Body of Work: Periods and Climate Action
Before we dive in, we would like to give a heads up that the statistics used are from the UN. The UN refers to menstruators as women. Not all women menstruate. Not all menstruators are women. Yet, we refer to their data with the gender neutral term “menstruators” in order to recognize the gendered impacts of climate and conflict, and recognize that this may skew data due to the lack of research into trans/nonbinary experiences during climate and conflict. We apologise for this inaccuracies and potential for harm. Additionally, we would like to issue a trigger warning for mention of rape and sexual assault.
I’m sixteen and I spend my days organizing to stop the climate crisis and create millions of good jobs through the Green New Deal. Most days, I try to remain grounded in the stakes of my work and the beautiful things that become possible when we win a Green New Deal. On my period, though, my work takes on new meaning. Lying on the floor, cramps causing so, so much pain and using my computer as a heating pad while frantically planning a climate movement meeting, I’m sad because every month my body tries to bring something new into this world. I’m sad because I know the beings on this Earth now are in existential danger. And I’m sad that my body knows to keep trying, but our elite, establishment politicians don’t.
I feel angry that people like me, whose bodies can bring life into this world, are the ones losing lives first and disproportionately from climate collapse.
The climate crisis is causing more tensions as our natural resources are exploited by fossil fuel billionaires. Our overwhelmingly non-menstruating politicians do nothing. In times of conflict, menstruators face more rape and sexual abuse. And, according to Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, “in a scenario with 4 degrees Celsius of warming (approximately the path we’re on if societies do not substantially reduce emissions), the influence of climate on conflicts would increase more than five times, leaping to a 26% chance of a substantial increase in conflict risk.” Eighty percent of people displaced by the climate crisis are menstruators. I don’t want to live in a world where we’re fleeing wars being fought over the last drops of water. I don’t want to be even more scared of assault and death. But this is what we’re careening towards. And it’s reality for too many today. It doesn’t have to be, though.
And yet, menstruators are ridiculed for being too emotional. I’m done with that. We have every right to our emotions. We, in all of our humanity, make life possible. And we, in all of our humanity, will save what lives we can.
I want a world where I can have locally grown dinners with my friends, giggling and breathing in the clean evening air. I want a world where we are not only safe, but a world where we can thrive. Because this is about more than survival. It’s about our well-being and ability to hold onto happiness in our overwhelmingly human ways — our dance parties and late night phone calls. A world that is not dictated by our bodies and our reactions to climate change.
And so, we menstruators take action. We act because we make life possible, we’re not about to let it go out like this. This is our world, these are our mothers, our children.
Menstruators are on the frontline of climate justice movements and climate solutions. Where else would we be?
This open letter is a celebration of us. It’s a celebration of our bodies, our blood, our fight to save everyone and everything we love. Let’s bleed, let’s care, let’s fight. If you’re a menstruator or somebody who knows a menstruator and you’re looking for ways to get involved, you can join the Sunrise movement. We’re an intersectional, nationwide, youth-led movement to stop the climate crisis and create millions of good jobs in the process. We welcome everyone, and we work together through each of our different contexts — menstruation included.
Climate justice organizing is a lot like menstruation. It’s lifegiving, it can be painful and messy, it’s not a one-time thing, and it’s beautiful. You’re already good at it. You don’t have to be an expert to menstruate, you don’t have to be an expert to act. So act.
Emma is a student organizer with the Sunrise Movement in Seattle. Join her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or going to sunrisemovement.org! Emma is an energetic advocate for a just, livable present and future. When she’s not in Zoom meetings, you’ll find her talking about climate justice, period products, or cuddling her dog.