Women, E-Waste, and Technological Solutions to Climate Change

In this paper, we argue that a crossover class of climate change solutions (which we term “technological solutions”) may disproportionately and adversely impact some populations over others. We begin by situating our discussion in the wider climate discourse, particularly with regard to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Basel Convention. We then suggest that many of the most attractive technological solutions to climate change, such as solar energy and electric car batteries, will likely add to the rapidly growing stream of electronic waste (“e-waste”). This e-waste may have negative downstream effects on otherwise disenfranchised populations. We argue that e-waste burdens women unfairly and disproportionately, affecting their mortality/morbidity and fertility, as well as the development of their children. Building on this, we claim that these injustices are more accurately captured as problems of recognition rather than distribution, since women are often institutionally under-acknowledged both in the workplace and in the home. Without institutional support and representation, women and children are deprived of adequate safety equipment, health precautions, and health insurance. Finally, we return to the question of climate justice in the context of the human right to health and argue for greater inclusion and recognition of women waste workers and other disenfranchised groups in forging future climate agreements.

 
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