Young Women, Ecocide and Feminist Climate Justice

Young Women, Ecocide and Feminist Climate Justice

Dr Rebecca Mason, research & policy lead smiling at the camera.
By: Dr Rebecca Mason Research and Policy Lead
Published on:
  • Climate Justice
  • Consultation response

In this post, our Research and Policy Lead Rebecca discusses the proposed Ecocide (Prevention) (Scotland) Bill, young women’s attitudes towards ecocide, and the importance of capturing gender-sensitive, intersectional data to properly understand the impacts of ecocide in Scotland and around the world.  

We know that climate change and crimes against the environment affects everyone – but not equally. Young people have historically been the leaders and activists in the environmental justice movement. In Scotland and around the world, young women and girls are tirelessly advocating for systemic changes to ensure the survival and flourishing of people and planet, many of whom are penalised (or even criminalised) by the state for their efforts. 

consultation-document-final-version–(1).pdfThe Young Women’s Movement therefore gladly welcomed the opportunity to respond to the proposed Ecocide (Prevention) (Scotland) Bill. In broad terms, ecocide describes the deliberate or negligent destruction of the environment by humans, often in pursuit of profit. Examples include oil spills, radioactive contamination, unsustainable fishing practices and the mass dumping of plastics into our seas.  

Our response focused on young women’s attitudes towards ecocide and the gendered dimensions of climate change and ecocide in Scotland. You can read our full submission here, which covers the specific questions raised in the consultation. 

Why does this proposed Bill matter to young women?  

The Young Women’s Movement fully supports the proposal to introduce the crime of ecocide into Scots law. We believe that the Scottish Parliament must do more to stop the corporate destruction of Scotland’s environment to create a better world and brighter future for young women and girls.  

The young women we engaged with were fully supportive of the Bill, with many expressing their passion to protect the planet and create a better Scotland for themselves and future generations.  

Young women take an unambiguous stance on ecocide: it is our collective duty to stop unethical corporations from destroying the planet and trampling on our rights, all for the sake of profit.  

Many young women expressed feeling demoralised about the state of the planet and the general lack of progress in tackling the effects of climate change and ecocide in Scotland. One young woman noted that because political systems tend to rely on the support and funding of non-renewable industries to remain in power, any attempt to curb their influence is ultimately futile, and that legislation is the only way to even attempt to tackle the climate crisis. Governments are also complicit by not enforcing the law, promising then dropping green investment pledges, facilitating corporations by subsiding fossil fuel industries, and actively guiding policy and permits around existing law and regulations. For example, fossil fuel companies have received £80 billion in UK government support since 2015, with £20 billion of this funding directly supporting new extraction and mining. 

Despite growing efforts to work towards a “just transition” in Scotland, in recent years we have witnessed the increasing influence of corporate actors with vested interests in fossil fuels and other environmentally harmful industries. Oil refineries, the presence of oil tankers, nuclear power stations and a large plastics industry mean that there is a real and constant risk of leaks and spillage of environmentally damaging chemicals in Scotland. If we want to halt the climate crisis, we must urgently phase out the production and use of oil, coal and gas.  

How did we respond to the consultation?  

While supportive of the proposal, The Young Women’s Movement called for a clearer vision of feminist climate justice that integrates a gender-sensitive, intersectional approach into the fight against ecocide in Scotland.  

The UN Women’s vision for feminist climate justice is of “a world in which everyone can enjoy the full range of human rights, free from discrimination, and flourish on a planet that is healthy and sustainable.” Research shows that climate change disproportionately affects women and girls worldwide, and that the climate crisis is not “gender neutral”. This is further compounded when we add the lens of race and recognise the additional risks that face Black, minority ethnic and Indigenous women because of climate change and the devasting effects of extractive capitalism.  

For young women, girls and people of marginalised genders – whose experiences and perspectives have historically been overlooked – the collection and use of gender-sensitive, intersectional data can help address entrenched climate inequalities and inform solutions that strengthens their rights.  

Why does capturing gender-sensitive, intersectional data matter?  

We still know very little about how climate change affects women and other marginalised groups in Scotland. In 2019, the National Advisory Council for Women and Girls noted that there is currently “no available evidence showing gendered impacts of climate change in Scotland.” One young woman stated that she believes the Bill will have a “positive impact on women’s rights, as women are disproportionately affected by climate change, and this would seek to protect them from the wide-ranging effects of this issue.”  

To evidence this impact, The Young Women’s Movement believes there is an urgent need to collect gender-sensitive, intersectional data to fully understand the different ways in which women and men from different communities, and with different characteristics, experience severe environmental harm and inequality in Scotland.  

What do young women think about the proposal?   

Despite their frustrations, young women believe that the proposal to introduce the crime of ecocide into Scots law could help towards finally curbing corporate power and protecting Scotland’s fragile ecosystems and species. One young woman stated that the Bill would “send a clear message that Scotland wants to create a healthier and just society for future generations, and that we are willing to put in place strong sanctions to create these conditions. But it will need to be implemented effectively, so that it is not paying lip service to this issue.”  

Most importantly, young women are hopeful. One young woman stated: “I hope the proposal goes ahead; it seems like a step forward. The effects of climate change are intersectional and clearly gendered. Damage to the environment should be criminalised; minority groups and vulnerable people will benefit from this too.”  Another young woman believed that “the Bill will help towards reducing the inequalities women face in relation to climate change…It also supports work undertaken around the Women’s Health Plan and the Equally Safe strategy, where women and girls can thrive as equal citizens.” 

In a world of uncertainty, deepening inequalities, and environmental catastrophes, we must seriously consider feminist solutions to imagine a radically different world for everyone.  

What young women and girls want is a future with an improved quality of life, more fairness, and better outcomes. If the proposed Ecocide (Prevention) (Scotland) Bill is done right, the people, communities and species of Scotland that have been treated unfairly, exposed to chronic pollution, ignored by unethical corporations, and left out of progress in the past, stand to gain the most.  

If you have any questions about our consultation response, or if you are a young woman and would like the opportunity to feed into future consultation responses on issues that matter to you, please do not hesitate to email our Research and Policy Lead, Dr Rebecca Mason. 

Further reading and media:  

UN Women, Feminist climate justice: A framework for action  

Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva, Ecofeminism  

Lindsey Bacigal, What is gender-based environmental violence?  

Podcast: Transnational Institute – Ecofeminism – A powerful vision and Ecofeminism – Towards an ecofeminist energy future  

Documentary: The fight against ecocide (2015)  

Related posts

  • In this post, Guest Blogger Maria Onatt discusses how current Green New Deals do not consider the gendered effects of climate change, and why they must take an intersectional feminist approach in order to create a sustainable future for all women.

    • Climate Justice
  • In this post, our Research and Policy Lead Rebecca discusses the proposed Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill, our response to the most recent consultation, and why the voices of young women must be meaningfully included in the Bill’s development.

    • Consultation response
    • Health
    • Rights
  • In this post, our Research and Policy Lead, Rhianna discusses the new Human Rights Bill for Scotland, our response to the consultation, and why young women must be meaningfully engaged in the development of the Bill.

    • Advocacy
    • Consultation response
    • Rights