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How Ecofeminism shows us the path to a sustainable future

"You cannot step twice into the same river." - Heraclitus

We too are the embodiment of change, our experiences change us inwardly and outwardly, and, as it turns out, the same is true of the environmental movement. Where we once talked about sustainability being related to ecological, economic and social, we have an evolving understanding of sustainability.

Where we once may have been silent on the relationship between social justice and sustainability, we now voice that they are integrally linked. And these connections can be expansive and help us to understand on a new level the roots of the problems and, hopefully, gain insight into the solutions.

The concept of Ecofeminism is not new, however, we can continue to be informed by looking at the issues from a feminist perspective.

Ecofeminism is described as the development of new consciousness for all of life and was first introduced by Francoise d’Eaubonne, a French feminist, in 1974.

Ecofeminism highlights that the devaluation of women and nature is parallel and that the domination of women and the environment is rooted in patriarchy and both devalue life.

Through this lens, sexism and environmental exploitation stem from the same issues and both must be addressed in order for either to be resolved. Ecofeminism emphasizes the need for respect for both women and nature.

Women and nature

As in many feminist theories, the idea that women have a sense of connection to other living beings and their environment is an important facet of ecofeminism.

This philosophy promotes the idea that the patriarchal system that rules our society seeks to dominate and oppress, as opposed to using an egalitarian approach when it comes to our interaction with nature.

The ecofeminist school of thought believes that patriarchal ideals are ingrained in capitalism and that therefore it does not allow women to fully benefit from it and has resulted in the view that society and nature are not integrated entities.

In order to address these issues, ecofeminism suggests that we must turn to the feminine instinct for nurture and holistic knowledge of our environment.

Some ecofeminists suggest that the innate ability of women to nurture and care for the environment stems from the similar oppression they experience at the hand of our male-dominated society.

Others however believe that the connection women experience to nature and the environment is the result of the daily interactions women have always had with their surroundings.

Ecofeminists against capitalism

Ecofeminism offers a unique critique of our current issues of capitalism-driven exploitation while emphasizing the need for the equal participation of women in society at all levels of community, commerce, and leadership.

The ecofeminist school of thought addresses not only environmental exploitation under capitalism but the inequalities that stem from it in both labour and property ownership.

These inequalities in turn further exacerbate the challenges women face in actively participating in our political and economic landscapes.

When women are adequately represented, so are their needs. Whether this is access to childcare, income equality, or protection of our natural environment, women bring to the table the desire and drive to create changes to our patriarchal systems.

And, these relationships between gender equality, social justice, and sustainability are actually well established in the UN's 2015 Sustainable Development Goals which specifically list Gender Equality and Reduced Inequality among the 17 goals.

But of course, women have long been at the forefront of the sustainability movement, and Indigenous, Black and Women of Colour have been leading communities to protect and respect the natural world, and are among the most impactful voices in the sustainability movement.

Currently, women of all ages are at the head of many of the most notable environmental movements around the world. For example:

  • At 15 years old, Canadian Indigenous water protector, Autumn Peltier addressed the United Nations to fight for the respect of the sacredness and importance of clean water.
  • 17-year-old Greta Thunberg has become one of the most well-known faces of youth-led climate activism after creating the now world-recognized ‘school climate strike’.
  • Canada’s first-ever Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna was appointed in 2015.

As we move forward in addressing environmental and societal issues stemming from capitalism, the ecofeminist philosophy can offer guidance on the importance of ensuring gender equality in governance and decision making as well as in everyday life. It is an important concept as we seek to evolve our approach to sustainability and inclusion.

Philosophical Principles of Eco-feminism:

  1. Women have an important connection to other living beings and their environment.
  2. The devaluation of women and nature has gone hand in hand in our patriarchal society.
  3. Sexism and environmental exploitation, therefore, stem from the same issues and both must be addressed in order for either to be resolved.

How you can support Eco-feminism:

  1. Recognize the important role that women play in combatting climate change and challenging inequalities on an international level.
  2. Support women across the globe by advocating for fair labour practices, access to education, and effective healthcare systems.
  3. Push for more women in politics at community, provincial and federal levels.
  4. Make sure your activism and discussions about feminism include women of all backgrounds, abilities, ages and sexual orientations. It is especially important to uplift the voices of Black women, Indigenous women, women of colour and trans women, who are often not afforded the same platforms as their white or cisgender counterparts.

Some resources you may enjoy include this article on 25 female climate leaders and the Live. Well. Green. podcast on Greta and the Paradigm Shift.

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