NOTE: This interview excerpt is transcript only
An empowering voice for balance, Osprey Orielle Lake works nationally and internationally to promote resilient communities and foster a post-carbon energy future that reflects women's and indigenous wisdom. As the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN), Osprey is active in facilitating the annual "Women Act for Climate Justice" campaign to activate diverse women and girls around the world as advocates for climate progress in advance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP). In this interview, Osprey reflects the holistic understanding of restorative leadership and explains why it is particularly important for women to self-authorize with resolve at this planet-critical time.
On Leading Transcript
Seana Lowe Steffen, host: What compels you to do the work that you do?
Osprey Orielle Lake, guest: As I searched for how I was going to engage in the climate justice movement, I began to research the impacts of climate change on women. I learned about the remarkable and effective work women are doing in the field of sustainability and it inspired me to bring women from around the world together from many different cultures and sectors to address the urgency of the climate crisis and to support a global women’s climate action movement to work for solutions. With this in mind, I founded and direct the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN). I believe women are at the nexus of a thriving and just global future: they are disproportionately impacted by environmental and economic problems and yet demonstratively central to the most important solutions. At WECAN, we highlight women worldwide as innovators and agents of change in mitigating and adapting to climate change and environmental degradation, while also demonstrating a way forward with cross-sector and cross-cultural solutions from the grassroots up. Women around the world are rising with fierce resolve because what is happening at national and international policy levels on climate change is not equivalent to the urgency we are facing. We are in a crisis because we are not implementing solutions already here -- from solar, wind and geothermal technologies to eco-cities, agro-ecology, permaculture, new cultural narratives and new economic structures and indicators -- and this is precisely where women can make all the difference.
Seana: The historic International Women's Earth & Climate Summit was held in September of 2013 and brought together 100 global women leaders to help further a women’s climate action agenda. What have been the most positive outcomes and impacts you have seen as a result of the gathering that you convened?
Osprey: Since the Summit, a very dynamic and active international network of women leaders has formed, as well as the development of many new programs. The Summit produced two critical documents: the WECAN Climate Declaration and the Women’s Climate Action Agenda. The WECAN Climate Declaration entitled Women of the World Call for Urgent Action on Climate Change & Sustainability Solutions calls for key actions such as a commitment to transition to a clean energy economy, including electrical generation from 100% renewables and the cancellation of further fossil fuel development; carbon fees and a financial transaction tax; protection of the world’s oceans and forests. The Declaration has been signed by Dr. Jane Goodall, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, Dr. Vandana Shiva, the Former President of the Maldives--President Nasheed, Nobel Laureate Jody Williams and many leading grassroots and Indigenous leaders from around the world. The Declaration is being distributed worldwide by allied networks and is serving as a powerful organizing tool and collecting thousands of signatures. The second document is the Women’s Climate Action Agenda, a highly researched and detailed road map supporting solutions that keep global temperatures from rising no more than 2 degrees centigrade. The Action Agenda, drafted by more than 100 women leaders during the Women's Earth and Climate Summit, analyzes the root causes of the environmental destruction and social injustice which today threaten people and planet in an unprecedented way. It also contextualizes why transformative change is necessary, articulates what must be done, and provides clear means for doing so.
Seana: What do those working for global sustainability and planetary wellbeing need to succeed?
Osprey: I think it is important to understand that as we engage and take action we are part of social and environmental movements that are much greater than ourselves, greater than our communities or our countries. We are part of our planet’s immune system that is rising up against injustices that are destroying our Earth and all life as we know it. Recognizing that we are part and particle of our mother planet is essential in healing ourselves, the Earth and carrying out the great work ahead. One of the most important actions is the systemic change provided by Rights of Nature laws. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize Rights of Nature in their constitution. Similarly, Bolivia has established eleven Rights of Nature laws. And, before these national developments, the rural U.S. community of Tamaqua Borough, Pennsylvania with the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund passed an ordinance recognizing nature as a rights bearing entity. Since then over twenty-four communities in the US have passed local ordinances which recognize Rights of Nature to protect their ecosystems. We can change our laws—think civil rights, suffrage, and the end of Apartheid. This is the kind of deep transformational change we need. Imagine a culture based on reciprocity with nature. Imagine understanding that even though Mother Earth offers us great gifts everyday, we choose to have governance and economic structures in which we choose to not just keep taking.
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Awaken to Sustainable Solutions
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is a climate justice-based initiative established to unite women worldwide as powerful stakeholders in sustainability solutions, policy advocacy, and worldwide movement building for social and ecologic justice.
Uprisings for the Earth delves into a new kinship with nature while acknowledging the treasures of urban life and the unique stake each person has in resolving critical and timely challenges. While avoiding doomsday scenarios, Lake offers a frank inquiry into a variety of causes leading to our current global peril while also providing a deep well of hope and profound insight. She weaves together history, ecology, culture, governance, women's leadership and the arts to map out an integrated approach to working in partnership with nature while creating a more just and sustainable future.