

Freelance journalist and contributor to Earthworks' EARTHBlog.

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