Today’s post is by regular contributor, Richard Jurin. Before his retirement, Richard led the Environmental Studies programme at the University of Northern Colorado, where he launched a degree in Sustainability Studies.  His academic interests are environmental worldviews and understanding barriers to sustainability. As ever, with our blogs, the views expressed are not necessarily shared by NAEE.

Richard writes:

We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims” Buckminster Fuller

For literally decades now (and especially since I published my Sustainable Living Text in 2012), I am always amazed at how often a few people actually critique me for my attempts to promote a positive worldview for a Sustainable future from the grassroots.  I want a world where war is obsolete, people live in peace and relative harmony with each other, and where we live harmoniously with the natural world for the benefit of all life with a comfortable and technologically safe lifestyle.  And the craziest thing about all this is that most people I talk with want this as well.  It is this last statement that long ago set me on my quest to understand why, despite the desire to be this way, we continue to wage war, commit atrocities on each other and the natural world, and promote hate and separation as if it was completely normal to do so.  

My Espe stories are not just cute stories, they are a vision of what can be if we simply choose it to be.  We can’t expect the ‘small number of powers that be’ to do this for us.  No group of politicians, corporations or billionaires can or will make the changes we need. Change has to come from us, the people of this planet.  Change never comes from the powerful and proud [the hierarchy]– they have too much to lose and too little to gain.  Change always comes from the common and humble – we have little to lose and much to gain” John Ikerd, Economist.  

As an academic I gave many talks at conferences as a presenter and sometimes as a keynote speaker.  My observations and discussions, especially at international conferences, were that representatives of half of the world’s population agreed with me that the thrust of current global sustainability policy sounded nice, but was a long way from what was needed.  I talk of course about women.  Work by Caroline Perez (Invisible Women, 2019) shows how our world has reached its current situation because of a reliance on data that has consistently been framed through a male-patriarchal perspective.  We live in a world designed by men with men primarily in mind, with the assumption that it would fit women.   Women live in a world in which their needs and requirements are largely ignored.  Where data might exist. It is rarely sex-disaggregated to understand how women are affected differently than men in all areas of life.  

A sustainable and equitable world will give all women a voice.  Women are not just differently shaped males.  They are physiologically, biochemically and psychologically different and it is the latter that brings promise of a unique mindset to how the world functions.  Current women in positions of power often have to do things from a male perspective.  When women have the option to use their voices, solutions for everything will take a different turn.  From medical research, to public transport, to how buildings and housing are designed, everything in our modern world is framed from a male perspective.        

As an example, 4-5 times as much research funding goes into male-pattern baldness and erectile dysfunction than Premenstrual Syndrome (when it is even funded), and PMS is not considered a medical problem despite that 90% of women suffer from it.  Most men who live with a woman will attest that PMS is real, although medical science considers it a psychological phenomenon only.  Most public venues have equal numbers of toilet facilities for men and women, despite the obvious lines of women that stretch well outside the toilet facilities when men’s facilities generally have none.  When the data are sex-disaggregated, new public facilities provide three times as many toilets for women as men to solve the problem.    

Whether it is in the developed or undeveloped world, because of a male designed world, women have suffered, and continue to suffer, highly disproportionately to every problem in the world.  Much of that has been because of the invisible woman syndrome, and that includes all the things that women do that is never included in work assessments, especially within the home arena and during crises situations (e.g., as refugees).  For most situations there is little to no sex-disaggregated data to describe women, even though they are 50% of the human population.

To emphasize just how critical and highly under acknowledged a woman’s role within the home and society is, on a unique Friday, October 24, 1975, the women of Iceland had a one-day strike – called the ‘Long Friday’ by the Icelandic men who quickly came to appreciate what women do every day that they took for granted.  Globally, 75% of unpaid work is done by women, but that is differentiated as something different from working women.  As Perez states, “There is no such thing as a woman who doesn’t work.  There is only the woman who isn’t paid for her work.”  While that includes cooking, cleaning, and child care, women are also primarily responsible for elder and community care.  Yet the social structures and services that help women are often designed by men who make assumptions about what the women and society need.  And refugee camps are often places of violence and trauma for females who struggle with conditions that are not suffered equitably by males.      

The male mindset for at least the last five millennia has set conditions about everything for women, and also the natural world, by largely ignoring both.  I don’t think it was done maliciously, but testosterone driven thinking probably spurred on empire building and the mechanistic-scientific worldview of the Medieval Renaissance.  Just as women have been invisible for most of civilized history, so too has the natural world and its complex systems.  A future sustainable society will have equitable representation from women and also the natural world.  Only relatively recently has science come to realize just how truly interconnected is everything on the planet.  In general, women have an innate wisdom about cycles and systems rarely appreciated by men, except in indigenous societies in which men and women thrive and adapt more equitably.           

To Be Continued … 


Richard can be contacted at

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