Throughout Women's History Month, WEMU is talking with women who are dedicated to creating new history when it comes to environmental protections. In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair recognizes Michelle Deatrick. The former Washtenaw County Commissioner was instrumental in forming the Washtenaw County Climate Council and has now founded and leads the Democratic National Committee Council on Environment and Climate.
- Women, and particularly women of color, are often on the frontlines of environmental impacts -- whether it’s air pollution from oil refineries, whether it’s lead in the water in Flint, record-breaking cold spells that knock out power and heat, fossil fuel pipelines set too close to homes and schools putting them in the incineration zone in case of accident, or the the vastly increased precipitation we are experiencing here in Washtenaw County, harming farms and impacting food production.
- Women are the ones bearing the brunt of these impacts on their families and are often at the forefront of leading the fights in their communities.
- Women are disproportionately impacted by climate change in terms of health harms and extreme weather impacts, in ways ranging from the impact of pollution on pregnancy to increased gender-based violence after extreme weather events, to women’s reduced financial resilience due to inequitable pay and the gender wealth gap.
- Local women environmental/climate leaders from the grassroots to the grasstops to the professionals and elected: Amytess Girgis (UM Climate initiatives), Kathy Schoen (Nexus Pipeline), Andrea Pierce (Native American, Ypsi, leader on a range of fossil fuel issues), Wendy Banka, and Jennifer Nelson (Rover Pipeline), Tracy Birkenhauer (advocating on the County’s Landfill as founder of the Stop Arbor Hills landfill effort), Missy Stults (AA City), Congresswoman Dingell (PFAS, dioxane).
- How women can be empowered to lead in environmental initiatives? Women have been leading the fight against environmental degradation in their communities--and nationally-- in a long tradition stretching back much further than Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. We stand on their shoulders.
- Women need to be given the seats at the table. Because they have earned it and because policy is always better when informed by those most affected by it.
- Michelle Deatrick was instrumental in forming the Washtenaw County Environmental Council in 2018. She recently founded, at the national level, the first-ever DNC Council on the Environment and Climate Crisis. She says, “Because far too many of the people most impacted by these problems haven’t been heard. And so we’re giving them a platform.”
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