• The Feminist Times

On Environment, Climate Change and Ecofeminism

The English language can be both liberating and limiting at the same time. Sometimes we get trapped in the seminal “definitions” of the words and the binary pitfalls of categorization. For example, when you hear feminism you might think that “oh they’ll talk about women’s issues” it allows for a boundary to be erected around concepts, but once you think of it a bit hard you will realise that feminism is everywhere, not because of the division of womxn or men, but because inequality and discrimination is everywhere, and on even deeper consideration, it appears that feminism is about finding the “connections”, it calls out different aspects that are interconnected to one another, the genders, the economies and national policies have various yet specific effect on womxn and men and the environment and so on and so forth. One such aspect of feminism outlines the connection of the oppression on the environment and womxn and the similarity in their structure i.e.: the patriarchal- capitalist power structure. Patriarchy organizes the world into binaries (Man-woman, Man- nature) and in doing so; it establishes hierarchy or preference for progressive policies. The result is that “male” is justified in its superiority to “others” or “nature” and their inferiority, “male” can further its agendas at the expense of the “other/nature”.

The core of feminist ideology emerges to be that of observation and reassessment and eventually a revision. The society, although establis hed and working, has a plenitude of problems and feminism asks you to establisestablishh this “curiosity” in the direction of structural change, the upheaval of not just the small kinks but of the entire ecosystem because the paradigm of success in our world as of now is not an inclusive one. Womxn and the environment have a very intimate interaction especially in developing countries where firstly due to the lack of agricultural lands and secondly the patriarchal structure, women are in-charge of home economies, from arranging water, to buying/ growing (farming) groceries.

They are thus burdened with maintaining sustainability of their family’s sustenance, and are thus affected more by climate change on a day-to-day basis. On these same lines the UN Sustainable Development Goals say that there can be no sustainable development without gender equality. Connecting it to the climate change agenda, the UN reports outline that womxn will have a much harsher experience with climate change as they are 14 times more likely to die in any natural disaster. The UN Sustainable Goals reconsider the conventional standards of economic GDP measures as they are not comprehensive in their output or performance or the impacts on nations.

Instead, a change in direction of policies and actions is favoured keeping nature and gendered identities as central and assessments on the lines of preservation and protection, requiring efficient use of natural resources, asking for the consideration of nurturing and community growth and development as important priorities and indicators of success.

One of the major lines of argument whenever environment is raised as a topic of discourse in public, with climate change and soil degradation, fracking and saving the oceans, is why bother? Why should we care personally about these big policy issues that are government prerogatives? What can one person do anyway? Can I fix the melting of the polar caps? Can I save the tigers from extinction? And the answer is No, you can’t single-handedly do any of these, nor did we do the damage to the environment single-handedly, humanity as a function is a group endeavour, and the machine only runs well when even the small cogs moves. Especially the womxn cogs, a 1988 study indicates that 80% of “household shopping” is undertaken by women, making them key agents for bringing change in the environmental crisis. Due to the role of womxn as caretakers on the family unit they become by default also the caretakers of the Planet.

So, Every time you separate your recyclable and non-recyclable waste you help, Every time you choose to put on environmental friendly make up, you help, decide to set up a home garden you help, every time you initiate community measures to even talk about the environment, how climate change affects us all, and especially womxn, you help. The trick is to have knowledge about what these connections do, knowledge about how you can make a difference, the trick is to draw attention towards these connections that are so easy to subdue under the burden of noise of our lives in today’s world, feminisms asks you to listen. It asks you to pay attention to the interconnectedness in the structure of the society. At the end of the day, feminism is about consideration, for yourself, your fellow beings and your environment. It is about asking questions despite being afraid, seeking solutions and acting in ways that may not singularly stop the ice caps from melting or the patriarchy to topple but it might change another person’s perspective, and if you change enough minds you can change the world.

Our cover for this issue is a demonstration of these fertile and important connections between the rights of women and the environment and the ways in which these overlaps affect the big picture. Licypriya Kangujam, a nine-year old environmental activist from Manipur, was detained by the Delhi police on Sunday when she was protesting against the increasing pollution crisis outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Licypriya later tweeted “Under what law, how can a 9-year old be arrested or detained? It is illegal detention; this is my right to raise the voice to give us clean air to breathe. If I don’t tell our leaders then to whom I should tell? My demand is for them too.”

- Pragya

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