Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kaitlyn Teppert: A Woman's Touch

As many people know, gender balance in the science and political world is nonexistent. While women have absolutely become more represented in these fields, the disparity and difference between the genders is still there, and still strong. Due to the nature of science and politics, the COP becomes a melting pot for both of those worlds to come together as the climate science is applied and considered in policy making.

Along with more distinct and definitive wording needing to be utilized in the official policies, we also need to reconsider our entire approach to climate change.

Think about it – when we hear about things like renewable energy, or new infrastructure, or more efficient appliances, or electric cars, what pops into everyone’s mind? Money. And why? Because politicians have made it that way. They’ve presented climate change not as the disaster it is, but as a component of the economy; of course, it influences and is influenced by the economy, but by no means does that mean can we put a price on human lives.

So where does this tie into gender?

On December 9th at the COP’s gender day, I had the wonderful experience of getting to listen to, amongst others, Wandee Khunchornyakong speak about how her company began. Ms. Khunchornyakong began some of the first solar farms in Thailand. Currently, she runs 36 of them; simply because when the government opened applications for solar farms, no one else applied—so when she was expecting one, she was handed 36.
Ms. Khunchornyakong examining meters in one of her many solar farms.

Upon approval, she went to the banks in her city, trying to convince the banks that green investments were smart investments. After almost every bank turned her down, Ms. Khunchornyakong was able to find a bank to cover 60% of the costs. Which meant she’d have to find 40%.

At the talks on December 9th, Ms. Khunchornyakong smiled out into the audience, reminiscing about these days, with her husband in the row directly behind mine. She looked out at us and said:
“I told him, ‘if we lose, we only lose money. But if we win…’”

The implications are there. If their solar farms were successful (which they are), they wouldn’t just earn money; but lower carbon dioxide emissions, and end up offering thousands of local jobs and opportunities for people.

Ms. Khunchornyakong’s words, I think, embodied the difference between how women lead and how men lead. So far, the discussion has revolved around money, because as the saying goes, “money talks.”

Well, I think money might talk too much.

When we consider climate change, we always ask ourselves what we can do to change. What can we make more efficient? What habits are bad and make large, negative impacts? What alternatives do we have?

Maybe we should begin to consider to change the leadership. Allowing women to rise up to higher positions, allowing them into the discussion for policy making and help design the roadmaps to a livable, sustainable future could completely change the discussion. Ms. Khunchornyakong’s statement is the perfect embodiment of how women choose to lead. We recognize that climate change is a people issue, not just an environmental one.

Ms. Khunchornyakong’s business is a lighthouse; it is a beacon of hope for climate, for change, and for women.

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