A matchless growth of the
economies of the world and the vast exploitation of resources has led to an
ecological crisis. This crisis has
dawned upon us only recently. It is a proven fact that the world over development
has in varied ways eaten itself up. While all are affected by the ecological
crisis, the life of the poor, the women and other under privileged groups are
largely impoverished. It is the correlation with ecological crisis and
exploitation of women that ecofeminism attempts to highlight. The domination of
women is interconnected with the domination of nature. Women are largely
identified with nature, earth and matter – all of which are inferior as
compared to culture that is identified with men. It is nothing else but the power
of mind over body as in the philosophy set for us by Descartes the French
Ecofeminism grew out of various social movements – feminist peace and ecology movements in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The term ‘Ecofeminism’ was first used by Francoise D’ Eaubonne but became popular with the growing number of protests against environmental destruction that were triggered off by ecological disasters. The first position argues that particularly equates women to nature and hence in order to understand environmental problems a feminist analysis is best suited. Where women are degraded, nature will also be destroyed and abused. When women are ever giving and nurturing nature will be endlessly exploited as it is looked upon as endlessly fertile.
The ecofeminist argument is therefore based on the ideological fact that women and nature should not be placed hierarchically below men. It is because of such a patriarchal pact that development – much of which is over development has led to the suppression of the voiceless – marginalized groups, women and nature.
The addiction with consumption that has been intensely increased due to globalization has intensified exploitation. Material progress is in the driver’s seat and this kind of driving, a chasing behind development goals leads us nowhere, except to a position of total abuse of all that can be subjugated. It is against this kind of a development paradigm that ecofeminism raises its voice. Maria Mies calls this the ‘Myth of catching up Development’ and she states clearly that it has no where led to the desired goals. Other writers too have echoed this opinion. They have highlighted the fact that the poverty of the under-developed countries is not because of ‘natural’ lagging behind, but a direct result of the overdevelopment of the rich industrial countries who exploit the so called periphery in Africa, South America and Asia. According to Mies, the relationship between the overdeveloped industrial countries and the underdeveloped fringe countries is a colonial one – a colonial relationship between man and nature, men and women, and between urban and rural areas.
The secret of unlimited growth is based on this colonial relationship which is not a partnership but a relationship of force and violence by the colonizer of the colonized. Ecofeminism recognizes this power relationship as the main cause of exploitation and squalor of the natural environment and women. This has led to the escalating marginalization of the weaker sections and to the widening gaps between the haves and the have-nots. The tragedy however is that the haves continue to amass wealth at the expense of the have-nots. Globalization and its impact has been both positive and negative, but the negative impact is borne disproportionately by women, the environment and other vulnerable groups.
Are we not then on the wrong path? We pursue the so called growth horizon, yet find ourselves discontented. This is nothing but the Easterlin Paradox named after Richard A. Easterlin who explained this contradiction. The contradiction as he stated refers to the phenomenon that once basic human needs are met (food, shelter, community stability, etc) human happiness does not quantitatively increase with financial gain. It is fundamental that students and the youth are taught this. The more we run behind wealth and all that growth has to offer us, the more apprehensive we get, the less time we have and more we deprive others of not even acquiring their basic needs. What we are then left with is a set of people/countries that have too much and are not happy, and the other set of people and countries that do not have enough and are not happy!
The modern pursuit of capital accumulation, production and consumption patterns have to be abandoned. Social values of sharing have to be encouraged. The model as advocated by ecofeminists is rooted in a new vision of a non-exploitative, non-colonial, non-patriarchal society which respects, not destroys nature. Let us help turn this vision into our mission!
~~~Crystal David John