Results of “We Sea Change”

I must admit I am very pleased with the results and effectiveness of my plan. The goal was to create a group on Facebook in which I could inform others about the environmental issues affecting the Jersey shores and to then have the members engage with one another by sharing ideas, information, and discussing activism. I created polls where they were asked to guess which answer(s) to a question was correct. They answered polls that asked them personal questions about their own experiences as well as inquiring as to what action/activism they would be willing to participate in. We also shared personal experiences and feelings with regard to prompts that I created that were designed to evoke a shared connection (community) between the members and the ocean/nature. This picture I posted was one of the many that created a lot of emotions for many people.

I was not surprised that male participation was lower than female. Of the men and women that I invited, about 50% of the women joined in comparison to just 25% of the men. Of the women that joined, about 30% to 50% regularly participated (depending upon the post) versus men which was only about 10% to 20% participation. I had to discount my husband because I felt his involvement, though sweet and supportive, was biased. I was pleasantly surprised that the one or two men that did participate, engaged with great questions, and requested more information on certain topics. See below images of Questions 1 and 2 about beach erosion. There were five questions in total. You can see how people voted, how many people voted, etc. I followed it up with the answers and additional information so that it flowed together. I always started each topic with a poll first in order to engage them in participation. This seemed to get their attention, test their own knowledge, and pique their interest! This definitely worked and led to additional discussion.

The First Poll – Questions #1:

The Second Poll – Question #2

Answers to the Polls:

After I posted the poll answers, I posted visuals to tie things together such as this one below, which shows post storm erosion:

One of the more eye-opening posts was one in which I posted a 16 second video (with audio) I had taken last year while in Cape Cod of a Whale (Mother) and her calf swimming. I asked people to comment about what feelings this evoked in them. Many people shared that it brought them back to childhood memories, in particular a connection to family.  Important to note that with the exception of my husband, it was all women that participated in this one. This reaffirmed the idea of women being more connected to nature through shared oppression. Women were more invested in this video using words such as, “powerful, peaceful, amazing, and home” to describe it. It reminds me of the indigenous women when they speak of the earth and its beings. This similar recognition of the mutual respect hidden amidst the stories that are carried down and shared happened on a small scale in the comments of this post.  This sharing of stories happened in a few of the other posts as well. See the post and comments below.

Feel free to click on the video of the whales to get the full experience. Make sure your volume is up! 

I incorporated suggestions made by classmates to make sure my posts were somewhat concise and did not contain too much burdensome information, creating some with meaningful quotes or pictures as well. It was suggested I use bullet-point style posts.  I was able to post shorter amounts of information that was easy to understand and visually appealing. After the initial post, I posted a link to the complete article or source where I got the information for those interested in reading more. Here are examples of some short and simple posts that related to polls I posted. I followed this one up with a related article, and a short video of beach erosion that you can feel free to click on.

Concise Facts Post:

Followed up with an article:

Video of Beach Erosion:

Another quick post that was simple and spurred a good amount of conversation involved The Clean Water Act of 1972. I followed this one up with a map of the US which showed the number of days beaches were closed around the country in 2019 due to poor water quality conditions.

It was important to me that I maintain constant and consistent engagement and interest easily, while also providing more in-depth information for those that wanted it. I will say I was very happy with the number of people that got involved in such a short period of time. I have 90 members already! I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of people that said that they would participate in some type of action. See the polls below. This made my heart VERY happy! There were 83 votes calculated in the first poll! I may consider getting a group of people together at the end of the summer season to help with a beach clean-up!

Overall – I felt great about this project. It was a manageable way to reach many people and start important conversations about beach erosion, sea level rise, ocean ecology, and so much more. In just a week I posted so many things I didn’t even include here such as resources for volunteering, polls and more in-depth information on plastics, short explanations about things like ocean acidification, and other resources such as the website for activist group “SurfRider” and Rutgers University Marine Station.  Social media is an excellent vehicle for bringing people together quickly and spreading information concisely. It also allows the viewer/participant to regulate how involved they get which enables them the ability to be involved without being inundated or feeling overwhelmed. I really enjoyed this and am considering continuing with my group after class has concluded.

Please come visit my Facebook group “We Sea Change”.

“We Sea Change” – Praxis Assignment

“We Sea Change” is the idea! I will create a group on Facebook dedicated to providing information, education, resources, and opportunities to become involved with issues pertaining to the oceans and beaches in New Jersey. Beach erosion is occurring at a faster rate here than anywhere else in the country! The erosion is a result of the geological make-up of the ocean shelves, the alkalinity of water, carbon emissions, climate change, hurricanes, and so much more. It is a cacophony of ecosystems in peril.

(Picture courtesy of my husband. The “Jersey Shore.” February 2023.)

These issues are vast, yet there are basic things that each person can do in order to educate themselves about the issues and contribute in a wide variety of ways. My Initial goal is to spread the word about the big bullet point issues and to allow people to assess themselves in terms of their knowledge and their own personal practices. They will then be presented with ideas and resources as to what they can do and determine (through polling) what they would be willing to implement within their own households or lifestyle. Remember – where there are possibilities there is hope! It is important to empower people with the opportunity to help create change in a way that is both attainable and meaningful to them!

My plan is to create a Facebook group called “We Sea Change”. I will invite a good number of my existing personal followers and keep the group open to the general public as well. (Feel free to join along or let me know your Facebook name and I will invite you!) Once I have a reasonable number of followers (I am hoping for at least 50-100) I will encourage those who join to invite their friends. I will start with short posts that pose questions in a polling format. I am thinking about 5 questions. The questions will be about basic facts concerning the Jersey shore and its beach erosion and pollution. Below is an example of what the questions (format)would look like.

Once I get those results, I will provide them with the correct answers. That is the point at which I will give them succinct small doses of bullet point style facts in an easy-to-read (short) post. The idea is to give them information in small doses that is easily understood and can be absorbed in the amount of time it takes to read between tv commercials! I will then do a second poll where they will be presented with a short list of about 3-5 things that they can do within their own lives (action) that would affect change regarding the issues that were most recently discussed. They would select via poll which of the suggestions they would most likely consider implementing in their own life. The suggestions and poll (format) would look like this:

If they are already actively engaging in the provided suggestions, they will have an option to select that as well. This poll provides three purposes. The first is to provide the group members with suggestions of things that they can do to help/take action. The second is so that I can see what options people respond to more favorably in order to help me assess future topics and solutions that would be more feasible or probable for people to participate in. The last is to gage how many people are already actively participating or engaging in some kind of action. I already created the FB page (the shell) and would love feed back!


My thought is that if this idea takes off – I may decide to continue this beyond our ecofeminism class (once school is over) by cross-listing the group with an Instagram and Twitter page, as well as a website. I would pick different monthly/weekly topics, provide educational resources, state websites, articles pertaining to current legislation, activism, events, and more.


Nourished By Hope- Activism

When I was in 8th grade I was in a musical about the Greek Gods and Pandora’s box. The part I secured was that of the character “Hope”. I had only one scene at the very end. I (Hope) came out of Pandora’s box. I sang a song, and I can still remember the words. At 14 years old I remember it being difficult for me to get through it without getting emotional. These are some of the words:

“Hope is forever, trust is forever.

And then you can never go wrong.

Hope is the one bright thin ray of sunshine, the lifeline that keeps you warm.”

“The lifeline that keeps you warm….”

A common theme throughout the ecofeminist essays, journals, and other resources I have reviewed regarding activism is the idea that “where there is hope – there are possibilities.” (That is also my Twitter profile quote and has been since I can remember.)  I think hope means different things to different people, but in essence what most people agree upon is that hope is an idea. It is the possibility that an idea can bring something: usually change.

There are many connections that can be made between the shared oppression that women and nature share. Within certain circumstances, it is an almost circular or reciprocal relationship. When we look at communities where trees are felled, such as in Africa and India, it depletes the communities of so much.  The kindling needed to heat their homes and cook their food, the shade provided, the natural protection that the trees secure is all stripped from them. The degradation of their natural surroundings is not only an assault to the tree itself, but to the ecosystem in which people inhabit. Both are continually victims of patriarchy.

Neither the trees nor women are given the consideration as a priority over economic profit. Those that prosper will continue to at the expense of so many women and nonhumans beings. So much life is cut short, hurt, sickened, and disqualified. As the forests are stripped of its trees, the communities are stripped of kindling to heat their homes and cook their food. The women see the devastation first because they live it. They do much of the farming so they are the first to see changes or threats to their harvest. They are the ones that fetch the water, so they are aware of how far they must go and how tainted the water is. They breast feed their babies and understand the danger that comes with passing chemicals and other contaminants from their own bodies to that of their children.

Women are the voices of the trees and the water because they know and respect the fact that they cannot live without either. None of us can. So they fight and become the voices of the trees like Wangari Maathai who founded the Green Belt Movement on Earth Day in 1977 (Maathai, 1). She was fighting this fight over fifty years ago in Africa. She was a woman who took action over and over again. She was both revered and denounced by her own government. In one moment, they praised her work distributing seedlings which culminated in the planting of millions of trees, only to be punished later for protesting a skyscraper that the President wanted to erect in a public park. Much like the trees that were hacked, the soil that was eroded, the resources that were depleted, Wangari was beaten and harassed and threatened not just as an activist but as a woman.

Wangari’s connectedness to nature was in part, through their shared oppression. Her for being a woman and the environment because its place (much like women) will always be second to that of the wants and needs of patriarchal society. She returned to nature its original offerings by organizing a movement to plant trees. It was a very full circle movement.

The Chipko movement is a very similar story but goes back to the 18th century when over 80 communities gathered forces to protest the King who permitted the felling of trees. Fast forward to the 1970’s and the Chipko movement was again ignited into action against the government that had planned to grant a section of forest  to a  sporting goods company. Women hugged the trees and would not leave and as a result, prevented thousands of trees from being destroyed.

These movements happened because women took a stand. They fought back against the situation that they found themselves in. Wangari would say that if you’re on the wrong bus – you need to take action and get out. Women recognize that while they may not have been given the proper information, training, education, resources, etc. it is up to them to inform themselves (Maathai, 3). There is a deep connection here that many women feel. A connectedness to that which provides for them, protects them, and nourishes them. Women recognize that to stay in the situation as it is means that nothing will change. Things will only get worse. Rather than blame the powers that be and rest on helplessness, they “speak truth to power” and in doing so empower themselves to create the change.

Women and nature share an oppression based on a lack of value. “Values have to do with the respect of each person – woman and man, each group, each culture, each ecosystem” (Gebara, 98). Gebara asks the question in terms of one’s religious theology, “What value is present in this or that theological tradition? How can it help us towards more justice and solidarity?” (Gebara, 98). I ask this question – What value is present in this or that societal ideology? What value is present in this or that governmental structures, procedures, and policies? What value is present in this or that corporate capitalist nomenclature? What do THEY value? How does one find value in a world that doesn’t value them?

When we evaluate situations such as Standing Rock where indigenous people fight against the mining/drilling of their land that brings upon them not only displacement but violence, we are reminded of that system of hierarchy once again. Who and what is valued more than something else? In a video about gendered impact and violence against the land, Gloria Chicaiza said “we speak for the birds, animals, fish , and other life forms”, it is a part of who they are. When they are stripped of these things, or when they witness the degradation of nature, they “feel it in their mind, bodies, and souls” because they are connected to it. They are one.

Beyond the scope of the material deficits, cultural losses, ecological destruction, is something vital. The loss of purpose and acknowledgement. The feeling of desperation, despair, isolation, nothingness, and neglect. In such circumstances people have cards stacked against them that they didn’t even play. The choice was never theirs. If it was, do you think that women would choose to allow their children to swim in garbage pools in Brazil to look for cans as a source of income? That is not a choice. That is desperation. The child may know nothing more, however that is only because they were never afforded possibilities. This type of degradation and disempowerment is an assault to a person’s sense of being and creates feelings of shame. Scholar, writer, and artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson said, “I am not murdered, I am not missing, but parts of me have been disappeared and I remain a target, because I was a Native woman” (Simpson, 92). In that moment we can see the clear correlation between a woman who has had parts of her depleted or remain hidden as a result of oppression, much like a forest hast lost its trees. As people get worn down, they can lose part of who they are. They can separate from parts of their identity.

This is where hope comes in. Ivone Gebara said, “Without hope there is not life” and she was right (Gebara 101). It starts with an idea. In Africa it started with a seedling. That seedling was not just a seedling. It was far more than that. It represented an idea that could lead to change. It was a possibility. From there women took charge planting millions of trees. Initially they did not think such things were possible without education and technology, but they persevered. They were saving the forest and in turn the forest was saving them.

“When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace & hope.”

~Wangari Maathai ~

Check out this website called “The New Humanitarian” and read about Sheila Watt-Cloutier and her activism in Canada and about the John family and how the Yup’ik have been evicted from their land as a result of climate change.

 It is worth the read!



The Whole Is A Sum Of Its Parts – Intersectionality & Connectivity

When I look at this patchwork quilt I see unique patterns and images. Each one is completely separate from the other and yet they are connected. If you remove one, the blanket will bear a significant hole and the other pieces would be impacted as they fray and ultimately unravel and separate. This could create a domino effect. Each piece is one of a kind and yet they are all linked as they make up the sum of its parts. Our identities and the diversity within them are much like this quilt.

A.E. Kings uses this metaphor (from Karen Warren) in “Intersectionality and the Changing Face of Ecofeminism” in order to illustrate the dynamic amidst the diversity that distinguishes who we are from one another and at the same time how our shared identities connect us to one another (A.E. Kings, 82). While we are often initially connected by gender in terms of the oppression we share, there are layers and layers of who we are as women that differentiate us from one another. It is vital, as you will see, that we acknowledge and examine both our similarities and our diversity in our application of ecofeminist theory. Our identities (gender, race, class, caste sexuality, age, abilities, etc.) make up a multitude of ways in which we are unique. Our varying perspectives are born out of the differing experiences we encounter as a result of our identities.

If we look at what has been coined the ecofeminist interconnected “web”, our mind goes to the image of a spider web which is another fantastic visual metaphor used to describe theory. What is this interconnected web? It is the idea that as a result of our various identities, we have areas where certain aspects of our identities intersect to create a layered effect. It is at that point that we see where one person’s experience can be drastically different from another’s. It is here where we see that not everyone is experiencing oppression in the same way. From that we can easily extrapolate that a one size fits all solution for a problem simply does not work if we base that solution solely on one factor.

A good example of this is when Proctor and Gamble donated millions of dollars’ worth of Western sanitary products to women in areas of global south in order to assist with the issues associated with menstrual hygiene. (A.E. Kings, 78-80). You might ask what is wrong with that? They are women in need of these items. The issue is that they have no way of safely or properly disposing of these items. As a result they are burning the used products which pollute the air they breathe; dumping them in streams which contaminate the water; and burying them in the ground which permeates the soil. It doesn’t solve the problem that there is no clean water for them to wash, no private toilets for them to safely and cleanly attend to themselves. A western solution to this issue doesn’t work because they didn’t take into account many other factors such as class structure, sexuality, caste system, etc.

FACT SHEET: Menstrual health and hygiene management still out of reach for many

Looking further at this example we can look at the connection between women and the environment in terms of their degradation and oppression.  Women are not being given proper access to necessary products, clean water, and toilets. As a result, both the women and the environment suffer. It is rather circular. Women suffer from lack of access to resources, then the environment suffers as a result of the lack of proper disposal of the products, which in turn creates further issues for the women who are impacted by the environmental degradation! The women are the ones in many communities who gather water and as a result they are exposed to the contamination (disease, bacteria, etc.) disproportionately to the men.  If we stop and think about this example, we can see how women would have a greater need or desire for clean water and a system with which to dispose of the products. Much like the environment, women suffer as a result of a shared system of oppression.

If we only search amidst our similarities when coming together to address issues, we will continually miss opportunities to find better solutions. “In the absence of dissonance, this dimension of identity escapes conscious attention” (Tatum,2).  If our axis point is only “common ground” or the areas in-between the webs, we will fail to recognize all of the points on which those areas intersect, and critical pieces of information will be missed. “Intersectionality allows for the cross-examination of issues from different theoretical backgrounds using a wide range of methodological approaches….” (A.E. King, 66). The pieces missing will be those that are not our own. They are comprised of differing social categories that collide to create something that is often far greater and more complex.

The other day I was thinking about how I am short. I am 5’2”. I stood on a small step stool I have in the kitchen in order to reach something. It is about a foot in height. When I stand on this, I am at about the same height as my husband who is 6’ 3”. I stopped and looked around. I am always shocked at the view from up there. (I am also usually very upset at all of the dust I can see that I normally don’t. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.) Then I started to think about intersectionality. I thought about what my husband  is able to see and has access to versus what I see and have (or don’t have) access to. In this moment, not only do we not share the same gender identity, but we do not share the same perspective in the kitchen. I may think our kitchen is spotless, however he may not. He has the ability and access to see things that I cannot (without the help of my stepstool) so our daily line of vision and perspective will always be different. Get where I am going with this? I can utilize his ability to see things that are higher and use that information to my advantage. I can ask him to access that information for me and likewise he in turn can help me obtain that information and also share in the cleaning. (You can surely bet he will help.) If we fail to acknowledge the ways in which we are different and use them to our advantage to help one another, we will have an increasingly dirty home.

This kind of “failure to acknowledge”, is catastrophic in areas such as race, class, sexuality, etc. “Refusal to acknowledge these differences or believing them to be insurmountable; prevents discrimination from being successfully challenged” (A.E. Kings, 68). We must look to our differences if we ever hope to successfully affect productive change. We cannot focus on one thing over another. We need to look at all of the pieces of the quilt. It may be race, class, gender, sexuality, caste, ability, religion, etc. but we must consider all of it. This does make for cumbersome analyzation due to broad factors and as a result, has made this particular theory vulnerable to valid criticism. Many criticize intersectionality as being too vague, lacking specific criteria and definition as a way of applying it. What is important to understand is that it is a discipline that is evolving, growing, and changing.

I believe an intra-categorical approach is the most comprehensive and most effective. It is a way of looking at the categories of social groups by “quantifying the relationships and inequalities between the social categories…which allows for an acknowledgement of the role of social categories in society and an ability to focus on neglected groups…”A.E. Kings, 67). If we can highlight the inequalities, it is there that we can search for a better understanding and by way of that, look to create better solutions and resolutions.

We need to apply this approach when we look at our relationship to the environment. Ecofeminism has taken this approach long before the astute and revolutionary term intersectionality was coined (Kimberly Crenshaw) as it was a concept in application when discussing the shared oppression of nature and women for years prior. There is no shared gender, yet other areas of degradation and oppression that are both mutually exclusive to one another and tied by and between one another, are part of the shared experience.

As I explained in my previous example of menstruating women in the global south, both the environment and women experience varying forms of discrimination based upon complex hierarchies ranked according to interlocking identities shared by varying groups. When I use the phrase interlocking identities shared by varying groups, that implicitly refers to nature and all of its life forms. Intersectional ecofeminists “work together to advocate for the protection of both people and the planet” because they understand that they are interconnected and interdependent (Thomas, 3).

I have mentioned many times in my blogs, the ocean is my safe haven. It is my “home” and where I find myself. When I think about the ocean I think about its depth, its varying temperatures and colors, its plethora of species, and the symphony of sounds. I think of how and why I feel connected to it. My dependency on it is both vast and small. Sometimes it is as simple as feeling the water as it rushes over my feet and other times it is observing the whales in the distance and staring in awe and amazement at their beauty.

In Rachel Carson’s “Undersea” she tells a poetic story of life in the sea. It is a story of diverse life forms that live together in what is ultimately a glorious symphony of life and death, struggle and glory, respect and understanding. The depth to which she goes to describe in detail the authentic and unique characteristics of these ocean creatures is done with intention in order to illuminate the individuality of each life. There are those that are microscopic to those that are among the largest living beings to have ever shared space on the earth. All of them living in one enormous ecosystem, sharing their habitat with one another. They are all connected with one another and dependent upon one another. “The abyssal creatures are ultimately dependent upon the slow rain of dead plants and animals from above. Every living thing of the ocean, plant, and animal alike, returns to the water at the end of its own life span the materials that had been temporarily assembled to form its body” (Carson, 66). Their lives (and ours) are recycled and become a nourishment to others in need of the resources to sustain their own being.

Carson makes it abundantly clear that this is a world in which there is no hierarchy – one exists simply as one is. She shines a light upon the incredible diversity that exists, and that it is within these varying characteristics that purpose and value is an opportunity for others to also flourish. It is a system in which beings working together as “kindred spirits” to inform one another, simply by being who they are. One of my favorite lines in her essay is, “Against this cosmic background the life span of a particular plant or animal appears, not as a drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change” (Carson, 67).  There is no delineation of one life form holding more importance over another. All are here but briefly and play an integral part in the same cycle.

We have a lot that we can learn from Carson’s work in both contemplating the ways in which we are connected to the environment and the need for an intersectional lens so that we might better understand the struggles and oppression of other life forms. Women have understood this concept for a long time and because of their connection to the environment, have been at the forefront of environmental issues.


The Cycle of Advocacy – Women and Environmental Politics

Change. According to the dictionary, the word change when used as a verb means “to replace (something) with something else, especially something of the same kind that is newer or better; substitute one thing for (another).” I think we can all agree that change is necessary in order for us to evolve, improve, move forward, and to make better. The “how” part is where things get murky.

One of the most important things we must do when we have a concern and a desire to change something, is to look to our allies for support and attract the audience that would be best suited to help us achieve our goals and that align with our ideology. In this particular blog we are going to look at gender equality and how it plays into public policy, specifically environmental policy. Does gender have an impact on who is listening, who will advocate, and who will be more effective in translating ideas, concerns, and problems?

There has been a push over the past 25-30 years to evaluate, implement, and incorporate gender equality in politics in order to create a more level playing field. The need to have more women involved has become evident.

It is no secret that there are issues that impact certain groups of people more than others or that impact them differently. One of these groups is women.  When analyzing environmental issues, it is evident that women are affected more than men. As a result, women tend to take environmental matters more seriously and it is of greater importance to them. Women are also connected to the environment in other ways including a shared system of oppression. “In an unequal society, the impact of environmental degradation fall disproportionately on the least powerful” (Norgaard and York, 507) which is to say that the abuses and trauma that the environment suffers is then displaced upon women as collateral damage. Both are victims of those in power which has been referred to as the “logic of domination” (Norgaard and York, 509).

It would not be a stretch or leap to then assume that women, because of their vulnerability to the health issues that ensue as a result of environmental damage, would have a greater stake in, and be better advocates for, environmental policy? But is that actually the case? Likewise, could it be said that a lack of women in rooms (a lack of gender equality) in matters where decisions regarding environmental policy are made is resulting in the escalation of environmental problems and the expedience of environmental degradation?

The number of women in environmental organizations and grassroots movements far exceeds that of men which is evidence of their understanding of its importance and their concern for the future. Women are more cognizant of the risks that are present and invested in taking action to mitigate what they know the future will hold.

One might ask, why aren’t men more concerned? Why are they not as worried? Why are men not making more of an effort to advocate? This goes back to some of my previous blogs where we discuss sexism and how it overlaps and interplays with the degradation of animals and the environment. “Sexism and environmental degradation reinforce one another” in the same the way that other patriarchal ideology reinforces itself in its intersectional appropriation (Norgaard and York, 508). Women are an “Other” category, just as nonhuman animals are an “Other “category, just as the environment (nature) is an “Other” category. It is no coincidence that some of the top contributors to environmental problems are capitalist countries. Rich capitalist patriarchal countries.

Continuing on with this line of thinking we can see how having fewer women involved in politics makes it easier for the men to continue to reinforce these types of oppressive ideologies. So, what has happened when women are more involved? There is data that provides substantial evidence that having more women involved in politics, “contributes to the development of state environmentalism” (Norgaard and York, 513) however, I think it is important to reiterate that this is within countries where women’s voices are valued. For example, there are countries where women may sit in positions of perceived power, however they have little say or opportunity to contribute in any way that will actually culminate in policy change. An example of this is a country such as Singapore where women hold only 4.3 percent of legislative positions and have an extremely low record of ratifying environmental treaties (Norgaard and York, 515). Norway on the other hand is a great example of a country in which female leadership has had an enormous role within its government and as a result, gender equality and environmental movements soared resulting in legislation that ratified ideology supporting gender equality and environmental action.

The difference between those countries (and others) is clear – women express a greater urgency to advocate for the environment because they are hyper aware of its impact. What is equally important to note is that where there is a lack of gender equality within government, there tends to be a ripple effect within those states that disperses that inequality into other aspects of society.

As I started digging into the topic of women (gender equality) in politics and the environment, one thing became abundantly clear, it is a system of many. It is a cycle of advocacy so to speak. Women in politics or women in power are never alone. They typically have an army of women behind them. They are often supported by grassroots groups, women’s organizations, and constituents in their local communities. One of the first groups that caught my eye is called “Women Deliver”. They are a group (of women) that organized in order to address gender equality and focus on a myriad of issues affecting women, one of which is climate change. They believe in an intersectional approach when examining issues pertaining to climate change. This group works in conjunction with 60 other groups and was the founder of a coalition called the SRHR and Climate Justice Coalition. They understand the idea that there is strength in numbers.

Organizations such as this are vital to policy change. While they may not be comprised of politicians, they can educate and help financially support those women that hold political power so that they can have a better chance at creating change. Women Deliver invests in policy change by developing partnerships, creating coalitions, publishing articles, giving a voice to underrepresented and marginalized groups, and raising awareness.

Another organization that I thought I should reference is Women Political Leaders referred to as WPL. It is an organziation of female political leaders advancing society. It is important to note that they are pushing for gender equality within all areas of government and their focus is primarily on health and immunization, but they do have a focus on sustainability.

“WPL strives in all its activities to demonstrate the impact of more women in political leadership, for the global better. To accelerate, women need three things: communication, connection, community.”

A very interesting article I read from Columbia University titled “Women and Gender In Climate Diplomacy” was of significant interest to me for the purpose of this blog because it examined women’s role in terms of climate diplomacy. They found that when women were involved in negotiations, that agreements were more likely to be reached. It also referenced that women were more successful in areas of environmental diplomacy because they were more active in organizing, and more in touch with their local communities. As a result, women are better able to access and harness public opinion and gain their support. Women exhibit a more personal and intent approach with their communities and constituents because they are closely affected by environmental issues.

Another important aspect that this article addresses, and was also prevalent in several of the websites I perused, was the emphasis placed on education and the need for the  distribution of information both up and down the ladder. Education is integral to the success of women at all levels; a lack of it proving to further oppress. “Gender-focused work in Bangladesh shows higher rates of mortality during natural disasters for women, who, in certain locales, are not allowed to participate in public meetings and therefor are less apt to receive disaster and emergency preparedness information or receive medical and food assistance in the aftermath of such an event” (Jaffe and Nathanson, 3). This is an excellent example of how women are disproportionately affected as a result of the lack of gender equality permitted in their local meetings. It also demonstrates how these women would have a greater stake in their interest in environmental events. If provided with education/information and if given the opportunity to participate, these women could effectively help save lives. If we look further up the ladder, we see many of the women’s organizations and grassroots groups, offer support and training for those women wanting to be delegates. They provide the skills women need in order to be effective when they are granted a seat at the table to negotiate.

A common thread I saw in most of the material I read is that more gender analysis is required in areas of policy so that we can properly evaluate if there is a true and equal representation. Often times women are invited to the table, but they are not always permitted equal time to speak or be heard. It has also been noted that while registration to meetings might be comparable, the same cannot be said for the plenary meetings prior to the conferences or the amount of speaking time the women get as it is marginal in comparison to the      men (Jaffe and Nathanson, 6).

When delving into Norgaard and York’s thesis, the most apparent connection is that which exists between women and the environment in terms of the impact their involvement in government can culminate in, which is change. It is a cycle comprised of women placed strategically at various levels of government, global/national organizations, and even in our local communities. The picture above illustrates this idea. It is imperative that we look to gender equality and its consistent presence within our state systems and processes.

In the OECD’s working paper No. 193, “Women’s Leadership In Environmental Action” (The Organziation For Economic Cooperation and Development) authors Helene Bendig, Sara Ramos Magana, and Sigita Strumskyte examine why, “Women’s participation in environmental decision-making is important for advancing both gender equality and environmental action. The presence of women in political decision-making is linked to more ambitious climate goals and policies” (Bendigi, Magana, Strumskyte, 5).

This comprehensive document covers five specific categories of analysis, all with statistical backing and they are:

  • The Benefits of Environmental Leadership
  • Women’s Environmental Leadership In Public Governance
  • Women’s Leadership In Environmentally-Sensitive Industries
  • Women As Environmental Leader’s In Society
  • Policy Action to Promote and Measure Women’s Environmental Leadership

“The presence of women in political decision-making translates into more ambitious climate goals and policies (Mavisakalyan and Tarverdi, 2019[19]). For example, a study of European Parliament legislators over two legislative cycles found that while male and female legislators expressed similar concern for the environment, women were significantly more likely to support environmental legislation, even after controlling for political ideology and nationality (Ramstetter and Habersack, 2020[20]). A review of 1.2 million interventions in the UK House of Commons and 500 000 interventions in the US House of Representatives found that women of all political parties spent more time than their male counterparts addressing environment-related topics (OECD, 2021[2]) (D’souza, 2018[21]). A higher share of women in parliament has been linked to improvements on the SDG agenda (Mirziyoyeva and Salahodjaev, 2021[22]) and in environmental quality (DiRienzo and Das, 2019[23]). It has been estimated that countries with a critical mass of female legislators above 38% will experience increases in per capita forest cover (Salahodjaev and Jarilkapova, 2020[24])” (Bendigi, Magana, Strymskyle, 12).

This document is loaded with statistics that support the theories of Norgaard and York, providing data that gender equality (specifically the involvement of women) in government, has a direct effect on the priority of environmental concerns, and the extent to which legislation is presented and passed.

There is a clear and present link between women and the environment. Women continue to serve as affective allies to the environment because they understand and respect its beauty and resources, and they understand the devastation that its degradation and abuse can result in. The issue of gender equality must continue to be at the forefront of governments as they continue forward. Women acquiring equal space in rooms where negotiations happen, and decisions are made will help to ensure that all concerns are being represented.


When Art Imitates Life

Juicy breasts, plump thighs, a tight bulging buttocks … are we talking about a woman’s body or dinner at a steakhouse? It could be either. The language used to describe the body parts of women versus that of non-human animals are often separated by a slim differential in terms of the poetic license taken. Both are seen as something that can be consumable. One breast laden with turkey gravy and the other (often in pornography) laden with a thick human bodily fluid also referred to as “the gravy.” Am I being graphic here? Yes. Why? To make a point. When we refer to living creatures in such a way, we create a chasm between what is real, what is honest, what is life, versus what is a fantasy, what is entitlement, and what is one’s “right” to have/consume. Who is doing all of this having and consuming? Men – most often white men…. The patriarchy feasts once again!

Women are often objectified sexually. We see this objectification in advertisements, magazines, commercials, movies, social media, and in pornography. They are captured in a light designed for the male gaze.  After all, as Lisa Kemmerer stated in her evaluation of Carol Adam’s work, “When we want perfection, we know where to look: white male civilization, category A” (Kemmerer, 1). Category “A” refers to a list comprised of the characteristics society looks to which are considered “good and powerful” which includes “Man/Male, Culture, Human, White, Mind, Civilized, Production, Capitol, and Clothed” and those things in opposition (dualism) which would be Woman/Female, Nature, Nonhuman Animal, People of Color, Body, Primitive, Reproduction, Labor and Naked” (Kemmerer, 1). See a pattern here? Anything “other” than those characteristics/identities in column A are “other” and often those identities are affiliated with people classified in oppressed groups.

Let’s move on to nonhuman animals and how they are portrayed in advertisements. As we can see from the images below, they are often sexualized in the same way that women are. They are there for someone’s consumption. They exist in order to satisfy someone else’s desires, fantasies, and appetite. Their rights, their role in society, their lives are not their own. As Carol Adam’s said, “Meat is like pornography: before it was someone’s fun, it was someone’s life” (Kemmerer, 2).  I think this is an accurate observation with the emphasis placed on the word “life”. The objectification of nonhuman animals makes killing and consumption more palatable. The “life” part of the equation literally and figuratively dies.

Following are a few advertisements that were utilized in Carol Adam’s “The Pornography of Meat”. Let’s analyze the ways in which these ads ratify the ideologies that society has fallen prey to in terms of what is perceived as normal when it comes to the treatment of women and nonhuman animals in advertisements pertaining to the consumption of meat and/or nonhuman animal products.  

I must admit, at first glance, I didn’t even notice the ice cream in this ad. My eye went immediately to the bright pink ring which framed the human buttocks …. Oh, wait it has a tail… the nonhuman buttocks … oh wait it has braids and a beret … it is a human…. no wait it has black markings like a cow… it’s a nonhuman, right? Wait what?!!!! Exactly! Who is even looking at the ice cream at this point? This is a sexualized cow made to look like a “sexy” woman. I must be honest, when I showed this ad to my husband his response was that “this is weird and rather disturbing”, whew – glad we agree on that! This cow is selling sex. The ice cream (aptly named Dairy Air) is secondary. This is a perfect example of what Carol Adams refers to as anthropornography. “Anthropornography means the animals (usually species of animals presumed to be literally consumable are presented as sexually consumable, in a way that upholds the sexual exploitation of women” (Potts, 14). This cow in this ad meets those criteria. This ad does three very specific things. First, it uses language to manipulate the message. The name Dairy Air is a play on words for the word derriere which is used to emphasize the buttocks of the cow.  Secondly, it fragments the cow, which is to say it is separating the cow from its true nonhuman animal identity. Lastly, it portrays the cow in such a way that it is seen as sexually consumable and that the product that it helps to create is also consumable. This ad is interesting to me because it blurs the line between the consumption of the product that the cow provides (milk into ice-cream) and the cow itself.

A lot of the same concepts from the first ad apply to this second one by sexualizing the turkey. They placed a woman’s bra and underpants on a cooked, decapitated carcass.  We cannot ignore that this is also implying that women are meat and therefore, consumable. Carol Adams said, “For women, through pornography, their degradation is always already sexy. The sexualization of animals and the sexual objectification of women thus overlap and reinforce one another” (Potts, 15). This ad is a perfect example of this type of overlapping.  This ad draws attention to the breasts with the largest percentage of meat eaters consuming it at an overwhelming 60%. (Are you a breast man or a thigh man?) This ad also takes things a step further by stating, “The darker the meat, the sweeter the taste” which I can only perceive as a racist and sexist comment angled at women of color. We also have the breakout of what kind of meat people prefer with white (meat) at 82%, dark (meat) at 15% and tofu (non-animal) at 3%. This hierarchy (based on the percentages of popularity) of meat by identity/class is the perfect example of intersectionality in an ad. The idea that by virtue of human vs non-human and then by color, you are somehow put into a category based on the choice of what meat people like the most versus the least, is classic patriarchal classism, sexism, racism, and speceisism.  Of course, white meat leads the pack, putting dark meat second but at least it didn’t lose because the big loser here is the tofu. The plant-based option of course loses.

I find this last ad to be the most disturbing one. I was immediately struck by its violence and was not going to use it for my blog. There is a Buddhist belief that goes something like this – we must examine and understand those things that cause in us such a reaction that is upsetting. We must look at those things for understanding for it is there that we will find understanding within ourselves. So, let’s do this. First, I see a bloodied woman. I see her hanging by a hook. Then I realized of course it is a cow’s dead carcass. I am drawn to the women’s sexy clothing adorning the meat. Then the slogan, “It’s Not Acceptable to Treat A Woman Like One” and below that in very fine print it says, “Most men agree, but few speak out. Please. Be Heard. A man’s voice is an effective way to change demeaning societal attitudes towards women.” In the corner there is a logo for The Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Lots to unpack with this one.

First off, I understand the feelings that they are trying to evoke with this image. I understand it is supposed to be a violent one. Job well done, but at whose expense? Violent to and for whom? The ad is meant for men. It is meant to catch the attention of men as it is designed to deliver a message to men. Don’t treat a woman like a piece of meat…. like an animal…like property. If that is the message, what does that say about how we treat animals? So then treating an animal this way is ok but don’t treat a woman this way? I can’t help but hear Carol Adams here saying, “That appears superficially as substitution is actually the layering of one oppressive system on top of another” (Potts, 20). While trying to deliver a message about violence against women, we are making it clear that there is a hierarchical system here that values one species over another. It is placing women (humans) in opposition to nonhuman animals as a way of establishing value by and between animals.

Let us also address the way in which the carcass is clothed and sexualized. Is the sexualization of a cow necessary in advertisements about domestic violence? What is that about? Even here they saw the need to sexualize the woman/cow in this ad. It is hard to tell where the woman ends, and the cow begins here, once again echoing the earlier mention of overlapping. I feel the clothing choice takes the intended message and soils it, retracts from it, and honestly serves as an opposing force to the message by further ratifying how certain men see women. It is playing into the very things that domestic violence should oppose, the degrading way in which men see women and how they treat them.

When Carol Adams discusses the use of meat in art, she makes an astute observation that I believe applies here. She said, “A species-specific privilege creates the space in which art that uses the abject bodies of dead animals exists and can be protected. When something specific like killing has an ethic that stops at the species line, I want to know why…” (Potts, 22) and I think this applies to this ad. Some might say it is artistic. We can argue that the law protects it – but why? There were many other ways that the message in this ad could have been delivered.  The choice of image is deliberate as the audience for this message is men and men alone.

I would like to look at one last advertisement that I found. It caught my attention for several reasons. Take a look:

This advertisement is for a cooking site Le Cornichon. The recipe that they are advertising is “Goose Leg Confit With Parsley.” Once again, we have an animal comprised of part human (woman) and part animal. The two are enmeshed. The duck head is adorned with a hat cheekily topped with parsley. The goose legs are lovely long human legs with garter belts and lace thigh high stockings. The human/nonhuman figure is wearing a time period style undergarment. It invokes a rather regal French Victorian vibe with a side of sexism, racism, classism, and speciesism. It is quite the banquet of objectification. I almost felt like they were trying to “class it up” so to speak but it lands (for me) as extremely strange and a disturbing cacophony of “ick.” Are we so removed from the fact that this is advertising a dish for goose legs that we forget we are going to eat a goose leg? Objectify the nonhuman enough that we no longer see it as a living being and therefore, we can dine guiltlessly on its meat.  On the other hand, are we supposed to find it sexy and think about consuming both the woman and the goose? You get where I am going here. Both are consumable. The audience is very specific here. The appeal of this image is thin, white, European, affluent (royalty), type of indulgence. This image oozes feelings of privilege and the fruits of life that come from it. “Privilege protects itself” and the continual cycle of that is evident through the intentions of those relaying the messages and the lucky recipients of them (Potts, 19).

I want to share something with you all that popped into my head while writing this blog. Years ago, there was a cookbook that came out called “Fifty Shades of Chicken” which was a parody of the book/movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”. The entire cookbook objectifies chicken. If you go onto Amazon you can flip through some of the sections with titles such as “Extra-Virgin Breasts”, “Popped-Cherry Pullet”, “Pound Me Tender”, “Hot Rubbed Hen” – you get the idea. The cover of the cookbook bears the image of a cooked chicken tied up in bondage.  I think we could do an entire blog on this cookbook alone.

“Eating The Other”, bell hooks

“Certainly from the standpoint of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the hope is that desires for the “primitive” or fantasies about the Other can be continually exploited, and that such exploitations will occur in a manner that reinscribes and maintains the status quo” (hooks, 367).

You Are What You Repeat


When I look at this image, I am reminded of two things. One is that meat is typically represented by masculine images and in this case, it is evident. The second is that it is another way in which patriarchal ideology has indoctrinated itself in other aspects of life when we look at both human and our non-human friends in terms of their treatment and placement in society which has resulted in their oppression.

At first glance one’s attention is drawn to the figure (while non-gendered I would say it is more representative of the male form) and the knife it is holding and using to cut the meat – an action which is exhibiting dominance. Then one’s eye travels toward the back of the picture, toward the second knife. The knife looks as though it pierced the meat straight through as though to anchor in order to keep it from moving as it is sliced, rendering it motionless. Zoe Eisenberg in her article “Meat Heads: New Study Focuses on How Meat Consumption Alters Men’s Self-Perceived Levels of Masculinity” refers to this type of appropriation when she states that, “it is argued that the connection between meat and masculinity goes far beyond typical sexist advertising as it articulates the hidden connections between meat eating and patriarchy” (Eisenbeg, 4). I would say that this image incapsulates all of that theory.

There are many foods and eating practices which are gendered. It is quite alarming when you actually start to dig into it. What I noticed immediately was that whenever a woman was eating in an image and was depicted in a respectful (normal) manner she was eating things like fish, salad, yogurt, etc. When a man was eating, the images were often of him eating a burger, a steak, a large sandwich. The narrative that women eat vegetables, which are considered “passive” and men eat meat or food associated with “activity”, saturated the images that I googled (Curtin, 1). What was equally disturbing was when the image was flipped and it was a woman holding a burger, bacon, or steak, that the item was immediately sexualized. The image was suddenly a woman in scantily clad clothing usually in a sexual pose of some sort. Here are a few I found that illustrate this dichotomy.

Women eating or serving meat:












Women eating Salad and fruit:

When women were in images with meat (considered otherwise masculine or for men) they were positioned to appear very sexual with emphasis on their mouth or breasts. The treatment of the women in these adds is not one of equality in terms of how they are represented when eating meat, versus how men are represented; however, put her in front of a bowl of veggies and suddenly she is the girl next door. All of these images invoke the 5 conditions of oppression that Greta Gaard speaks of , “exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and even violence” (Gaard, 2).

What we may not see immediately in these images is the way in which the meat is also being treated. In most of them, meat is the object of dominance, the victim of indulgence, and ultimately powerlessness. Even more so than the women in the ads. Curtin points to this when she said, “There are important connections through food between the oppression of women and the oppression of non-human animals” (Curtin, 1). If we want to look at class levels, non-human animals are always at the bottom of the scale.

Dieting is another gendered food eating practice that I feel is important to address. As we already discussed, society through the push of patriarchal ideals has established not only food gendered norms but goes a step further when it comes to body norms. In Redefining Womanhood (?): Gender, Power, and the Religion of Thinness, Michellle Lelwica wrote, “In a society where most overt forms of discrimination are rhetorically proscribed, popular models of and for womanhood play a key role in maintaining oppressive attitudes and social arrangements. They do so by normalizing a particular body type and appearance: thin, young, white, and rich. Through their homogeny and ubiquity, the ideal that these images represent has become the norm to which many women aspire” (Lelwica, 6). Isn’t that the truth! Body image, as it is represented in society, is another way in which women are oppressed and not just as a gender, but as it applies to class, race, sexuality and so on. Once again when we look at another facet of relationships with food, we find ourselves circling back to divisive standards among varying identities of women and divisive standards within ourselves that lead to unhealthy habits, addiction, and eating disorders. The dieting industry brings in billions of dollars every year. Ask yourself who stands to profit from this? Large corporations of course. Once again, we can go back to Gaard and her five conditions of oppression, all of which are met here.

There are so many other ways in which food practices are gendered, from the responsibility of food preparation and nutrition in the home, which is typically considered the job of women, versus in public forums like restaurants which is typically men. In agriculture, few women hold positions of power or are at the table when decisions are made. Allison N.C. Reiheld summed it up when she said, “Food behaviors, both private and public, are deeply affected by gender norms concerning both masculinity and femininity” (Reiheld, 1).  Once again, the men are holding positions of public recognition and prosper monetarily.

We can clearly see that when it comes to food, women are oppressed. Now let’s take it a step further and look at how our non-human friends are treated when it comes to the world of food production and consumption. There are those ecofeminists that believe that we should not eat animals or animal products. Greta Gaard discusses the idea that sexism (of women) and speciesism (of non-human animals) link women and non-human animals in terms of their oppression. Gaard defines speciesism as, “the oppression of one species by another …. A prejudice or attitude of bias towards  the interests of members of one’s own species against those members of another species” (Gaard, 20). To be quite honest, when I first read this myself (a meat eater) I felt it. I felt the conflict. I cannot argue that we in fact as humans, show dominance over non-human animals. We exploit them for our own needs, for profit, for indulgence and fail to treat them as equals. bell hooks refers to this as “the commodification of otherness”, which is the idea that those who are identified as “other” will continually be exploited for profit (hooks, 380). While hooks was referring most often to race when she was discussing this theory, it can most certainly be applied to non-human animals as they would classify as “other”. The idea that we need to consider non-human animals in their entirety, in their wholeness, is essential here. Looking at them not as a resource but as a life form which is deserving of freedoms not often afforded to them. Gaard even calls into question pet ownership and said that “our relationship with them is always unequal. We have too much power. Humans are masters in a way that few people would be comfortable treating other humans” (Gaard, 21). No one can argue this statement.

So, the question for many becomes …. Can our relationship with non-human animals be situational? Some would argue yes. This is called “contextual ethics” which is the idea that “one need not treat all interests equally as if one had no relationship with any of the parties” (Curtin, 2). Some examples of this would be: If I rescue a pet from a shelter, it is ok because I am providing it with food, shelter, and love. If I have a cow and use it for milk and give it a place to graze, I am using it resourcefully. If I only eat meat because my family has no food and it is the only thing we have access to, that would be acceptable. In these situations, the perspective is that there are specific dynamics that lend to the modification of circumstances surrounding the level of oppression of the non-human animal. In other words as Dean Curtin put it, “I cannot refer to an absolute moral rule that prohibits meat eating under the circumstances” (Curtin, 1). We should look at was is accessible. Do we have other options or choices as to what we can eat? Is there an “ethic of care” taken with the animals raised that we are consuming? Is the meat coming from a factory farm? If we can look at these questions, we can make better assessments that apply responsibly to the decisions we make for ourselves and what we eat. We can implement a “caring for” approach (Curtin, 1). We need to ask more questions and do our research.

After reading about ecofeminism and its connection to vegetarianism, I would be lying if I said it didn’t impact me. All week long I was more aware of what I was eating, and it gave me pause. Will I become a vegetarian? I don’t know but I am certainly giving it some thought. I am lucky in that I am afforded access and the means to be able to have this as an option. I have already decided to cut down on the amount of meat we consume, which is primarily poultry. I can look to sourcing our meat and animal products from local areas (farms) where I can verify the treatment of the animals. It may not result in my becoming a vegetarian, but it is a start on my journey to a more conscientious approach. I can break some of the habits within my household to ensure that we are more responsible consumers; that we think of non-human animals with respect and consider the moral ethics behind their treatment and consumption.

In an article titled “Why Do We Say ‘Diet CultureInstead of ‘The Patriarchy‘”, Alexis Conason said, “The more marginalized identities you hold, the more oppression you experience, and these are the voices that need to be centered” (Conason, 4). I ask you – Who is the voice of the non-human animals? Who speaks for them? We are what we repeat, so perhaps in my household it is time to shake things up a bit.

The Ocean Is My Place

In order for you to better understand why this is so, I would like to share with you a poem I wrote:

The Ocean Is My Place

The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my heart.

In the everyday life of love and grief, I am enveloped by its strength.

The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my voice.

In the silence of loud voices, I am reassured by its quiet ear.

The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my balance.

In the push and pull of what I should be, I am steadied by the tide.

The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my rest.

In the angst of worry and what if’s, I am rocked to sleep by the sunset.

The Ocean is my place for it is there I find my music.

In the cacophony of dissonant notes, I am comforted by her song.

The Ocean is my home for it there I find myself.

In the crowded streets when I am lost, by the Ocean I am seen.

The ocean has and always will be my place. While I live about 45 minutes away (in the suburbs) from what I have always referred to as “the shore” (Jersey girl here);  it is the place where I find much of who I am.

As a young girl the ocean meant family vacations. It was a place of rest, relaxation, connection, time to play, and regroup. From the beaches along the Jersey shore, down the eastern coast to the Carolinas, as far south as Key West or up to the stunning New England beaches of Massachusetts and the shores of Nantucket Island. The beach has always spoken to me and grounded me. I think of bell hooks when she said, “When we love the Earth, we are able to love ourselves more fully” (hooks, 363). This resonates with me in that it is here that I feel most organic and even childlike in terms of my ability to think and feel with less of a filter. When I was a child, my father would call my sister and I fish as we would stay in the water for hours. Upon return to shore, our hands and feet were pruned and cheeks a bit rosy and salty.

When I look at the ocean, I feel an interconnectedness to not only the earth but to myself. Ever since I was a child, I would sit by the water’s edge and contemplate what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, and I would compose my dreams and transform them from mere ideas into possibilities. I go there to think. It is why I especially love it in the off-season months. While I appreciate the hustle and bustle of the summer as children giggle and splash, I am able to decompress most when the weather is cooler, and I am wrapped in a blanket. Terry Tempest Williams captured this emotion for me when she said, “falling in love with a place, being in love with a place, wanting to care for a place and see it remain intact as a wild piece of the planet” (Williams, 16).

I have deep concerns for its ecosystem. I remember back in the 1980’s there was a lot of buzz about the future of our beautiful humpback whales. There have been oil spills (Exxon, BP, and others), the over-fishing that is leading to less and less resources and species of particular fish, the ocean dumping that has created catastrophic damage for which my generation will never see the full repair. I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that during my senior (high school) prom the beaches were closed due to pollution as a result of medical waste dumping. A few of us were thrown in the water (as a joke) and suffered the consequences in the form of rashes that had to be treated with antibiotics. My heart hurt even then to think…. I have this medication that will heal my body… what does the ocean have? What solution could possibly rid it of so much contamination caused by us? It has been assault after assault. Helpless and at our mercy, we show her little grace.

Conversations of conservation and protection come from a soulful place.  It is very personal. It is about mothering the land. It is about giving it back a small piece of what it has given me. It is anything but irrelevant as it is where I find myself, my family, and my sense of community. “Each of us belongs to a particular landscape, one that informs who we are, a place that carries our history, our dreams, holds us to a moral line of behavior that transcends thought” (Williams, 19). About eight weeks before my sister died I took her for a “sisters” day to the beach. We sat in our chairs (it was a chilly but sunny April day) and we talked and talked. We reminisced. We told each other our dreams. We laughed and we cried as she told me some of her wishes.

About four weeks later we headed back down there to a house I rented in order for her to rest and recover from the chemotherapy. She didn’t make it twelve hours there before we had to take her to a hospital where only eleven days later, she would pass away. During those twelve hours at the beach, she sat in her wheelchair on the porch and watched the water. She ate ice cream. We held hands and barely spoke. We knew what was coming but for those moments outside, we were connected to everything and our history was in every moment.  I watched her close her eyes as she breathed in the sea air as a small smile spread over face. She watched the boats come in, bend around the jetty and slowly glide into the harbor as if she was intently listening to a piece of music. It was always our favorite place. It gave to us endlessly. When I think of her in those moments, I think of Barbara Kingslover’s reference, “The window is the world opening into me. I find I don’t look out, so much as it pours in” (Kingslover, 1). To watch her was to know that we need the wild and that in those final days, it was the wild places that brought her so much peace and calmness. It is where I find her even now.

While I cannot stand with my sister in person anymore, I understand what Williams meant when she said, “This is the hope of a bedrock democracy, standing our ground in the places we love, together” (Williams, 19). Through our shared stories and histories, the commonality we share is the very bedrock upon which we can affect change and bring awareness despite our differences. It is where our stories can bring about change by evoking feelings of importance and the need for action.

As this was an especially personal blog, I wanted to share a song that I love by Edie Brickell (& The New Bohemians) called Me By The Sea.

Work Cited:

hooks, bell. Touching the Earth.

Kingslover, Barbara. Knowing Our Place .

Williams, Terry Tempest. “ ‘Home Work’. Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert.” 2002, pp. 3–19.

Ecofeminism – When One Size Does Not Fit All

One Size Fits All by Everyday People CartoonsJust like most things in life, one size does not fit all. Why? The answer is simple, because we are not all the same. We are of different heights, weights, frames, different breast sizes, etc. We can even take this a step further and look at the fact that one article of clothing such as a dress, might work for one woman but not for another for different reasons. Perhaps one woman is a construction worker. A dress would not be functional for her to work in. Perhaps the dress is wool and has long sleeves. This would be great for someone living in a cooler climate but would not be practical (nor comfortable) for a woman living in the south of Florida.

When we look at ecofeminism we should ask ourselves – Does one size fit all? Does the theory behind western ecofeminism apply equally to women in other parts of the world? Is it functional in the same way? In order for it to be a perfect fit, would imply that women everywhere in the world live in the same environmental climate, have the same types of jobs, live in the same political climate, are of the same socioeconomic backgrounds, have the same level and type of education/knowledge, experience the same levels and types of oppression, have the same access to resources, and so on and so forth. As we know, most of these things would vary from country to country. Herein lie both the differences and commonalties found by and between ecofeminism from a Western perspective and a non-Western perspective.

A Western ecofeminist perspective relies heavily on the idea that women and the environment have a shared connection as a result of their oppression which is imposed upon them by a system of patriarchy. Referring back to my previous blog, we examined Hobgood-Oster’s work who said, “Oppression of the natural world and of women by patriarchal power structures must be examined together and neither can be confronted fully” (Hobgood-Oster, 1). Non-Western “Feminist Environmentalism” might agree with some of this but extrapolates further on this idea.  In order to understand the types of oppression and how it shapes women’s relationship with the environment, we must look more closely at aspects of women’s lives in these areas.

Quite often in order to examine women and their relationship with the environment in the Global South (specifically looking at nature and its resources) one must have a working understanding of each entity separately from one another in order to understand how and why they work together. When we look at the poor peasant or rural women of India for example, what are their roles when it comes to specific jobs? In India, it is typical for women to do hard laborious work such as the gathering of wood and fodder for fuel. It was not unusual for women to take part in the cultivation and oversight of their crops. They are also responsible for acquiring water. Would this same statement be true in the Western world with regard to the jobs we associate with the majority of most women? Here we see a difference between the types of jobs or labor that women have in different parts of the world. These jobs lead to different perspectives, connections, and experiences. They result in different types of knowledge.

Let’s look at class systems. When we look at women in India or areas of the Global South in terms of our discussion about ecofeminism, we are looking specifically at poor or rural areas. Typically, we are looking at examples of women in poor economic areas as they are more radically impacted by environmental degradation.  Looking again at the poor peasant/rural women in India, they are most dramatically impacted by de-forestation which has created a shortage of wood and fodder needed for them to heat their homes and cook. They also sell these items and as a result of the lack of resources they have suffered income loss.  Women have to go further and further to gather such items which makes their job harder and decreases the time they have to spend on other jobs like cooking which has led to a decrease in nutrition. This has had a ripple effect on their lives.

Displacement as a result of the continued commercial use of land has weakened women’s ability to network in the way that they are used. It is typical for them to rely on one another for economic and social support and even share labor and knowledge. This form of networking empowers women and strengthens their bargaining power amongst families in their community.

Trees are cut down for timber, waiting to be transported and sold.

(Click image to learn more about deforestation.)

Another way these women have been impacted is water collection which is another job that women take care of. In most of the poor/rural areas they do not have running water. They rely on surface sources for their water such as ponds. Much of the water has been contaminated by pollutants found in the fertilizer and pesticides utilized by the commercial farms. Women are more vulnerable to illness and disease as a result.

Sadly, all of these elements of degradation continue to weaken one of the most important commodities that these women have to offer which is their Indigenous knowledge. Their experience with gathering food, cultivating crops, and their knowledge of other resources, is not being utilized. They have a wealth of information that could be used in conjunction with modern day science to create more long term solutions and sustainable systems.

As you can see, there are many ways in which situational circumstances can give varied experiences. Gender is a defining identifier of ecofeminism but so are other aspects such as class and a person’s politics of location. The politics of location is the way in which a person identifies and why they identify that way which is usually comprised of their experiences.

When looking at the Western and non-western world we can easily see commonalities that women share in terms of their relationship with the environment. Women are disproportionality impacted by certain environmental factors. Many women share the experience of being oppressed (discriminated against) when it comes to having an active role in areas of work, politics, or community life. Many women have the shared experience of giving birth and mothering which provides some (not all) with a sense of connection to one another and nature.

There is something to be said about the idea that women are connected because of their gendered experience and shared oppression, but to say that all women have the same experiences solely based on gender and the oppression that comes with it, is not accurate. To say that all women have the same relationship to the environment based on gender alone is not accurate. I would agree with the work and theory of Bina Agarwal who focuses on how oppression can look in different areas and that environmental degradation affects women differently based upon both gender and class. It goes without saying that women of a lower socioeconomic class system are impacted more  by environmental degradation which is proof of a varying or increased level of oppression than others experience. They are invested in the environment because their survival depends on it.

I think it is critical that women recognize the diversity among women so that we can cultivate and preserve the knowledge that is unique and integral to implementing policy that can create more sustainable systems. As Dr. Shiva stated when speaking about monopolies taking over crops, “That kind of dependency leads to increased poverty and increased ecological destruction” (Shiva & London, 6). She was pointing out that as we lose more and more of our Indigenous knowledge and become more dependent on corporatized agriculture, we not only lose what we had but we become dependent on a system that does not always sustain us or have long-term goals at its heart.

The solutions to sustainability and sustenance lie in the ability to see nature and its resources in their entirety and not simply as a source of one particular thing. Women in the global south understand this because through their culture, knowledge, and lived experience they have learned how to harvest purposefully and with respect to and for the land. They have a relationship with the environment that is unique and based on so much more than gender alone. As Bina Agarwal wrote of the Chipko women and their recognition of the forest and its uses she said, “Although the movement draws upon, indeed is rooted in, the regions Gandhian tradition which predates Chipko, women’s responses to go beyond the framework of that tradition and come close to feminist environmentalism in their perspective. This is suggested by their beginning to confront gender and class issues in a number of small but significant ways” (Agarwal, 148). I think the key there is the phrase “in their perspective” and it is from that – that we can truly examine environmental issues from an intersectional feminist lens. By honoring diversity among women, and not just using gender alone as a category of analysis, we can better capitalize on the unique knowledge we have to lend to environmental issues in order to create change.

The Chakla bavdi of Chanderi
The unique design and functioning of the Chakla bavdi in Chanderi Madhya Pradesh is another example of the water wisdom of our ancestors, which needs to be conserved and passed on to the future generations.


When Ecofeminism Tells A Story – Indigenous Women & The Earth

The relationship between Indigenous women and the Earth is a sacred one. It is truly a beautiful partnership built on mutual respect and trust. Land and water are divine and treated as such. Indigenous women are connected to the Earth in a spiritual way and use every aspect of their interconnectedness to amplify their voices within their communities. The Earth is their life force. It is their food source. (This relationship also applies to animals.) It is their source from which their education about life stems. Visualize a tree. See the roots, the trunk, the branches, the stems, and the leaves. They see that tree as a life force, and they show it the utmost respect as they value their interdependence with it.

Unfortunately, this relationship has been threatened as the result of capitalistic ideology and patriarchal hierarchy. In order to understand why there are issues now, and how these ideologies impacted them, we need to understand the source of the change. Let’s take a brief trip back in history.

Colonial theory bred a very divisive ideology in that it created structure of government and community that was solely based in systems and levels of hierarchy of and between people. They were based upon class, race, gender, religion, education, and so on and so forth. Herein enters the strategy of oppression, exploitation, and intersectional theory circa colonial period. The Indigenous people did not place in that class system whatsoever. We all know the basics of what went down. Those that remained (that survived the genocide) were left to scrounge for whatever scraps that they could which essentially meant that they had to make deals with the colonists. Compromising their own ways, principles, culture, and traditions in order to survive. Suddenly a community of people that previously had little to no level of class structure were grappling with things like money, levels of government within their tribes, and modern ways which created separation and oppression within their own people. How does this all tie into Ecofeminism? “Ecofeminism claims that patriarchal structures justify their dominance through categorical or dualistic hierarchies: heaven/earth, mind/body, male/female, human/animal, spirit/nature, white/non-white” (Hobgood-Oster, 3). These binaries create separation.

Fast forward to today and we can still see this in our post-colonial world having lasting and continued affects on Indigenous people, particularly women. It is not just here in the US where the Indigenous women are experiencing oppression. This is happening in the US, Africa, Canada, India, South America, etc. When we look at the root of the problem, we almost always come back to the same culprit: colonialism.  This is where the theory of Ecofeminism is of vital importance as it examines the relationship between the oppression that women experience in relation to the oppression that nature experiences. Hobgood-Oster said, “Oppression of the natural world and of women by patriarchal power structures must be examined together or neither can be confronted fully” (Hobgood-Oster, 1).

You might wonder, how does the oppression of Indigenous women tie into ecofeminism? How is it that the Earth and their relationship with it is impacted? Consider them parallel to one another; both experiencing oppression simultaneously. The same people that are oppressing the women as a matter of class structure treat the Earth and its resources in much the same way: women as something less than men, the Earth as something less than human. These binary structures have infiltrated and “classed” their identities.  Women’s roles have shifted drastically, and it has resulted in an increase of violence directed at them by men. Ecofeminist theory is critical here because it “replaces hierarchal dualism with radical diversity and relationship” (Hobgood-Oster, Page 3).

This continues now with pipelines (oil industry) in the US and Canada, as well as  Palm oil plantations, and mining in Asia and the Pacific regions.

Violations against collective rights continue everywhere. Land is taken, people are displaced, and livelihood is threatened. All of this industry threatens natural resources. The Indigenous women are fighting back. The pipelines threaten their land and water. It is their belief that water is the giver of life. When you take or threaten their water you are threatening their very life force. You are also threatening their food, transportation, and livelihood.

They are trying to protect the land, its resources, their history, culture, traditions, and spirituality. As a result, they have been the target and victims of horrific violence. As land is pillaged, poisoned, destroyed, and raped for its resources, so are the women of the land.

Click the picture or link below below to learn more about the women who protested at Standing Rock.

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, founder of the Sacred Stone camp.

As you can clearly see, there is a direct correlation between the value placed on the indigenous women and that of the land. They go hand in hand. It is important to mention that it does not stop them. They continue to organize and fight for their rights and the rights of the land. They are fighting for more than sovereignty – they are fighting to reclaim their land.  In the words of Chelsea Vowel, Metis from manitow-sakahikan, “If all you do is vaguely gesture towards sovereignty, and let settlers believe that land is not ‘on the table’ then you’re reducing it to a metaphor” (Kane & Nguyen, page 1). She is rejecting the binary role she is expected to play in a hierarchal system. She is speaking for herself and for the land. It is her call to action which is also a part of ecofeminism.

When I examine this topic, I am reminded of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s, Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation who uses imagery via a story (“Kwezens makes a lovely discovery”) of a tree being tapped for sap by a young Kwezens woman for the first time. The lessons learned, tradition that is taught, shared, and elevated by the verbal sharing of such a symbolic task, is illustrated throughout her publication. I loved this piece so much when I first read it in one of my college classes, that I emailed it to my mother to share with her. I related to how my mother taught me cooking by doing. Through our sense of smell, sound, and touch I learned and recreated. Respecting the ingredients that we grew in our garden was a huge part of my education. The tomatoes were grown in our garden and from that the sauce was made. My father taught me how to care for the garden and it was my responsibility when he was not home to water it. To take special care in picking the fruit from the vines. The way that your hands smell after you pick them, the warm earth beneath my feet … all of my senses came to life as I read Simpson’s work. The connection I felt when I read this was intense. It was knowledge through experience. She calls it “wearing your teachings or coming to know” (Simpson, 7 & 11).

What is important in Simpson’s article is that she speaks of her current life experiences differently. She is not learning about life in the same way that the girl in the poem is learning. Simpson states, “My experience of education was one of continually being measured against a set of principles that required surrender to an assimilative colonial agenda in order to fulfill those principles” (Simpson, 6). She compares her structured education to that of the past which was through knowledge claims as a result of lived experience. The modern education she was experiencing disengaged her from the natural ways. The tapping of the trees (via current education) was completely modernized. It removed her from the way of learning taught through the rituals of the land and her people.   Hobgood-Oster stated, “Ecofeminism suggests that the antagonism sometimes existing between religion (spirituality) and scientific worldviews has been detrimental, used by both approaches to advance their hierarchal structures” (Hobgood-Oster, 7). For Simpson, the structured education created a separation between herself and her culture and between herself and nature. It was less personal. It was an extraction of her individuality.

Simpson speaks of “coming to know” (learner led and spiritual education) and using the stories laden in tradition to teach future generations. With that gone in modern education, we can see her being stripped of her identity – just as nature is stripped of its soil, its oil, its rock, etc. with modern day industry. Both fell victim to a patriarchal society.  Modern education is one more way that indigenous women are separated from the Earth. She speaks of this clearly when she refers back to the story of Kwezen who is tapping the tree for sap:

“She learned the sheer joy of discovery. She learned how to interact with the spirit of the maple. She learned both from the land and with the land. …She comes to know maple sugar with the support or her family and her Elders. She comes to know maple sugar in the context of love” (Simpson, 7).

Simpsons assessment is profound in its ability to excavate the raw beauty between the relationship of Indigenous women and nature. She is able to capture the essence of what is born of this mutual relationship. To know this is to know what would come from neither having the other. To know this it to know what would come from either being damaged, exploited, treated as “less than”, injured, spoiled, and/or stripped of its identity.

Every time a pipeline goes in, land is excavated, water is contaminated, an assault has been committed against Indigenous women and the land that they love. The patriarchal system has continued to take and take based solely on the premise of greed and privilege. The hierarchical class structure is designed to divide through various levels of oppression which fosters fear, anxiety, depression, famine, poverty, violence, and an overall lack of recognition.

It is important that we educate ourselves about these issues so that we might be the change that is so desperately needed. I will close with this quote from Simpson, “The freedom realized through flight and refusal is the freedom to imagine and create an elsewhere in the here; a present future beyond the imaginative and territorial bounds of colonialism. It is a performance of other worlds, an embodied practice of flight” (Simpson, Page 23).

If you are not already familiar with them, The Indigo Girls are a folk/country/Americana band that has been around for decades. Their advocacy is beyond admirable. Their music often references politics and their concerns with regard to the earth and the Indigenous people. They are HUGE activists. Check out their music and the many groups they support in advocacy.

Here is one of my absolute favorite songs by them called “World Falls“.