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Film highlights intersectional nature of climate change and 5 women making a difference

The 2014 documentary "Hands-On: Women, Climate, Change" will be screened at the Normal Theater Tuesday as part of a series on climate change presented by Illinois State's Center for Math, Science and Technology and the Office of Sustainability.
The 2014 documentary "Hands-On: Women, Climate, Change" will be screened at the Normal Theater Tuesday as part of a series on climate change presented by Illinois State University's Center for Math, Science and Technology and the Office of Sustainability.

In 2019, a group of about 250 Illinois State University students and supporters marched from Uptown Circle through campus as part of a youth-led climate strike. The protest was inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, in tandem with worldwide strikes that took place surrounding Thunberg’s appearance at the United Nations Climate Action Summit.

“That made me consider the potential for asking these students if they were interested in divesting ISU’s investment portfolio from fossil fuels,” said May Jadallah, a professor in the College of Education. “That’s kind of how the entire project started.”

Jadallah is co-advisor for the Student Sustainability Committee and Student Environmental Action Coalition. She’s also an advisor to students leading the Fossil Free ISU initiative that resulted from conversations with students who led the initial protest.

Jadallah suggested a film series to engage students and faculty on climate issues. She curates the Tuesday night screenings based on suggestions from other faculty members. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We had faculty bring their children with them,” Jadallah said. “The kids inspired the idea that maybe we need to have something in our schools.”

Metcalf School and middle schools in Unit 5 and District 87 have screened at least one of the films in the climate change film series.

“It’s spreading to a larger audience and a younger audience, which is really exciting,” said Jadallah.

The latest installment in series takes place Tuesday evening at the Normal Theater in Uptown, where anyone can view the 2014 documentary, “Hands On: Women, Climate, Change,” for free.

The title separates those three words with commas. But as assistant professor of philosophy Eric Godoy explains, they don’t exist in isolation.

“Climate change is a really tricky problem,” Godoy said. “One of its features is that it is an injustice exacerbator. People who are already marginalized in society, which includes women worldwide, they’re going to feel impacts differently than others.”

Godoy teaches environmental ethics and regularly instructs on eco-feminism through courses cross-listed with Philosophy and Gender Studies.

“Looking at and including the voices of front line people and people who are marginalized — that’s really an important component to addressing climate change,” he said.

The film highlights case studies of five women activists from Norway, Kenya, India, and two regions of Canada — Northwest Territory and British Columbia. An overarching theme of the film is the impact of climate change on indigenous cultures, in addition to its focus on women.

“That’s a second feature of climate change and how tricky it is,” Godoy said. “It’s an intersectional problem. That means we have to look the way that different types of identity compound those forms of injustice.”

The suggestion to view “Hands On” came from Allison Bailey, a philosophy professor and director of ISU’s Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies program. Jadallah said she felt it was important to feature a variety of perspectives in the film series.

“It is important to focus on how women see, interact (with) and respond to issues related to climate that might be different from how men see things,” she said.

The film grapples with a common economic argument that addressing climate change by reducing a reliance on oil and gas, or avoiding over fishing, for example, will negatively affect labor and financial prosperity — in predominantly male industries.

“It really presents the problem in a holistic way,” Godoy said. “Flourishing requires a holistic perspective. We all want to flourish. We want our children to flourish, we want our friends and compatriots to flourish. What really matters in holistic view is that flourishing doesn’t come at the expense of the flourishing of others.”

The screening of “Hands On: Women, Climate, Change” begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Normal Theater, 209 North St. in Uptown.

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Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.
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