Ecofeminism in the Face of Climate Disaster
Ecofeminism (as defined by Ynestra King in Ecology)1
1. “[E]cofeminists take on the life-struggles of all of nature as our own”
2. “Life on earth is an interconnected web, not a hierarchy”
3. “A healthy, balanced ecosystem, including human and nonhuman inhabitants, must maintain diversity”
4. “The survival of the species necessitates (...) a challenging of the nature-culture dualism and a corresponding radical restructuring of human society according to feminist and ecological principles”
As the world continues to experience the negative effects of climate change, hot topics such as veganism, sustainability, and plastic-free products continue to bleed into mainstream media.
Researchers from many branches of academia have already begun to analyse the looming spectre of human extinction. There is one burgeoning theory that could be considered an ambitious, and yet, still realistic plan for humans to easily adapt before our possible demise: Ecofeminism.
Originally created and defined in the 1970’s by French Feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne, Ecofeminism is a branch of Feminism that links Woman and the Earth as inherently divine beings. Certain branches of Ecofeminism include elements of Spirituality and Paganism – although this is not the belief of every Ecofeminist.
Through d’Eaubonne, Ecofeminism grew as an understanding that women and nature were inherently connected. As other Ecofeminists, such as King, began to develop their own ideas, the theory retained a belief in an equality and respect between all living beings, and empathy from humans towards the Earth and everything in it.
A key aspect to Ecofeminism is the recognition of the detrimental effects that patriarchal domination and capitalism has had on nature. It is understandable that in order to work against climate disaster, and to heal the Earth, the capitalist and patriarchal environment in which much of humanity functions must be abandoned and replaced by a radical liberalist society: where a mutual respect between humans, nature, and all living beings exists. Some Ecofeminist Researchers have already tapped into the idea that climate change is best described, as Greta Gaard does, as “white industrial – capitalist heteromale supremacy on steroids, boosted by widespread injustices of gender and race, sexuality and species”.2 For researchers like Gaard, a complete restructuring of society is necessary in order to save the planet. However, as we witness numerous world leaders make social and environmentally regressive policy decisions, such a restructuring does not seem immediately feasible.
Similar beliefs of an obligatory societal amendment have also birthed a related term, ‘Eco-socialism’, which can be summarised as an eradication of capitalism and a liberalist shift towards a society that aligns with environmentalist values. This can occur across a multitude of channels: veganism, self-sustainable farming, mandatory environmental education in the public education sector, retreat from urban life in favour of an agricultural lifestyle; or even simple tasks such as composting, thrifting, gardening, protesting/creating awareness.
The only way such a dramatic altering of society could occur is if Ecofeminist beliefs become more mainstream. Ecofeminists, such as myself, believe that by taking individual actions to promote awareness, Ecofeminist behaviours can gain popularity. We have seen this occur with the nearly-mainstream vegan movement, and the proliferation of the terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘green energy’. Even though our movement will undoubtedly be exploited by capitalist ventures, a trend we have seen with Feminism, at least acknowledging and embracing an intersectional point of view could help us move beyond the individualistic realm relying on environmentalists and scientists, and towards collective understanding and action.
Are healing our individual relationships with nature enough to create a movement that can help us through climate disaster? Or is it just wishful thinking, another hopeful movement? Regardless of the answer, our current situation demands that we at least try.
1) King, Ynestra. “The Ecology of Feminism and the Feminism of Ecology.” Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism. Ed. Judith Plant. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1989. 18-28.
2) Gaard, Greta. “Ecofeminism and Climate Change.” Women’s Studies International Forum. Vol. 49. Pergamon, 2015.
Illustration: Dünya atay