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Friday, February 1, 2013

Ecofeminism – How I became a Believer

I really opened up to ecofeminism through discovering how my own passion for ecological welfare and for earth justice is shared by so many other women, even if they have no connection to the movement. I used to tell people one basic argument for why I want people to stop cutting down the forest. I wouldn’t walk into your church and violently destroy the alter, or the idles, or the priest himself; but that’s what they are doing to me when they destroy Nature. I literally view the earth and her Natural ecosystems as part of an immanent goddess or spiritual system. To destroy them, or reduce them to mechanical parts is a desecration of what I hold sacred, it’s a personal attack. I was made a believer upon realizing that these feelings are shared by women around the world.
Also, what does it say that one girl in hickville eastern Washington can grow up to develop such a deep concern for Nature, animals, oceans, forests? It says that this is an innate feeling, a feeling that doesn’t only belong to me but to all people who develop a connection with the feminine spirit in Nature. 

Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva take the argument beyond that simple realization. They point out that the structure of western society itself, from the fundamentals of science to popular opinion handed down from the media, is anti-feminist and anti-Nature. One example from the book, Ecofeminism on page 188, is this idea of fertility as a disease. 

“To discover how medical experts obtained such a sweeping control over women’s reproductive capacities, we must recall the contraceptive movement of the past few decades. Long before sterility was defined so by the WHO, fertility has been treated as a disease.”

What struck me was that women began to view their own fertility as an inconvenience, they were ‘sick of it’ and so accepted this method of ‘control’ handed to them by the military industrial complex. This, as Shiva points out, is part of the housewifeization and colonization of women within in a society where unlimited growth is the economic goal. ‘Without women you can’t make a state,’ well, you sure can’t make more soldiers or laborers. Control of fertility is control of life.

This same complex is responsible for the destruction of earth as a sacred mother. These people seem obsessed with putting the lid on this natural, abundant, phenomenon called fertility which Mother Earth is constantly giving to us through reproduction, adaptation, birth and seed. One part of that is through controlling human women. The other part of suppressing fertility is controlling Natures fertility…the seed. This is what Geneticists trying to manipulate Nature’s seed are doing through Genetic Modification. Unfortunately, because of the misguided principles of modern science, people who are doing this are oblivious to the consequences of their own actions. 

“In investigating the roots of our current environmental dilemma and its connections to science, technology and economy, we must re-examine the formation of a world-view and a science that, reconceptualizing reality as a machine, rather than a living organism, sanctioned the domination of both Nature and women. Reductionist science is a source of violence against Nature and women, is so far as it subjugates and dispossesses them of their full productivity, power and potential. The epistemological assumptions of reductionism are related to its ontological assumptions: Uniformity permits knowledge of the parts of a system to stand for knowledge of a whole. Divisibility permits context-free abstraction of knowledge, and creates criteria of validity based on alienation and non-participation, which is then projected as ‘objectivity.’ ‘Experts’ and ‘specialists’ are thus projected as the only legitimate seekers after and producers of knowledge.” - Ecofeminism Page 23-24

We see these reductionist arguments again and again in the debate about Genetically Modified Organisms. One example is the claim to ‘intellectual property’ that Monsanto and the other companies involved in big agrobiz have on their GE seeds. The term intellectual property refers to something that is ‘thought up’ from nothing, not manipulated from something in Nature. They didn’t invent the corn seed, they manipulated it into being something that fruits but is sterile. In any other context, the manipulation of organic life is considered cruelty. Beyond this, the fact that GE pollen carries the transgenic trait means that by planting GE crops, we risk contamination of non-GE crops and that means NO corn seed other than Monsanto’s for anyone…ever. I will get into the details of Genetic Modification in another article…I encourage all who don’t really know how it’s done to look it up. That is one of their main arguments against those who oppose GM, we don’t know the actual ‘science.’

“Since the scientific and industrial revolution, technology and economics have mutually reinforced the assumption that nature’s limits must be overridden in order to create abundance and freedom. Agriculture and food production illustrate how overriding these limits (um…millions of years of adaptation and evolution people!) has led to a breakdown of ecological and social systems. Industrially produced seed and fertilizer were considered superior substitutes for natures seeds and fertility; yet these substitutes rapidly transformed soil fertility and plant life into a non-renewable resource…Natures ways of renewing plants is dismissed as too slow and ‘primitive’. Natural limits on reproduction of life – ‘species barriers’ – are now to be crossed by engineering transgenic life-forms, whose impact on life can be neither known or imagined.” Ecofeminism page 28.

I am trying to draw a parallel between the fertility of Nature and our own fertility as women, because they are the same. Somewhere along the line, patriarchy or progressivism or something, someone realized that he would never have any power so long as life continued to be abundant. We were made fearful of our and Natures own overflowing fertility and began trying to control it, suppress it. But, it is this that makes us alive and part of something greater than ourselves as women. Fertility is sensual, sexual, passionate, beautiful, and uncontrollable both in humans and in the Natural world. I am reminded (rather embarrassingly) of Jurassic Park…even though they kept only female animals…life found a way. Well, we are life’s walking talking representatives of all things feminine and we must…find a way.
From left: Maria Mies, Maude Barlow, Claudia von Werlhof, Vandana Shiva, Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, Christa Wichterich, Bente Madeira

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