How These Women Are Contributing to a Sustainable Tomorrow
For International Women’s Day, we highlight a few women in the Columbia Climate School who are leading on climate science and adaptation, and helping to promote equity, sustainability, and resilience.
Every year on March 8, International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievements and calls attention to the challenges they face. The 2022 International Women’s Day theme is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” recognizing the contribution of women and girls around the world who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all.
Around the world, climate change impacts tend to hit women harder than men. This is because women constitute the majority of the world’s poor — when disaster strikes, women have less access to resources, education, and decision-making power than men.
Women are also more dependent on the natural resources that are most threatened by climate change. For example, in many communities around the world, women and girls fetch water for cooking, cleaning, and gardens, and wood for fuel. Droughts, floods, and heat waves intensified by climate change are making these tasks more difficult and time consuming, leaving women less time to pursue their education or other sources of income, and impacting their health.
At the same time, women and girls are a crucial part of the solution to climate change and other sustainability challenges. In the stories and comments below, you’ll read about just a few of the women from the Columbia Climate School and broader Columbia community who are leading on climate science and adaptation, and helping to promote equity, sustainability, and resilience.
- Linda Fried: From Redefining Aging to Spearheading Research on Climate and Health. Fried helped establish the nation’s first program in a school of public health that delves into the complexities of climate change’s health impacts, and she continues to be a leader in the field.
- Ground-truthing With Yohana Tesfamariam Tekeste. Tesfamariam Tekeste helps farmers reduce their vulnerability to climate change. She tells us about her work, as well as some hard truths about why those vulnerabilities exist in the first place.
- Faye McNeill Combats Air Pollution, From the Molecular to the Global Scale. The first woman to earn tenure in Columbia’s chemical engineering department, McNeill is working for cleaner air in developing countries.
- Learning From Tree Rings: An Interview With Nicole Davi. A dendrochronologist explains how tree rings can teach us about our past, present, and future.
- Q&A With Haein Shin on Advancing Educational Equity. Shin develops educational content that empowers learners to contribute to building a more inclusive and sustainable future.
- Thalia Balkaran: Working to Protect Children in the Caribbean From Disasters. Balkaran is helping communities in the Caribbean to develop disaster preparedness plans that focus on some of their most vulnerable residents: children.
How does your work contribute to a sustainable tomorrow?
Jackie Ratner | Senior Project Manager | National Center for Disaster Preparedness
I manage projects and initiatives that are designed to solve problems in disaster and climate resilience, particularly as it affects our energy grid.
We are working to create a future where community resilience is holistically supported by our built environment. We don’t just need infrastructure that can withstand storms, we need infrastructure that enables socioeconomic equality, helps promote social cohesion, and contributes resilience to communities as an equal stakeholder in an environmentally just and sustainable future.
Carmen González Romero | ACToday Country Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean | International Research Institute for Climate and Society
I co-develop climate services with local stakeholders, with a focus on food security (including undernutrition and human migration) and mosquito-borne diseases. These types of climate services are the base for early-warning systems, allowing decision-makers (governments, international organizations, business associations, etc.) in developing countries to adapt today to a changing climate.
All the work I do is demand-driven, which naturally enhances the sustainability of the projects we work on. This approach fosters real-world research and tailored adaptation strategies. My work at IRI always involves a capacity-building component with our stakeholders because we believe the adaptation starts by increasing the capacities in developing countries using the state-of-the art science.
Gloriose Nsengiyumva | Staff Associate, ENACTS | International Research Institute for Climate and Society
We all like to eat good food and feed our loved ones. However, to get that food, many countries (especially developing ones) heavily depend on rain-fed farming. This means that any reliable information about expected rainfall is crucial for planning and making decisions in these rain-fed systems. My work focuses on supporting the agriculture sector in these countries to get access to the best available and most relevant climate information, and then help them understand and use it for food planning and decision making.
A future without enough food for everyone is scary and sad … and avoidable! Supporting farmers and others who work in agriculture to appropriately use climate information is a huge contributor to a food-secure world. Why? Because we know it can lead to fewer crop failures, increased food production, and fewer people going hungry.
Margie Turrin | Director of Educational Field Programs | Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
The vast majority of my current work is focused on climate change in the polar regions, and communicating both the science we are doing there and the climate impacts underway in these critical regions.
Although the polar regions seem remote to many of us, they hold a central role in Earth’s climate system. Changes in ice cover and ice volume will have direct impacts on all of us. Building climate literacy broadly is a critical first step on the pathway for a sustainable future, but it is a massive challenge. We need tools and communications to reach people at every age, walk of life, income level, political persuasion and more. There is plenty of work, but I am digging in.
Geeta Mehta | Adjunct Professor of Architecture and Urban Design
I am the founder of Asia Initiatives, where I have innovated social capital credits, the community currency for social good that won the World Changing Idea award. The idea is that performing acts of social good — such as planting trees or sending girls to school — generates points that can be used to apply for low-interest loans, skill-building workshops, and other helpful resources. This program is helping over 25,000 people per year in India, Kenya and the US. All our projects are pro-women, pro-environment and pro-poor.
Laurel Zaima | Education and Outreach Coordinator | Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
With climate change impacting every facet of our lives, everyone must join the climate movement with their diverse skills, interests, and ideas, and youth have an especially important role to play in driving climate action. I am working with high school students to educate them about the science of climate change and empower them to develop actionable solutions to address climate change in their communities.
Young people are inheriting a world with record-high anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and consequently, intensifying climate challenges. It is essential that we provide the next generation with the knowledge, skills, and tools to lead in addressing climate change and its impacts. In the past couple years, young people around the world have bound together to make their voices heard and have emerged as major players in the creation of a more just and sustainable future. The climate education that I am offering encourages young people to use their creativity, optimism, and fresh solution-based ideas in climate planning. These voices have incredible value and need to be brought to the forefront of climate decision making.
Beth Fisher-Yoshida | Executive Director | Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity
My work centers on women and negotiation from a narrative perspective. I want to enable women to enhance their negotiation performance by improving the stories they tell about themselves as negotiators.
This points to a sustainable future because it increases the agency women have to be effective negotiators. “The Stories Women Tell,” my book, will be published in 2023.
Hadia Sheerazi | Program Manager, Carbon Management Research Initiative | Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy
My research and advocacy work is very intersectional. I study the connections between energy insecurity, sustainable transport, climate change, disaster risk reduction, disabilities, and gender inequality, and how combinations of these threat-multipliers affect our ability to achieve equity for marginalized communities, design a clean, inclusive, and just energy transition, and maintain peace and security.
For the past 7 years, I’ve been presenting my research to diverse audiences to spread awareness and inspire global action — among youth in classrooms, decision-makers and politicians at the state, local and national level (here in the U.S. and abroad), United Nations ambassadors and UN agency heads, and at global conferences on climate change and the environment.
Sharing my research and data-driven, cross-cutting recommendations has helped improve climate adaptation and resilience in disaster-prone communities here in New York and abroad, and I continue to work on encouraging the adoption of gender- and disability-inclusive frameworks for policymaking and financing for disaster risk reduction, energy security, and combating air pollution, to help achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Jacqueline Klopp | Co-Director | Center for Sustainable Urban Development
As a social scientist, my work involves exploring how to change policy and encourage action to reduce air pollution, address climate change, get improved public transport and land-use, face corruption, and address deep-rooted injustice around all these issues. I am involved in many projects, from the Clean Air Tool Box and DigitalTransport4Africa, which support cities in addressing air pollution and public transport improvements, respectively, to work with Global Integrity on corruption and small-scale cross-border traders in East Africa and the new Resilient Coastal Communities Project, which works with the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance to support more equitable and just coastal resiliency planning in the city.
We need action now to move resources, change institutions and mobilize to address the multi-faceted and inter-related sustainability problems that we face: for example, corruption hampers our ability to address environmental issues; histories of marginalization and racism shape current patterns of who is most vulnerable to climate change and environmental injustices. My work involves working with a network of diverse partners to develop and test ways to enable more effective action. I am proud of the work we are doing together. We are having impacts, but there is so much more to do.
Catalina Sanchez Roa | Associate Research Scientist | Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
I am a scientist working on carbon mineralization to mitigate climate change, by looking at how rocks can capture and store carbon dioxide as solid minerals. I do experimental work to measure how much carbon dioxide can be stored and how the geologic reservoirs will change overtime. Long-term CO2 storage is only in its infancy right now, so more work on permanent CO2 storage is crucial to make it cheaper and easier to decrease atmospheric CO2 and mitigate global warming.
Ashley Curtis | Senior Staff Associate and Training Focal Point | International Research institute for Climate and Society
As training lead at IRI, I help make climate information understandable and useful to farmers, water managers, public health experts, disaster managers and others impacted by climate through trainings around the world on the generation, translation, communication, and use of climate services.
My work strengthens local capacity to manage climate variability and climate shocks in some parts of the world most impacted by changes in climate.
Manishka De Mel | Senior Staff Associate | Center for Climate Systems Research
I lead of portfolio of conservation and development projects for the Climate Impacts Group at the Center for Climate Systems Research/NASA GISS. I engage with international organizations, government agencies and other stakeholders to help them understand climate data, risks and plan for a changing climate through assessments and capacity building workshops.
Through my work, I provide decision makers with insights to act on climate impacts and manage climate risks. By planning for future risks, the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, agriculture, coastal and marine areas etc. can be minimized and adaptation activities can be grounded on best-available science.
I have 15+ years of global experience in climate change and environmental issues, with projects in 20+ countries: Bhutan, Bolivia, Belize, Mexico, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and others. Currently, I am working on a bi-weekly webinar series featuring lectures from Our Warming Planet: Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation, a book I recently co-edited. Through this we hope to provide educational resources for students, teachers, professionals and interested people across the world, especially those in areas where such resources are limited.