Women and Environment to Suffer Consequences of Proposed Cuts

Lyndi Weener is a Women’s Studies major at Hope College and a staff writer for The WMEAC Blog.   In collaboration with WMEAC, she is researching the topic of ecofeminism.  This is the latest in a series exploring the connections between feminism and environmentalism.

Last week, House Republicans proposed their plan to cut federal government spending by billions.  Included in their plan was a 10 percent budget reduction for a food program that aids pregnant women and their babies, clean energy program slashes, and a 17 percent budget cut for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The goal, according to House Speaker John Boehner, is to “create an environment where we’ll have more jobs in America.”

However, the cuts could have an opposite effect.  According to Kenneth Baer, spokesman for the White House budget office:

“This Administration strongly agrees that we have to make tough choices to bring down the deficit and get the country back on a sustainable path, but to win the future, we cannot make cuts that undermine our ability to create jobs, drive innovation, and compete in a global economy.”

But, what does a “sustainable path” look like?  How do we measure development, wealth, poverty?

In “The Impoverishment of the Environment: Women and Children Last,” leading ecofeminist thinker Vandana Shiva challenges widely-used definitions of worth, cost, and poverty.  Drawing a distinction between subsistence poverty and material poverty, she suggests that a GNP focused development plan often fails to acknowledge the hidden costs of environmental degradation and threatening health conditions:

I would argue that GNP is becoming increasingly a measure of how real wealth – the wealth of nature and the life sustaining wealth produced by women – is rapidly decreasing.

While much of Shiva’s research concerns developing nations, she is quick to point out that the ‘poverty of life’ affects all nations:

Pure income indicators often do not capture the poverty of life to which the future generations are being condemned, with threats to survival from environmental hazards even in conditions otherwise characterized by ‘affluence.’

House Republicans are interested in sustaining jobs…but at what cost?  And who will suffer the consequences?  Or, as Shiva puts it:

To whom will the future belong?  to the women and children who struggle for survival and for environmental security?  or to those who treat women, children and the environment as dispensable and disposable?

Previous posts on eco-feminism can be found here and here.

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