Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)

Interview: Osprey Orielle Lake, Women's Earth and Climate Action Network

Osprey Orielle Lake, Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN). Osprey also sits on the Steering Committee for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

1.  The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is dedicated to accelerating a global women's climate justice movement.  What was the vision/inspiration behind founding this organization?

Since my youth, I have always been very concerned about the devastation humans are causing to our Mother Earth. My life focus has been a call to action for our very survival and that of future generations, which is inextricably connected to the web of life, to the water, forests, and the climate.

WECAN International’s development was catalyzed by our historic 2013 International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit, which brought together more than 100 women leaders from around the globe to raise their voices, unite and collaborate for just climate change solutions.

Over the course of the Summit, the need for a long-term, diverse and decentralized mechanism for feminist climate justice organizing became clear - and the organization was born. 

2.  Tell us about your Organization's initiatives to educate a global audience about climate change.

Women for climate justice
Photo Credit: WECAN

The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International was created to accelerate a global women's movement for the protection and defense of the Earth’s diverse ecosystems and communities. We are particularly centering on grassroots, frontline, and Indigenous, Black, and Brown leaders.

​We know that we are in dire need of a paradigm shift and an upwelling of global action, and that the window for meaningful action on the climate crisis will not be open for long. We also know that due to gender inequality worldwide, women are impacted first and worst by climate change, yet they are simultaneously crucial leaders in generating a sustainable path toward climate justice. 

At WECAN, we focus on short-term and long-term systemic change and solutions to address the climate crisis and the root causes of environmental degradation and socio-economic inequalities. To build a foundation for deep systemic change, which is necessary at this moment to care for our communities and the Earth, it is vital to uplift and amplify women's unique leadership, Indigenous cultural and ecological knowledge, as well as the deep political analysis of historically marginalized Black, Brown, and Indigenous frontline communities and justice movements, while we continue to challenge corporate power. 

WECAN has a broad range of on the ground projects and campaigns, but in regard to our educational programing, we organize online webinars, in-person events, and actions to support and educate global community members about the intersections between gender, colonization, racism and the climate crisis.

We also host the digital  Women Speak storytelling database, which offers thousands of stories by and about women leading struggles and solutions for climate justice under a variety of cross-sectional themes.

3.  Tell us about your associated event at Stockholm50 where I am also holding an art show titled Reef Dwellers.

Stockholm+50 is one of the largest gatherings of global governments this year, and we think it is imperative to bring forward a powerful feminist intervention that calls for governments to further strengthen their commitments to people and the planet. 

On June 2, at 1 pm ET USA / 7 pm Stockholm, we are hosting a Stockholm+50 Associated Event, “Women Leading Solutions for a Healthy and Just Planet,” featuring global women leading movements and projects to build a healthy and just world.

During this event, grassroots women leaders and global advocates will discuss environmental degradation and the climate crisis and present a diverse array of strategies and solutions to secure strong communities and a just planet for current and future generations, including Indigenous rights, Rights of Nature, Women’s Leadership, Forest Protection, Food Sovereignty, and much more.

Women are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation, climate change, and social inequities, yet indispensable actors in promoting and building the solutions necessary for achieving a healthy planet and prosperity for all. Governments and businesses must listen to civil society and take urgent and bold action in alignment with the goals of climate justice frameworks and the Paris Climate Agreement.  

In the lead-up to Stockholm+50 WECAN is also releasing a set of recommendations and action steps for governments and financial institutions, grounded in social justice frameworks from diverse global movements and civil society. You can read the recommendations here: https://bit.ly/3GBaLml 

The document outlines why women’s leadership and feminist analysis is central to any real action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and offers governments and businesses a path forward in ensuring global warming stays below 1.5 degrees celsius. Governments must get in step with our communities and start taking the bold and ambitious action necessary to protect our communities and the Earth from further destruction.

4.  The Climate Heritage Network (CHN) members --including myself --are invited to provide inputs on the culture or heritage dimensions of (1) gender-differentiated climate impacts; (2) women as agents of change and opportunities for women, or (3) gender-responsive climate action. How is the inclusion of women’s leadership, and gender responsive policies and programs connected to addressing climate change?

In the recommendations to Stockholm+50, we detail this connection between women’s leadership and climate change. As I’ve mentioned, women are critical drivers of climate solutions, yet bear the brunt of climate impacts. Studies have shown that a one unit increase in a country’s score on the Women’s Political Empowerment Index is associated with an 11.51% decrease in the country’s carbon emissions. Yet, women remain underrepresented in local, national, and international decision-making.

Uplifting women’s and feminist leadership and solutions is necessary as we reach this vital point for humanity. 

Our networks of women and feminist leaders are bringing forward, into these spaces, expertise, and calls for deep structural change, which is essential for equitable solutions and the protection of nature. We are challenging narratives of patriarchy, colonialism, racism, and capitalism, and instead actively building policies and solutions that center on people and the planet.

Globally women are leading community-led solutions that promote food sovereignty, halt fossil fuel infrastructure, build renewable energy, advocate for the rights of nature, fight for Indigenous rights, shape emerging feminist economies, protect forests and biodiverse ecosystems, and many more solutions that are advancing a just and equitable transition.

6.  What are your thoughts on The Fossil Fuel Treaty Initiative at Stockholm+50?

I am honored to serve on the Steering Committee for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (FFNPT), recognizing the importance and innovation of the initiative in calling on governments to phase out fossil fuels and fast-track climate solutions. The initiative is inspired by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which helped stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the 1970s.  

We need international cooperation to transform our global societies and economies, and endorsing the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is a concrete step that governments can take right now to show their commitment to the future of our communities and the Earth. 

In the lead up to Stockholm+50, the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty is holding a pre-summit in partnership with the Stanley Center for Peace and Security and the Nordic Council. The pre-summit will be attended by Indigenous leaders, policy-makers, diplomats, the Stockholm+50 Youth Task Force, and key civil society leaders from across the world in order to discuss how we can work together to manage a global just transition away from fossil fuels, including through supporting a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Learn more and register here: https://fossilfueltreaty.org/stockholm50-program

7.  How can people get involved with your Organization?

Everyone is welcome to join the WECAN network by signing up to our newsletter and following us on social media where we post and share opportunities to get involved. We stay connected with a global network of women rising for climate justice through these platforms. 

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