Guest post by Madeline Boyd, WMEAC Women and Environment Intern
Women play a unique role in the preservation and cultivation of our natural resources. For centuries, women have been the bearers of agricultural knowledge through the responsibility of producing food for their families and communities. Although many Western women’s lives are far removed from the agricultural reality of their ancestors, many Third World women are still deeply involved in food production and the cultivation of land for its natural resources. According to Vandana Shiva in her book Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development, women produce just over half of the world’s foods and are responsible for providing food to 80 percent of the world’s food insecure households. Due to the nature of women’s relationships with the environment, environmental health is especially important to the livelihood of women globally.
Women also have a history of spearheading activist movements, and the environmental movement is no exception. With the release of Silent Spring in 1962, Rachel Carson awakened the American public to environmental issues, specifically the use of harmful pesticide DDT. Inspired by her work, several grassroots environmental organizations were established, including the West Michigan Environmental Action Coalition (now Council) in 1968. Through the work of WMEAC and similar American grassroots organizations, the U.S. government created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and officially banned the DDT use in 1972.
Women are still deeply involved in the environmental movement – they advocate for environmental justice on behalf of both men and women at the local, national, and global level. It is my goal as a part of my discussion of women and the environment to include profiles of such activists. I will also cover a variety of issues important to both women and the environment. Some of these issues include women’s health and cancer, greenwashing, urban planning and development, cash crops and deforestation, and ecofeminism. Many of these topics are well known to the environmentally savvy, but my goal is to frame them through the perspective of women. I believe the diversity in women’s lived experiences will provide a unique perspective on these issues.
If you are interested in learning more about women and the environment, check back next week as I will discuss women’s health and cancer in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You are also encouraged to attend the Third Annual Women and the Environment Symposium on February 7, 2014, hosted by WMEAC and Grand Valley State University’s Women’s Center. More information on the symposium will come soon.