Overcoming Fear

girl_sea Threatening hurricanes like Joaquin churn up waves of speculation. When a doozy of a storm is eminent -- dumping boatloads of rain and destruction -- I fearfully follow a steady stream of hurricane alerts on social media. Normally, the wild weather choir would swallow me up -- especially, since family members literally lost the house in Hurricane Sandy. But lately, my perspective has had a slight shift.

Still squarely aligned with the scientific community, I look to the experts who tell us carbon pollution is the main reason our planet is getting hotter, thus increasing our chances for severe weather.

Having recently spent time outside my little corner of the world at a series of conferences, I’m using a moral rudder to sail beyond fear. Mashable’s Social Good Summit, the Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action at the United Nations and the Omega Institute’s Women and Power conference focused heavily on women and climate change.

Gender and Climate Change

"It is terribly unjust that the people paying the most brutal price for climate impact are the ones least responsible.” Women's Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN)

Locally and globally, climate change is not gender neutral. This injustice takes aim at women because women encompass a disproportionately large share of the poor -- in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Women are the caregivers for children, and those tiny lungs bear the brunt of pollution.

I was shocked to learn, women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men during natural disasters." And according to the World Economic Forum, women perceive climate change risks more than men.

Yet, the policies of extreme weather are governed mostly by men. This is our political reality. In fact, leading up to Hurricane Joaquin, my newsfeed in the New York metropolitan area focused solely on two decision-making governors tracking the hurricane -- Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie.

As Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic, noted in her keynote speech at Omega:

“I meet amazing women who want to do amazing things, but are not doing it. They are not because of fear.”

Empathy, Education and Ethics

There was an overarching theme I heard over and over at these conferences to counteract the powerless fear women feel about climate change -- we employ empathy, education and ethics.

To overcome fear, we need to use these weapons and get active. When we started Moms Clean Air Force, we didn’t ask people to donate, we asked them to care – to care about air pollution, to care about how toxic chemicals affect their families, to care about the climate that will impact their children’s future. We discovered once people cared about the issues, they became empowered to activate in their community.

But as Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State of the U.S., said at the Social Good Summit,

"America is a generous country but we aren't doing enough...given the scale and our own capabilities."

In the U.S. we call for strong environmental regulations and get pushback every step of the way from polluters who defend their right to pollute and the politicians that protect them. Compromised, we inch forward.

Storm Warning

Globally, the situation is even worse because nature doesn’t regulate. For instance, in the Maldives, the islands off the coast of India, “could become the first state in history to be completely erased by the sea.”

Thilmeeza Hussain, from the Maldives and founder of Voice of Women spoke at the WECAN event about a location that can’t wait for politics:

“We are thinking about our survival, our existence. There’s nothing to negotiate when it comes to global warming.”

Living in a sacrifice zone is no way to live. Many of us care about our relationship to climate change -- now we need to reach beyond and help women across the globe move from fear to caring about solutions.

The scientific evidence is settled; global warming is real and climate change is a women's rights issue. Now it's time to weather the storm together.

What Happens Next?

Yesterday, I began my day full of hope. The grassroots organization that I work my tail off at, and love dearly, Moms Clean Air Force, had just unveiled a billboard, and participated in a rally in Denver asking the Presidential Candidates which way they will choose. Will they lead us down a dirty energy path that allows coal, gas and oil polluters to continue their assault on our planet? Or will they lead us into a new era of energy-efficiency and renewables? 

Hopeful, huh?

But then I watched the debate go south. Fast. I could hardly watch. I was thrown off balance by these three words: "I love coal."  

The guy in the photo above is hopeful. But let's face it, no good can come from surf shooting. Could that be a waterproof camera? Was there such a thing in 1969?

How'd the debate look through your lens?

Photo: by John Grannis via The Selvedgeyard

BlogHer ’12: If The Shoe Fits

I cannot tell you how excited I was to meet and talk to so many wonderful women bloggers at the Moms Clean Air Force booth last week at the BlogHer '12 Conference. And when I finally dragged my exhausted body home after three hot days in NYC, and greeted Ted at the train station, he said, “I won’t ask you about BlogHer until you’ve had a shower, a salad, and a glass of wine, but what was the highlight of the conference?”

BlogHer is a BIG conference...4,500+ women bloggers...and there were some mighty BIG shoes to fill in the form of keynote speaker star power. But hands down, the highlight was all the SMALL conversations I had with new and old friends.

Martha’s Shoes

Martha Stewart was Martha. She was asked about the changes she’s encountered in her 40-year career as Martha, and her answer was not surprisingly, all the technological advances. What she found had not changed was the sad fact that only 4% of all the CEO’s in this country were women. When asked what advice she had for the bloggers, Martha said, “I make sure that I learn something new every day.” Good advice from a woman in 6” orange platform heels.

Katie’s Shoes

Katie Couric is launching a new show. Katie’s stilettos were also impossibly high (thanks to Christian Louboutin), and so were her spirits. She exudes warmth. After she plugged her show, the real Katie shone when she discussed her teenage daughters, her husband’s death from colon cancer, and how she honestly felt bad when she interviewed Sarah Palin because Sarah was so uncomfortable answering Katie’s questions. Regardless, Katie pushed on because, as she said, “This women would be a heartbeat away from a man over 70 years old who had multiple melanomas, and the American people needed to know what they would be getting.” Keep going, Katie.

Soledad’s Shoes

Soledad O’Brien seemed to have laced up work boots disguised as sky-high pumps as she moderated a panel called, “Women Influencers as Change Agents” with Christy Turlington Burns and Malaak Compton-Rock. I was looking forward to this panel because I figured it would align nicely with my MCAF work. Christy and Malaak have each launched global campaigns to fight for women and children’s health. They also both have husbands I love to watch on the screen, Ed Burns and Chris Rock. Christy was smart, stunning and in top form in her perfect strappy sandals. After uttering a few words, Malaak developed a lethal case of stage fright. Soledad exhibited what a terrific journalist she truly is, as she coaxed Maleek out of her frozen, deer-in-the-headlights state with amazing grace. I'm not sure another journalist would have been able to fill Soledad’s impressive journalistic shoes.

My Shoes

I could not walk a mile in any of these women’s shoes…and as blogger, Judith Ross commented after two days of standing on our feet, “Our official shoes of BlogHer must be Toms.” And they were (right, my Toms).

New Shoes

Two SMALL conversations spurned BIG revelations for me. The first one came as I was racing around getting ready to leave for BlogHer. When I checked my laptop for the last time (only carried an iPad with me), I noticed the Second Lives Club blog published a humbling profile/interview of me. After reading the piece, it finally sunk in that I really have created a new career. You can check out the profile HERE.

The second revelation arose during a discussion about MCAF’s one-year anniversary (yay, yay, yay) with MCAF’s co-founder, Cynthia Hampton. We were talking about my position as MCAF’s editor and I said, “I wake up every morning so excited to get to work…and I work way into the evening hours…and now that we reached 100,000 members, it’s so gratifying to be making a difference in the lives of women and children.” She said, “Ronnie, you have stepped into the shoes of an activist.”

Photos: blogger and baby photo from my iPhone, BlogHer, Toms