2017 was declared the Year of Women—but it’s clear to me that we’re only just beginning.
If there was one silver lining to Donald Trump’s first year in office, it’s that we saw, time and time again, the power of women in action. From the numerous examples of women resisting and persisting to the unprecedented number of women seriously considering running for political office in 2018—26,000 at last count—it’s evident that this movement is growing stronger by the day.
When the obstacles we face feel particularly overwhelming, I take a deep breath and draw strength from a powerful moment from the Women’s March in January 2017. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the event. But when I stood on stage, looking out and seeing wave upon wave of women marching, the sheer number of people―and the fact that we were all there together to stand up for what we believe in as Americans―took the air out of my lungs. I had never seen anything like that in my lifetime, and the memory continues to fuel me one year later.
Since that moment, we’ve seen more and more women rise up, speak up, and speak truth to power against the injustices and assaults they’ve endured. And in 2018 we will continue this charge forward. Because there has never been a better time to be a woman, an environmentalist, and an American—and to have our voices heard.
This is our chance. We know—as mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters—that we are the protectors, that we play a key role in caring for our children and our families. We know that the health of people—especially women—and the environment are tightly linked. And simultaneously, the ground is shifting to give women more power and more influence than ever before. This is the time for us to seize and define.
We have seen how successful women are when they rise to the challenge. Just look to Flint, Michigan, where it was the persistence and outrage of concerned mothers that exposed the reality of the poisoned drinking water. Look to Sheila Holt-Orsted, whose tenacious commitment to finding and speaking up about TCE contamination in her community of Dickson, Tennessee, led to permanent protection from toxic well water, and look to the persistent efforts of women on the Southeast Side of Chicago who led the charge for years to get toxic petcoke dust out of their neighborhoods. Look to the inspiring leadership of women of indigenous communities in Canada and Latin America―and here in the United States, where the women of Standing Rock Sioux are still fighting for their right to clean water and a clean environment.
And look to young, smart, motivated women, as I did at two weeks ago at The Wing, a work and community space for women. This roomful of energized and engaged women was a good representation of the resistance rising up and demanding the change that we know is not only possible but required.
Make no mistake. We have some big challenges ahead. The climate is warming and changing at an alarming rate. The environment, including all the rights and the commons that we as Americans cherish—clean water, clean air, and beautiful wildlands—is still under attack. People in frontline communities, such as First Nations tribes and communities of color, continue to bear the brunt of devastating environmental and climate injustices.
But the way forward is led by us, by women. Facing down threats to democracy, to women’s rights, to the climate and the environment cannot be done without our rising up together. This united front—our collective strength—is what we need to create the change we want to see in 2018, and beyond.