Why Are Global Megatrends Male Gendered, and What Happens if We Change That?

Forthcoming, Beate Sjåfjell, Carol Liao, Aikaterini Argyrou, Innovating Business for Sustainability: Regulatory Approaches in the Anthropocene (Edward Elgar).

University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2020-04

Posted: 1 Feb 2020

Date Written: January 31, 2020

Abstract

The planetary boundaries framework is an effort by the global change science community to highlight the critical environmental processes where the accumulated burden of society’s activities is driving Earth system dynamics into a risky, largely unpredictable state. The framework has been taken up in both business and policy. This chapter will briefly review these sectoral and national experiments in applying the framework and reflect on the various operational challenges they have encountered.

A key challenge in making the planetary boundaries work in practice has not yet been articulated: while several scholars have highlighted the social (in)justice and distributional implications of the framework, it has not been viewed through a gendered lens. Fundamentally, the biophysical framing of the planetary boundaries leaves the social drivers of global change unarticulated; its systems ontology anonymises the human ‘components’; and the global perspective keeps diversity and differentiated responsibility out of focus. This omission has significant environmental justice implications.

Part of the task of bringing gender and diversity into a global megatrend analysis is a scientific task. The academic literature indicates that gender perspectives only feature at local scales (e.g., farms, households), and for one environmental crisis issue at a time (drought, deforestation, etc.), so this chapter will explore a gendered view of global change impacts, using the planetary boundaries framework. It will outline key strands of gender features in climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem change, pollution, and the use of land, water and nutrient resources.

An equally important part of the task hinges on knowledge sharing and co-development between science and business. This chapter will focus on how the social drivers of global environmental change have been described and how solutions are presented and ask whether a gendered view actually expands the scope within our societies to respond to unsustainable megatrends. This is the field where business (and its literature) provides examples of adaptiveness, creativity and innovation that can indeed ‘change the world’ – and where attention is placed on an individual’s scope to act, lead and share burdens in response to the shifting environmental pressures that arise as planetary boundaries are approached.

Suggested Citation

Cornell, Sarah, Why Are Global Megatrends Male Gendered, and What Happens if We Change That? (January 31, 2020). Forthcoming, Beate Sjåfjell, Carol Liao, Aikaterini Argyrou, Innovating Business for Sustainability: Regulatory Approaches in the Anthropocene (Edward Elgar)., University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2020-04, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3529262

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