The Feminist Green New Deal: How Care Jobs Impact Climate Change

According to a new report, care work is integral to efforts toward decarbonization.

March for climate justice (Image credit: feministgreennewdeal.com)

Coming on the heels of debate about the Green New Deal proposed primarily by Senator Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, a similar coalition brief was released this month. The Feminist Green New Deal highlights the relation between climate change and the care industry. 

Care and Climate: Understanding the Policy Intersections is co-authored by Lenore Paladino and Rhiana Gunn-Wright. The former is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The latter is the Director Climate Policy at the Roosevelt Institute. 

Within the paper, the authors flesh out the story of the Feminist Green New Deal Coalition. This coalition is comprised of organizations and individual contributors who advocate for the climate crisis to be addressed with intersectional feminism in mind when considering its widespread effects. As the report states, climate change is both affected by systemic oppressions and exacerbates those inequalities. 

Defining care work and green jobs highlights their intersections.

The climate crisis has roots in capitalism, racism and sexism. Obvious examples of these labor exploitation, resource extraction, and settler colonialism. In order to make any progress with the climate crisis, addressing these root problems is vital. 

The care economy in particular is centered within the brief. The authors argue that justice in the care work sector can improve the economy, and that by addressing justice issues for caregivers, we can transition toward decarbonization.

Care work is defined in the brief to be “the market and non-market work that all of us engage in to sustain life.” This includes the work done within families as they care for each other, and the similar work done by paid workers. Taking care of children, elders, disabled people and so on are all within this definition. 

The Feminist Green New Deal operates on the belief that these care jobs are also green jobs. Defined as jobs that exist within the clean energy sector, green jobs broadly encompass any job that would move our economy closer to decarbonization. 

In order to outline the authors primary arguments, the brief is largely broken into four main points. 

Access to care jobs for both men and women.

They begin by arguing that a heightened care sector is vital in attaining access to clean energy jobs. The work required to facilitate the care of children, elders and disabled individuals have a serious economic impact on women who are traditionally expected to fulfill this caretaker role. 

Investing and strengthening these care sectors independently will ease the burden on these women, and also allow them access to clean energy jobs. Affordable outside childcare, elder care and disability care is hard to come by for families. A robust and affordable care sector that helps these women will provide a more equitable opportunity to be involved in clean energy jobs. 

The second point the authors make is that care work is a green job opportunity for those who are transitioning out of jobs from the fossil fuel industry. Part of this would include the deconstruction of the myth that care work is for women. The fossil fuel sector is primarily populated by men. Centering the skills required in care work, while offering the aforementioned family-sustaining environment, can lead people away from jobs that are harmful to the environment.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis found that investment in the care sector would create job opportunities within it, but also in retail and food service as direct care workers would look to those to use their wages on. 

The need for care jobs and their impact on the environment.

Point three of the brief is that care jobs are green jobs because most of them, especially those in home environments, have a minor impact on greenhouse gas emissions. 

In the care industry, most pollution comes from hospitals and healthcare facilities. These can be decarbonized, however. Decarbonizing them would not only lower their impact on the environment, but also cause them to be more effective in keeping their communities healthy.

The final point made in the brief is that a worsening environment will exacerbate the need for the care sector. Environmental decline disproportionately affects BIPOC communities, low-income areas, the disabeld community, and women. This effect includes that of worsening systemic racial and economic disparities. 

Further, the worse the environment gets, the more access to health care is required to mitigate the hazards it brings. We have already begun to see this impact with the recent California forest fires and other climate disasters. 

The brief calls to action the Biden-Harris administration, who have made clear that the climate crisis is one of their top priorities. Care work has not yet been mentioned in the administrations plans to address the issue, but the Feminist Green New Deal has worked to highlight its importance on their behalf.

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Author: Kimberly Pike

Kimberly Pike is a writer, artist and self proclaimed cat lady living in Rhode Island. She is passionately writing about women's issues and helping to teach others about it.

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