Brave Voices: Women Fighting North American Coal

Coal has long been the life and blood of rural communities like Lindytown, West Virginia. But surface mining that blasts away mountain tops to reveal the underlying coal has turned many small communities into ghost towns, literally inverting their eco-systems and taking with it native plants like the black cherry, ginseng root, goldenseal and sassafras which used to be common there.

Maria Gunnoe was working as a waitress when a mountaintop removal filled the valley behind her home and flooded her property, covering it with toxic coal sludge. Now, she's an environmental activist.

Meanwhile emissions from old coal smokestacks in Chicago, Illinois create thick layers of dust over Little Village, a Mexican-American community, which has the highest rate of asthma in the city. The local power company has finally agreed to close two antiquated plants.

Life in rural Appalachia and urban Chicago have little in common. But in both places, environmental degradation and climate change has made life more difficult for women and their families.

The voices of these women will be brought to the forefront during two Gender and Climate Justice Tribunals, the first in the North America organised by the Feminist Task Force and its partners. The West Virginia hearings will be held on 10 May 2012; the Chicago tribunal will be in June.

“Climate change is affecting women around the world in devastating ways,” says Rosa Lizarde, global coordinator of the Feminist Task Force of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. “These tribunals demonstrate the need to take urgent action to halt man-made climate change and address gender equality to end poverty.”

The Feminist Task Force (FTF), which is an independently-funded GCAP constituent, launched the tribunals during a session at the 2012 Forum of the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID).

The FTF has conducted over twenty climate tribunals across Africa, Asia and Latin America to provide women the opportunity to share how climate change has affected their lives and communities.

The tribunals in the US are being organised in collaboration with the Loretto Community at the United Nations, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), the Eco-Justice Collaborative, the Pilsen Alliance, Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) and Citizens Against Ruining the Environment.

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