Earth is all that we have in common, but the constant loss of biodiversity, the increasing deforestation, fracking, industrial wreckage and the projects which are constructed in the name of progress have bought us on a standstill. Unlike our ancestors, we never learned to connect with nature, or conserve it for a sustainable future. Francoise D’Eaubonne in the article Le feminisme ou la mort ( feminism or death) written in 1974 first talked about the issue of overpopulation which was a major concern for many ecologists. It was suggested as a result of the patriarchy’s refusal to women’s rights over their own bodies. It bought together women from multiple cultures to raise a voice against the patriarchal society, suggesting the interconnected nature of the oppression of women and degrading nature. Feminism or death was not only a battle cry, it was a warning that humans could not survive patriarchy’s ecological consequences. The close connection of women to nature has been portrayed since the ancient times by usage of terms like Mother Earth, Goddess etc. So, it was only natural for them to be affected the most by the swift changes in the environment. Scholars from all around the world added to this field by their understanding of feminism and ecology in different fields which led to a integrated understanding of this concept which we now know as eco-feminism.
The central tenet of eco-feminism is that social and environmental issues are not separate. The movement for women’s rights has evolved since the last decades, encompassing a wide spectrum of issues, although patriarchy exists as a common strand. Cultural degradation began with the disbeliefs in the traditional worship of goddesses, pagan cults, animistic beliefs and other feminine ideals which were replaced by the worship of male entities. The belief of looking at women as private property strengthened the patriarchal bond on both women and nature. Many years later, we are still limited in our abilities to reach out of our community. The emergence of capitalism has only worsened the scenario of the exploitation of resources for selfish needs. We have become a witness to the mass destruction where what erodes is not just our environment, but the culture and our diverse society.
Many eco-feminists have made landmark achievements in the field of conserving nature but the debate of female affiliation to ecology runs deeper in terms of understanding and knowledge of the adverse effects. Women in the global south are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change as they are closely connected to nature even today. The marginalized sections of our society are the hardest hit in this time of crisis. Women often bear the responsibility of feeding and caring for their children while maintaining their household,the effects of environmental deterioration make these women more vulnerable as they struggle to find resources for their family.
Eco-feminists aim to achieve a fundamental shift in consciousness with respect to the domination of women a nature. Their efforts have made a dynamic change in the visibility of women in a man’s world. Though the critics of eco-feminism state that the affiliation women with nature often places men as othered in this concept as they cannot participate consciously due to the bodily difference. It is also believed that eco-feminism fails to identify ways in which men have suffered to ‘ masculine’ stereotypes. Its confirmation to gender binaries possesses another problem in its outlook to a holistic approach. In spite of the many varied views, it is a field that is constantly growing and broadening our understanding of society, oppression and nature.
As in the current time, we fight for equality through the path set for us by those before us. Looking out for possibilities and providing the society with justice is what can set us apart from the previous generations. The vision of bringing together the two oppressed entities to fight for one cause has made a wider outlook possible for coming up with solutions. The requirements today demand elimination of not one but all types of dominance and exploitation. From the view of many, eco-feminism has a long way to go before achieving its aim but the steps that are being taken not only strengthen the society but promise a more sustainable future.