Home » FOR THE FIRST TIME; Grand Mothers of the World, Unite

FOR THE FIRST TIME; Grand Mothers of the World, Unite

by Narges Mohammadi
Switzerland/ More than 2,000 Swiss women, their ages averaging in the low 70s, are suing their country’s government, arguing that Switzerland has violated their basic human rights by not doing enough to respond to climate change. The lawsuit before the European Court of Human Rights cites research showing older people are less able to regulate their body temperatures and are more likely to die in heat waves. Two Swiss courts had dismissed the lawsuit. Late last month, as the European court took up the case, a crowd of silver-haired women, who call themselves the Association of Swiss Senior Women for Climate Protection, gathered outside the courthouse in Strasbourg, France, waving flowers, blowing bubbles, and ringing cowbells. When I saw a picture of them, I smiled in recognition. That is the typical way we grandmothers act to protect our ecosystem, with joy, pizazz, and kindness. By grandmothers, I mean all those older women who care about others. I am in a group called Guardians of the Aquifer. We formed 13 years ago to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from coming through Nebraska, our home, and much to our surprise, the company canceled the project in 2021. Since then, we have undertaken various projects including trying, though failing, to stop the construction of a huge chicken processing plant because of its risks for disease and pollution. We’ve worked for clean energy, better environmental legislation, and the election of candidates who will govern in ways that ameliorate climate change. Most of our members are older women.

“Thank you in advance” Campaign

Action can come from love or anger. Older women know that leading with love is the most effective approach. For example, our group organized a “thank you in advance” campaign to encourage our governor at the time, Dave Heinemann, to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Every Monday for weeks, we took the governor’s wildflower bouquets, artworks, and homemade muffins, all with accompanying letters. We have called news conferences to present cheddar-crust apple pies, warm from the oven, to legislators who made good decisions regarding our state’s resources. These actions seem soft, but they were surprisingly effective in encouraging lawmakers to work for our causes. Of course, in the environmental movement, there are many fine men, including my friend Bill McKibben, a founder of the climate group 350. org., but women have led the way. Consider Rachel Carson, the author of “Silent Spring,” which led to tighter control of pesticides; Jane Goodall, the chimpanzee researcher, and conservationist; Winona LaDuke, the Native American economist, and activist; Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her environmental work in Africa; and Berta Caceres, who was assassinated in Honduras for her efforts to protect Indigenous land. The environmental activist Joanna Macy has worked much of her long life on what she calls “the work that reconnects.” That work involves despair and empowerment workshops for groups all over the world. Her model of training is the best I know for transforming grief, anger, and helplessness into action and empowerment. Of our current crisis, Ms. Macy has said, “The darker the circumstance, the more brilliant the invitation.”

Groundwater Foundation

Many women in my community are working on environmental causes. After her son was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal illness that led to her becoming more aware of contamination from pesticides and fertilizers, Susan Seacrest created the Groundwater FoundationJanece Mollhoff, a retired Army colonel and nurse, serves on a public power board making sure that we close our coal plants and move toward clean energy. Others campaign to reduce plastics, to educate Nebraskans about the Omaha Nation’s ways of caring for the land, and to develop a climate action plan for Lincoln, the city where I live. This is just a sampling. Many more women work on regulations for industrialized livestock operations and industrial agriculture and on promoting regenerative agriculture, community crop gardens, and protecting our few remaining unplowed prairies.  Female leaders multitask and make connections to other groups and causes. Indigenous people’s rights, social justice, local control of food and energy, and democracy are all part of one great cause — the respect for and preservation of all life. We are the mother trees in the forest, nurturing all our surroundings.

The Future

We are informed about climate change. We know that it makes no sense to put money into college funds or save family heirlooms if our grandchildren will live on a planet with polluted air, land, and water, and face unbearable temperatures and constant catastrophic storms. To secure our grandchildren’s future, we must stop the burning of fossil fuels, plant trees, clean up our planet and protect biodiversity. The antidote to our despair about our grandchildren’s future is action. It gives us hope and solidarity.  It is our joy and wonder that gives us the strength to do the hard work. Our planet’s environmental crisis calls for us to transform our fundamental relationships between self and others. As we work on keeping the earth viable, we learn that there is no us and no them. I hope the Swiss women will inspire all of us to unite to save not only our grandchildren but all the grandchildren of the world, as well as the grandchildren of the fox and the frog, the narwhal, and the bluebird. Source: New York Times 

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