Sports (gender) and the Environment

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Sports (gender) and the Environment

Environmental conservation is a highly debated topic that has permeated the contemporary society as anthropogenic activities and natural disasters take a heavy toll on natural resources and endanger current and future generations. Environmental degradation has worsened to a level that is affecting the global climate, increasing the frequency and severity of natural disasters. Nations and policy makers have taken this concern seriously and are increasingly seeking a global consensus towards a commitment to reduce the carbon footprint or people and their activities, as has been demonstrated in the Brundtland Report and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development Reports (Melo et al. 8). From a different perspective, sports are renowned for bringing together diverse people to partake in a mutually enjoyable activity, be it active participation or spectating athletes display human physical prowess (Hugaerts et al. 1). Sporting activities have been used to raise awareness about issues bedeviling the human society and calling for action for their mitigation (Kavoura and Kokkonen 24). If sporting activities can promote environmental conservation by involving all genders, then social justice and equity become additional benefits. The ensuing discussion delves into the nexus between sports, gender and environmental conservation, and identifies how sporting activities and events can be used promote environmental conservation and social justice concurrently. The discussion begins by discussion the relationship between sports and the environment before delving into the link between sports and gender. Finally, the ways in which sports and gender can be used collectively to address environmental and social justice concerns are discussed.  

Link between Sports and Gender

Sports have been deployed competitively and leisurely based on the level of skills and intensity, and the expected rewards. Leisurely, sports are used for relaxation, health wellbeing, and entertainment, while competitively, sports are used to gain fame and rewards, or an economic activity earning the participants wages. However, while women participation is sports has increased appreciably, considering that competitive sports were reserved for men, because they were thought to be physically superior to women (Kavoura and Kokkonen). Consequently competitive sporting prowess is associated with masculinity and women that partake in sports were viewed as being masculine. These perspectives were particularly prevalent in extreme sports that are considered to be highly-dangerous and requiring much courage. However, women are increasingly participating in extreme sports and sporting fraternities are accommodating both male and female sportspeople. For instance, the most recent Olympic Games had men and women participating in all sports in the global tournament, with the number of female participants almost equaling that of their male counterparts, which demonstrated the progression of equality and social justice through sports (International Olympic Committee 1). In addition, now every new sport or game admitted to the Olympics must have male and female participation (Council of Europe 20). These developments are partly attributed to the feminist sports activists that have revealed the racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious experiences of sportswomen engaging in competitive and recreational sporting activities using the knowledge drawn from the feminist theory and critical race theory (Hayhurst et al. 8). These theories address the gender and racial disparities that women encounter in society.

Relationship between Sports and the Environment

Sporting activities need spaces in which they can be conducted, which can be in urban or rural settings. Most sporting activities are conducted in urban settings where spectatorship is high due to the high density of people and well-developed infrastructure. Unfortunately, the sporting events have a reputation of damaging the environment through the much littering by fans, excessive use and disposal of plastics, enormous greenhouse emissions from vehicles transporting fans to and from the sporting venues and tailgating.  Besides, sporting facilities are erected by destroying the fauna and flora at a location, creating a structure that does not contribute to the environment wellbeing.  

However, there are several examples in which sport as been used to promote environmental consciousness and conservation. For instance, the international Olympics committee, through its sports, environment and sustainable development guidebook, advocate the holding of mega sporting events organized by international sporting organizations that are planned according to sustainability standards (Hugaerts et al. 3). As a result of this initiative, international sporting events using labels line green cup and green games are emerging to promote environmental sustainability and social equity (Hugaerts et al. 3). These sporting events claim to have minimal environmental footprint.  

Similarly, the so called nature sporting events held in the wild or national parts have been used to raise the awareness to prevent poaching and conserving the fauna and flora of natural settings. Eco-tourism is an outcome of nature sports, such as rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, paragliding, sailing, trekking, and wind surfing, that have raised awareness about natural resources and the need to conserve them, to maintain biodiversity and aesthetic characteristics of natural environments (Melo et al. 2). Consequently, active sports tourism is the fasted growing tourism segment, registering growth of up to 30 % annually (Melo et al. 7). These sporting events are conducted in specially designed venues and routes that allow participants and spectators to enjoy nature without damaging the natural environment, thus preventing the natural resource exploitation.  

Sports and Gender, and Environmental and Social Justice

Sports can be used to promote gender equality, environmental conservation, and social justice at the same time. Already there are several examples worldwide of attempts to use sports to promote environmental conservation, gender equality, and social justice. For instance, several marathons in Kenya are run in wildlife conservancies and national parks, and are often promoted by accomplished male and female athletes (Kinyili and Chaudhry 200). Similarly, city road races feature both men and women categories and showcase the beauty and challenges of cities around the world while promoting gender equity by giving both genders similar awards. Unlike team sports, athletics are individual sports that have progressed significantly in gender equity and social justice by eliminating gender disparities, except that they have men and women starting the race separately, despite using the same course. These sporting events receive wide media coverage globally, with many sporting participants and enthusiasts looking forward to events, such as the Boston, New York, and Tokyo marathons. Similarly, motorsports organized by the world rally championships are often held in remote locations in natural settings while involving both genders, including combined male and female rally teams. These sporting event examples not only eradicate the divide between genders, but also showcase natural and build environments, exposing conservation gaps.

Opportunities for Using Sports to Foster Environment Conservation, Gender Equality, and Social Justice

Sporting activities have great potential for addressing gender and environmental issues simultaneously. Currently, many sporting campaigns focus on raising awareness about gender inequalities and environmental conservation separately. However, there is an opportunity to creating promotional sporting messages that incorporate environmental sustainability, gender equality and equity, and social justice (Singh 2). Event promotions and the media can be used to advance this cause. For instance, using sporting personalities from all genders can reinforce the impact of such messaging in reducing gender discrimination and environmental degradation simultaneously. In addition, the media can lend such events more airtime while curating their messages to incorporate gender equality, social justice and environmental conservation simultaneously. Already, sports like the mixed tennis doubles have enormous potential in attaining this goal. However, what remains is for tennis tournament organizers to hold such events in locations that require conservation efforts desperately, using temporary tennis courts that can be dismantled after the tournament.

Similarly, sporting activities can be used to raise conservation capital while involving both genders. Lewa marathon in Kenya is an example of a sporting activity involving men and women equally, that is used to collect funds to conserve wildlife in the Lewa conservancy (Kinyili and Chaudhry 200). This event is popular globally and attracts big talent alongside large corporate sponsors. The media coverage of this event showcases the beautiful sceneries and wildlife alongside running athletes, thus provoking environmental consciousness that is necessary for donating towards the conservation cause. However, such events require more media coverage to promote the positive messaging connecting the sports, gender and environment issues together. Therefore, more women and environmentalists would be involved in the media coverage of such events, which would divert focus towards gender and environment issues rather than concentrating on the competitive aspects of the sporting activities only (Council of Europe 9). In this regard, media coverage can incorporate advanced event coverage technologies like photography and video drones that take footages from the air with minimal disturbance to the environment.

These two suggestions indicate that the approaches with which using sports to promote gender equality, social justice and environmental conservation can be advanced and achieved. However, there are structural issues that need to addressed and resolved before these recommendations can become reality. The current sports organization structure need to be reformed to accommodate gender and environmental issues concurrently. This approach conforms to the radical feminism theory, which posits that the society supporting male supremacy and patriarchy should be radically transformed to remove it in economic and social spheres (Burke 500). This means that the organization of sporting events should eradicate the masculinity angle from sports so as to direct the focus of the sporting events towards environmental conservation and sustainability.  


The nexus between sports, gender, and environment is demonstrable. However, existing sport events organizations do not promote sporting events that address gender equality and social justice alongside environmental conservation simultaneously. This discussion has revealed that using sports to promote gender equality, social justice and environment conservation is possible. However, sports organizers need to champion this nexus by promoting their events using both genders as influencers and showcasing the environment conservation needs of the sporting event venues simultaneously. Deliberate media coverage that highlights the gender and environment issues during such events can raise awareness and call to action athlete and sporting enthusiasts to become active participants in this cause.  Already, there are some sporting events, such as rallying, marathons, and tennis, which have made significant progress in advancing gender equality, social justice, and environmental conservation. However, these aspects of the sporting events do not receive ample media attention, as the focus is usually on the sporting component most of the times. Conscious messaging and wide media coverage cab unlock the potential of sporting activities and events to address these issues concurrently.

Works Cited

Burke, Michael. “Is football now feminist? A critique of the use of McCaughey’s physical feminism to explain women’s participation in separate leagues in masculine sports1.” Sport in Society, vol. 22, no. 3, 2019, pp. 499-513.

Council of Europe. All in: Towards gender balance in sport. September 2019, Accessed 12 June 2022

Hayhurst, Lyndsay MC, Holly Thorpe, and Megan Chawansky. “Introducing sport, gender and development: A critical intersection.” Sport, Gender and Development. Emerald Publishing Limited, 2021.

Hugaerts, Ine, Jeroen Scheerder, Kobe Helsen, Joris Corthouts, Erik Thibaut, and Thomas Könecke. “Sustainability in participatory sports events: The development of a research instrument and empirical insights.” Sustainability, vol.13, no. 11, 2021, pp. 1-16.

International Olympic Committee. “Gender equality through time: At the Olympics.” 2021, Accessed 12 June 2022

Kavoura, Anna, and Marja Kokkonen. “What do we know about the sporting experiences of gender and sexual minority athletes and coaches? A scoping review.” International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 14, no. 1, 2021, pp. 1-27.

Kinyili, Benjamin Mutuku, and Shazia Chaudhry. “The Role of Sports Diplomacy in Advancing Environmental Security in Africa: Case of Forest Conservation in Kenya.” International Relations, vol. 9, no. 05, 2021, pp. 199-210.

Melo, Ricardo, Derek Van Rheenen and Sean James Gammon, “Part I: Nature sports: A unifying concept, Annals of Leisure Research, vol. 23, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1-18.

Salhany, S. J. Power playing the patriarchy: An exploratory research on perceptions of gender equality, sports and feminism according to ONSIDE grantees. Masters thesis, Utrecht University. 2021.

Singh, Sarika. “Green future: Sustainable development of sport to promote nature conservation and environmental protection.” CENTUM-ISSN 2231-1475. 2021, 43, pp. 1-19.

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