By Tricia Glaser
How is ecofeminism relevant today? That is what I kept asking myself while preparing for this article. The answer might not be immediately obvious, but recent events and current political attitudes have me convinced that ecofeminism has become more important than ever.
As mentioned in a previous article, women are disproportionately affected by climate change- particularly in developing countries, since they are the majority of the world’s poor. The last several months have been filled with weather patterns and natural disasters that are clear side effects of a warming planet. Most notably and tragically is the drought in East Africa, which is affecting more than 12 million people in the region. Somalia’s women and children are the hardest hit by this famine, and terrorist group al–Shabaab has worsened the crisis with violence toward aid groups. However, the U.S. has not gone unscathed: drought in Texas, flooding along the Mississippi River, and Hurricane Irene have made for a harrowing summer for many. The need is urgent for sound environmental policy and leaders who will listen to women on these issues.
Yet our government continues to disappoint in this arena. The Obama administration has given preliminary environmental approval to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would span 1700 miles from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf Coast. This is despite a loud outcry against it and a “Stop the Pipeline” sit-in at the White House, which resulted in 1200 arrests. Environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert wrote of the pipeline’s dangers: “Several scientists have warned that expanding the use of tar sands and other so-called unconventional fuels would negate any other actions the world might take to reduce climate change.”
Unfortunately, on a different front, House Republicans are attempting to impede said international action. Within the 2012 budget, they hope to remove funding for key UN climate initiatives, specifically the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). These groups are integral in educating lawmakers about climate science and coordinating efforts to slow global warming. While the House’s chances of passing de-funding legislation are low, it sends a message of disengagement and isolationism to the world, most importantly to the people who are so adversely affected by government inaction.
These news stories are a call to action for ecofeminists. On issues of the environment and social justice, the mainstream media focuses its attention on either the most affluent or the most extreme opinions. There needs to be counteracting voices to legislators like Michele Bachmann, who just this past Saturday blamed “radical environmentalists” for preventing the U.S.’ vast energy resources from being exploited.
Fortunately there are plenty of resources and organizations that enable people to act. The League of Women Voters advocates holding politicians accountable on environmental policy; most recently urging the House not to delay the approval of the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard. Amnesty International works tirelessly on behalf of women’s rights and the environment. SowHope, an organization based in Rockford, focuses on women in under-developed nations, helping to improve quality of life with sustainable solutions.
It is in the interest of women and men to push for gender equity in a sustainable world. The World Bank has found that gender inequality slows the reduction of poverty rates and “limits economic and social development”. Despite being one of the most developed nations, the U.S. has far to go on these issues. With the economy as it is currently, it is in our best interest to rearrange priorities, and this will be done best with proactive participation from women.