Margaret Atwood on why women will inherit climate change

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Susan Devaney
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Author Margaret Atwood has spoken of how women will be “directly and adversely affected by climate change”, drawing similarities with her post-apocalyptic fiction. 

Margaret Atwood is known for her post-apocalyptic fiction, often depicting the brutal oppression of women in dystopian universes. You only have to read or watch The Handmaid’s Tale to see how Atwood can weave reality with fiction to bring women’s stories to the forefront.

Now, the author has spoken of how climate change will leave women much worse off than men, with women bearing the brunt of hunger and war from environmental damage.

“This isn’t climate change – it’s everything change,” Atwood told the Guardian ahead of the Under Her Eye event in London in June. “Women will be directly and adversely affected by climate change.”

The author, who has gained international acclaim from the success of The Handmaid’s Tale in which women are stripped of all rights and forced to reproduce, believes women will struggle to survive in the future due to climate change. 

Women are stripped of all rights and forced to reproduce in The Handmaid’s Tale

“More extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, rising sea levels that will destroy arable land, and disruption of marine life will all result in less food,” Atwood explained. “Less food will mean that women and children get less, as the remaining food supplies will be unevenly distributed, even more than they are.”

Atwood predicts women will live in a world not too dissimilar to the ones she’s created in her fictional work, explaining: “[Climate change] will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars and then brutal repressions and totalitarianisms. Women do badly in wars – worse than in peacetime.”

It’s not the first time the critically acclaimed author has spoken of the bleak future ahead of us due to climate change. In 2015, writing for English In Matter, Atwood wrote: “Planet Earth  –  the Goldilocks planet we’ve taken for granted, neither too hot or too cold, neither too wet or too dry, with fertile soils that accumulated for millennia before we started to farm them – is altering.”

Atwood discussed rising ocean levels, droughts already occurring in California and the oceans transforming before our eyes due to plastic and pollution. Warning, that if we don’t act now we’ll have to have the future consequences.

“This trick originates in worries about the future, and the bad things that may happen in that future; also the desire to deny these things or sweep them under the carpet so business can go on as usual, leaving the young folks and future generations to deal with the mess and chaos that will result, and then pay the bill.

She continued: “Because there will be a bill: in money and human lives. The laws of science are unrelenting, and they don’t give second chances. In fact, that bill is already coming due.”

Atwood will speak at Under The Eye: Women and Climate Change on Friday 1 June at The British Library.

Images: Getty / Hulu