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What does arctic vortex have to do with feminism?

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 09: Ice floes fill the Hudson River as the New Jersey waterfront is seen during sunset on January 9, 2014 in New York City. A recent cold spell, caused by a polar vortex, caused the floes to form in the Hudson River.
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 09: Ice floes fill the Hudson River as the New Jersey waterfront is seen during sunset on January 9, 2014 in New York City. A recent cold spell, caused by a polar vortex, caused the floes to form in the Hudson River.
Photo by Afton Almaraz/Getty Images

It’s January and 50 degrees in Denver. While this is pleasant for the residents who live here, it is in stark contrast to the January arctic vortex that has frozen much of the Midwest and East Coast brutally this winter and even has some cleverly calling my hometown of Chicago: Chiberia.

With global warming once again as the lead story for many of the mainstream national newscasts, environmentalists may be rejoicing. Well, maybe not exactly celebrating but perhaps taking some satisfaction that while not as a popular political issue as the economy, there is no denying that we had better do more than scratch the surface on the issue of climate change. We must advocate for policies that solve our environmental sustainability issues and reverse some of the damage humans have done to our planet.


If you put “ecofeminism” in one Internet search engine, you get a whopping 1.5 million results. So what is ecofeminism and why is it worth talking about? What does supporting organic farming and using public transit have to do with feminism? Is the human impact on the environment merely a reflection of the domination of men over women across the globe?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “ecofeminism” as a movement or theory that applies feminist principles and ideas to ecological issues.

In her paper titled, “Ecofeminism, The Environment, and Social Movements,” presented at the National Communications Association’s Convention in 1998, Leila Brammer of Gustavus Adolphus College writes:

“In 1974, the term "ecofeminism" was conceived by d'Eaubonne as a connection of the ecology and women (Morgan, 1992, p. 4). In 1978, Susan Griffin's Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her poetically acquainted others with the idea, but the diffusion of the idea did not become apparent until after the meltdown at Three Mile Island when six hundred women attended a conference called ‘Women and Life on Earth: A Conference on Eco-Feminism in the Eighties’ (Caldecott and Leland, 1983, p. 6).”

Françoise d'Eaubonne was a French feminist who was born in Paris in 1920 and lived to be 85 years old. She was also a talented poet and published writer.

Further describing the social movement of ecofeminism, Brammer writes:

“Ecofeminism is a joining of environmental, feminist, and women's spirituality concerns (Spretnak, 1990, pp. 5-6). As the environmental movement along with environmental crises raised the consciousness of women to the decay of the earth, they began to see a parallel between the devaluation earth and the devaluation of women. Women began to see the link as not a false construction of weakness, but as a strong unifying force that clarified the violation of women and the earth as part of the same drama of male control (King, 1990).”

Karen Warren, Ph.D., a retired professor of Philosophy at Macalester College, is an international expert on women and environmental ethics. She speaks widely on environmental issues, feminism, critical thinking skills and peace studies. She has written and edited numerous books, including “Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What it Is and Why it Matters,” “Ecological Feminist Philosophers,” as well as “From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology and Bringing Peace Home.” Warren was also the Ecofeminist-Scholar-in-Residence at Murdoch University in Australia. She holds her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Massachusetts.

In one of her books, “Quilting Ecofeminist Philosophy,” Professor Warren writes that current women’s inequality and unfair realities such as the wage gap, are forcing women to make tradeoffs such as: 1) lobbying for mass transit even if she has a car; or 2) supporting organic farming even if she cannot afford to purchase it. Warren states it is simply impossible to make perfect ecological decisions within “current institutional structures characterized by unequal distributions of wealth, consumption of energy, and gendered divisions of labor.”

While blogs like Conservative Action Alerts insist that “Environmentalists are killing the U.S. economy,” the environmentalism movement is flourishing in our country.

The majority of Americans may still favor economic prosperity over tending to Earth. Yet, according to “Americans’ Concerns About Global Warming are on the Rise,” by Lydia Saad of Gallup in April 2013,

“U.S. worry about global warming is heading back up after several years of expanded public skepticism. Views on the subject are now near the midpoint in Gallup trends, exemplified by the 58% of Americans who say they worry a great deal or fair amount about global warming. This is up from 51% in 2011 but still below the 62% to 72% levels seen in earlier years.”

Supporting public mass transit and farmer’s markets in Denver: one example

Access to public transit is particularly important for low-income women. Further, it also improves access to jobs and affordable housing for women. Public transit, in and of itself, is beneficial to the environment, because when more people use it, greenhouse gas emissions from commuters’ cars are reduced. Released in April 2012, the Denver Regional Equity Atlas, the primary authors of which are Reconnecting America and the Piton Foundation -- two members of the prestigious Colorado collaborative, Mile High Connects -- recommends:

“Allow farmer’s markets and other green markets at station areas. When people are waiting for or getting off of a bus or a train, they usually have a few minutes to spare.”

Not only is this beneficial to the environment, it helps people eat healthier and likely more locally-grown, organic produce.

The Denver Regional Equity Atlas continues:

“Moreover, living in a walkable neighborhood allows traveling to more places by bike or on foot, and thus reduces the stress associated with commuting from place to place by car.”

This helps women to reduce and/or better manage symptoms of mild depression and trauma, which present at much higher rates among women living in poverty.

“He says that woman speaks with nature. That she hears voices from under the earth. That wind blows in her ears and trees whisper to her. That the dead sing through her mouth and the cries of infants are clear to her.”

- Susan Griffin, author of ”Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her”

[Sources: Michelle Schoen, Mile High Connects]

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