The comedian and the former president of Ireland talk plastic bag charges, Trump, and why a man-made climate crisis needs a feminist solutionby Stephanie Boland / July 28, 2018 / Leave a comment
When I arrive to interview Mary Robinson and Maeve Higgins, the grass in Soho Square is brown. The workers spread out on the benches could be an art installation designed to showcase different patterns of sunburn. Later that week, the temperature on the Central Line hits 37 degrees. Satellite photographs show a beige archipelago. By the end of the heatwave, the news anchors tell us, the city will have gone six weeks without rain.
We’re here in London because Robinson and Higgins have created a new podcast, Mothers of Invention, to highlight the importance of climate justice.
Robinson, a former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has been working on climate change for over a decade. Higgins is a comedian—a useful thing to have, she says, in the climate change conversation, where curiosity (and a willingness to ask stupid questions) go a long way.
A feminist approach
As the title suggests, there is a feminist aspect to the podcast, which tells the stories of people—principally women—who are already leading initiatives to fight back against climate change.
“Climate change is a man-made problem and needs a feminist solution,” Robinson says, smiling—although she’s keen to add that men, too, can be “mothers of invention.”
“You don’t have to be a mother,” says Higgins. “I’m not a mother that I know of.” (Robinson interjects, dryly: “I think you would know, Maeve.”)
“It wasn’t a choice we made, to say there’s a feminist solution,” Higgins says.
“Climate change isn’t gender-neutral. It affects women the most and the worst, so it makes sense that it’s women in the global south that are coming up with solutions. They’re the people facing the worst of it.”
“We’re just giving that a platform.”
The big shifts
Both Higgins and Robinson note that, in terms of climate, some of the most significant actions originate outside the global north.
“I spend a lot of time in Africa,” Robinson says, “and women are really on the move there. There’s a minister in Kenya, for instance, who put a very large fine on plastic bags.”
It’s these sorts of actions, made by women who are in positions to affect “big shifts,” which she’s particularly keen…