Even if you never paid attention to sustainability before, it’s an impossible topic to avoid now that President-elect Donald Trump has chosen an EPA leader who denies the existence of global warming. Suddenly, “green” is hot topic – with Trump and scientists standing on opposite sides of the line.
After all, scientists have been warning men and women about global warming and sustaining the environment for decades. There was only one problem: people didn’t care … or at least not enough to change up the ineffective sustainability practices that have been applied for years.
What is the traditional environmentalist approach doing wrong? And how is sustainability related to feminism? ENTITY is here to give you all the facts, stats and theories you need to know to be a green movement pro.
When you hear the term “sustainability,” what topics come to mind? Buying an electric instead of a gas-powered car? Lowering your use of plastic plates or silverware? A vegetarian diet?
From the age of President Bush’s presidency, American environmentalism has mainly focused on reducing the country’s oil intake. Further more, attempts at solving the climate change problem and lessening our carbon footprint have all been mainly technological. However, America’s addiction to oil isn’t necessarily the problem, according to Kira Gould and Lance Hosey at Grist. Instead, the main issue is mass consumption and people’s lack of concern for the future consequences of their excessive lifestyles.
READ MORE: The Case for Reducing Mass Consumerism
Traditional environmentalism has also often overlooked the effects of gender on the goals of sustainability.
Surveys conducted by the Yale School of Forestry, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Institute for Women’s Policy Research and American National Election Studies have shown gendered differences in people’s views of the environment. In fact, these surveys consistently show that women feel a stronger connection to the environment than men do, reporting that women are up to 15 percent more likely than men to rate the environment a high priority.
In addition, women comprise up to two-thirds of voters who cast their ballots around environmental issues, are more likely than men to volunteer for and give money to environmental causes and support increased government spending for the environment, while men favor spending cuts.
Beyond overlooking the different priorities men and women hold about the environment, traditional sustainability practices often promote a “male” view of the world. For instance, journalist Thomas L. Friedman calls for a definition of green that is less “tree-hugging” and more “geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic.”
While women see environmentalism as a way to work together to make the overall world better together, men often picture environmentalism as a political or military tactic.
On a basic level, feminism and environmentalism are related in that feminism encourages greater attention to women’s opinions on the Earth and sustainability. However, feminism is actually much more deeply rooted in environmentalism than one might originally believe.
Many feminists see a connection in the fact that “oppression of women and the Earth have gone hand in hand for thousands of years,” says the foundation Culture Change. For instance, cultural pressures on women often cause negative consequences for the Earth. For instance, women are pressured to use makeup and feminine hygiene products that have environmentally questionable ingredients and are thrown out after one use.
READ MORE: Is Feminism Being Used to Sell Products?
Women are also often symbolically aligned with the Earth. Just think: When was the last time you heard someone describe the Earth being “ravaged” – or a woman described the same way? Linguistically, both the Earth and women are often painted as resources for men to use.
Because of the connections between feminism and sustainability, a sub-genre of feminism – ecofeminism – has emerged. This perspective allows for people to recognize new, broader ties between humanity and the environment, see environmental problems through the eyes of marginalized (and often forgotten) groups and end all forms of domination (over the Earth and/or people).
Although ecofeminism is still a growing field, several women’s environmental groups are already making a difference. Women’s Voices of the Earth strive to “eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health” by advocating for safe cleaning and beauty products. Similarly, Women’s Environmental Network focuses on providing the information needed for women to make fair choices regarding their reproductive health.
You could argue that the sustainability movement began when Rachel Carson published her classic book, “Silent Spring.” Now, however, women and the environment seem to be more divided than ever. In order to create the most effective plan to preserve our planet, environmentalism needs to recognize the viewpoints of men and women equally. Not only that, but feminism needs to become a common word in the sustainability movement.
READ MORE: Why We Need Feminism in Fashion
Environmentalism shouldn’t just be a political or economic battle; it’s also a war against the oppression of the planet. As late marine biologist, Rachel Carson, once wrote, “It is one of the ironies of our time that while concentrating on the defense of our country against enemies from without, we should be so heedless of those who would destroy it from within.”
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