The power of women

| March 7, 2013

1Million Women founder and CEO, Natalie Isaacs, shares her journey in becoming a climate change crusader and tells how women, as a united force, can change the world.

I have to confess I maybe the founder of 1Million Women, but I’m not some long-term green role model. I’m really far from it. Before a few years ago I was not engaged at all. I understood the issues around climate change but that didn’t translate into action. I took the view that, as only person, I couldn’t make a difference anyway. I didn’t even have my recycling sorted.

My background – I used to be a cosmetics manufacturer. Yep, my life used to be all about overpackaging.

But in 2006 I had an epiphany and changed. It was during those halcyon days when there was broad bipartisan politicalcommitment for the climate change issue here in Australia.

I internalised climate change. I realised that it actually wasn’t someone else’s issue or problem. That it was all about me, about my family and friends and about our future. So I started to take action in my life and started 1Million Women (1MW) with a friend of mine, Michelle Grosvenor.

1MW is about engaging women to take practical action on climate change. Our vision was big from the start. We wanted to engage women, much like ourselves, who were not engaged in climate change issues.

Every woman who joins 1MW makes a personal commitment to cut a tonne of pollution and our website enables women to achieve this.

I have always been a little surprised when people ask me the rationale behind a women’s climate action campaign and “what does gender have to do with it?”

We know there is something so gloriously powerful when women join forces for a common goal. More profoundly, we know women and children in the developing world are on the frontline when it comes to climate change and related natural disasters like storms, floods, droughts and famines.

But what about women like us, who live in one of the richest countries in the world?

We’re over half the voting population. Women make over 70 per cent of the purchasing decisions that impact on Australia’s household environmental footprint.  We have enormous influence in the consumer marketplace.

We also own and run about a third of the 1.7 million small businesses in Australia, so we are a major social and economic force in our own right and… we are powerful networkers.

I truly believe that women have the power to transform society.

And there is no doubt that living sustainably is a critical issue for us here in Australia. We are an incredibly wasteful society. We spend a fortune on stuff we barely use, to the likes of $10.5 billion a year. Households waste at least 20 per cent of the food we buy. We waste 13 per cent of the electricity we use and those of us who drive are now using 20 per cent more fuel than 10 years ago.

In just over three years, 1MW has grown to become one of the largest women’s movements in Australia dedicated to climate action. We have 80,000 members, nearly 37,000 connect with us via social media, 8000 schoolgirls have joined our 10,000 TEENS youth program, and more than 9000 women have attended one of our community events around the country.

I know our targets are ambitious but climate change is real. It is already transforming the way we live and the way society operates and unless we have ambitious targets in absolutely everything we do, we are just living in denial; disregarding the enormity of the problem and the scale and speed at which we need to act.

Our work in Australia focuses on climate action and asking ourselves what we do in our lives to live sustainably and have the least impact on the planet.

I hope you will join us because the bigger our numbers, the more powerful we become as a movement leading change.