Marching for an Eco-Feminist Revolution

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One year ago, I found myself standing at the front of a packed airplane cloaked in a somber fog. Donald Trump had been inaugurated just hours before, and the plane reverberated with murmured conversations about who had watched it, who hadn’t, who couldn’t bring themselves to. As if he too needed a mental break to digest the gravity of the day’s events, the flight attendant graciously lent me the mic when I asked for it.

“Who is going to the Women’s March?” I roared into the microphone. There was a milli-moment of stunned silence—and then, like a glass ceiling shattering, waves of cheering unfurled, coupled with what looked like a fast-forwarded NatGeo documentary of an azalea patch speeding into full bloom. The unveiling of pink pussy hats that in seconds blanketed the entire plane.

We were an #AllLadyPlane flying from the west coast to the east to protest Trump’s inauguration for the first-ever Women’s March, and together we were lighting the roots of a new era of the women’s revolution—one unknown to American women of my generation thus far.

As a 30-something American woman, I literally have felt the pit of my stomach leap into my heart innumerable times over the course of this past year. By watching women bring down from power those who have abused and oppressed. By raising my own voice and speaking out about how I, too, have been a victim of violence. And, this past weekend, by rallying with thousands of my sisters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to urge women to run and vote—and revolutionize the Capitol.

At the same time, as a climate activist and attorney, I have felt my heart drop to the pit of stomach more times than I can keep track of this past year. Trump and his cabinet have launched a blinding array of violent acts against our planet and the basic health of our communities. They have vowed to open our oceans to mass-scale drilling—the kind of oil and gas exploration that led to the devastating BP Deepwater Horizon spill and that threatens our most imperiled species. They have green-lighted fossil fuel extraction, removing protections from huge chunks of Bears Ears and other national monuments and the lands in the warpath of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines—threatening the health of thousands of American communities and undermining the sovereign rights of indigenous peoples. They have threatened to withdraw us, too, from the Paris Agreement—shirking the country’s moral obligation to fight the very climate crisis for which we are disproportionately responsible.

During these crisis moments, the intersection between what I do and who I am has never been clearer. The foe in both contexts is one and the same.

Ecofeminism is about identifying how the oppression and domination of women are the same oppression and domination of nature—whether it be our voiceless animals, our wild lands, our sacred air and waters. In this paradigm, women and earth are intimately connected because they are oppressed by the same male-dominant force.

Historically, men gave our planet a gender: female. Perhaps men coined nature Mother Earth because she seemed to be life-giving and ever-forgiving, as sometimes mothers are. But perhaps they also named nature Mother Earth because they felt that they could dominate her, exploit her and abuse her, and that she would be silent in response—or at least unable to fight back in immediate defense. These thoughts flooded my mind this past November, as ecofeminism manifested in an extraordinary woman I encountered in Germany during the international climate change negotiations.

I was visiting Hambach Forest, the 12,000-year-old ancient German forest that is now on the verge of being destroyed to mine the dirty lignite coal beneath it. The only physical barrier standing between the forest and the coal is a band of tree-sitters—hundreds of activists who have occupied the last remaining parts of the forest in protest despite forceful police evictions, One of these tree-sitters was a young woman who had dedicated the last four years of her life to live in and protect this primordial forest. She believed that putting her body on the line was the most powerful difference she could make to fight against her government’s exploitation of nature and the relentless extraction of the world’s most climate-damaging coal.

Physically, she had experienced the same type of violence that has already driven the destruction of 90 percent of Hambach Forest. She explained that, over the years, male protesters had carried out dozens of acts of sexual violence against women tree-sitters. Even men who condemn the German government’s exploitation of Mother Earth believed they had some right to violate women with the same violence and arrogant entitlement based on their anatomy.

I emerged from the forest that day renewed with a conviction that what I stand for as a woman is the same as what I stand for as a climate activist.
I carried it with me last weekend, as I marched to resist the common unjust thread of oppression and exploitation that fuels the resounding violence against women and Mother Nature herself.

The Trump administration is just the latest incarnation of the oppression and domination that have spanned human history. This past year has shed a bright light on the entrenched violence against women and nature—and immigrants, LGBTQ communities, people of color and so on. And so, too, has it birthed the most poignant women’s revolution of my generation—one that stands strong against all of our common and vicious, yet conquerable, adversaries of injustice.

Jean Su is associate conservation director and an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

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  1. Susan Gerstenkorn says:

    I often reflect that humans have proven unworthy in the management of Earth and her resources, to the detriment of all existing Earth life forms except perhaps cockroaches. Your article provides hope in that Earth “Husbandry” may still be accomplished by Humans, just not in the scorched earth manner of masculinity-challenged ,panicky , reactionistic , anti-feminist, pseudo psycho-emotional grownups that infest the government and the 1% ERs.
    I admire your integrity in taking a stand . I realize that there is no other honorable action than to resist or if need be ,revolt. In-action is in itself an action of surrender to the violent end of most life forms as we know them. This year is already witness to the planet’s reflexive spasms as She tries to restore herself in the response to the rape and assault that petrochemical and mineral industries have committed in their greedy need to dominate and conquer.
    These Macho egomaniacs have had their run and proved they are not up to the task. The actors that have enabled this “Rush- to- Doom” need to be prosecuted for their “Crimes against Humanity”, and “Other’s” in Hague . IF you know how I can lodge a complaint , Please point me in the correct direction. Thank you.

  2. It is very iportant that females of this particular species not engage in cynical attempts to conflate their cultural woes with the far more devastating attck the sntire species wages upon nature.
    Just two documents can illustrate the error:
    Recently I finished a journalistic work called Captive Wild, by Lois Crisler. It documents her rather imperceptive treatment of several Arctic Wolf pups she and her husband acquired in Alaska’s Brooks Range. Although their impulse was altruistic, as the pups’ parents had been killed by humans, their bringing to Colorado and fencing them in a tiny compound with domestic dogs, was counter to the wolves’ nature and ecological place. The book chronicles the subsequent shooting and poisonings of the wolves and their offspring, and finises with her poisoning the last trusting wolf. Indications are that numerous other had offered alternatives, but, creatures of their culture, crisler’s unethical decisions gives great insight into the actual problem of a social primate omnivore controlling natural lives (the concluding word in the account is “death.”)
    Sinnce my own life concerns have been wildlife and natural systems, I have also followed wildlife biology, behavior, and cognition. Thus I was aware of the several-year study performed by an entirely femal human group in Hungary, wherein they took wolf pups from their mother and any relatives (wolves have a superior social system to that of humans, and ALL siblings are eager alloparents – not merely females – and so the experiment caught my critical eye form its cruel inception.
    They kept these animals captive for their lifetimes in an urban environment, never allowing natural dispersal, satisfaction fo curiosity and other cognitive needs of this incredibly intelligent and perceptive animal. They subjected them to numerous experiments and testing, all of which to any who know wolves, looks more like a variation onn Guantanamo Bay conditioning.
    Yes, I have heard quite a lot of assertions by human females of how they “love”, but have never yet seen that quality actually practiced for the lifetime of another, except inn cases of their own biological offspring.
    In my own experience, which has been more profoundly outside of domestic and urban culture for most of my life, I found it necessary, out of love, to accept a determined bond of a wolf. While some of his native explorations and practices were illegal and certainnly abhorrent to the minds of even those who might delude themselves that they could tolerate this original and magnificent being of massive autonomy and integrity, I was still sometimes subject to hearing from female humans “oooh, I WANT a wolf!”
    THe only possible reply was to attempt to educate them that you can never “own” another being of earth. I remain far too aghast at the arrogance and hubris of both male and female humans, a species so obligate social as to be eusocial (look it up) to further elaborate here.
    Just be clear, that the kleenex we would find , the plastic water bottles, the loud gabble, the distantly-detectable stenches of artificial fumes, all of which and more impinged upon our senses whenever around entrance trails to wildlands and the pathless places of nature, are ineluctable parts of an animal that has, instead of retaining relationship, paved it over, denying its validity and necessity for centuries with the clear intent of doing so permanently.

  3. Thank you, Ms. Jean Su, for this important article and your crucial work as a climate activist and attorney on the hard-working team at the Center for Biological Diversity! I have joined them in coalition actions in Nevada and Minnesota, and we women must continue rising up across the world to keep doing all we individually can to protect Mother Nature as proud ecofeminists. That is why, while I mainly work on environmental policy and actions, I also made the time to help Nevada ratify the Equal Rights Amendment on 3/22/17 as the lead grassroots organizer from 2014-2017 and also continue to build solidarity with my worldwide sisters in Women’s March events like you. Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are environmental protections as I shared in my June 2017 Op-Ed in the La Crosse Tribune in the Midwest where we have to help more women and men become eco-minded. You can read it with the international human rights I have also shared at: . Our Nevada journey on the ERA is also at this link, and everyone can help us with the next national steps shared, too, at: . So, ONWARD sisters everywhere, we are the heroines we have been waiting for! – Janette

  4. Please don’t give up.
    Sometimes I think also: they hate Nature because they can’t control her, even though they try.

  5. Bonnie MacRaith says:

    Hi Jean,
    Hi Jean, I met you and your co-worker a few years ago when you were in Humboldt County for the successful ban on trapping bobcats in CA. I am convinced that the way to bring awareness about Nature to ourselves is to spend time in the wilderness wherever that may be, hiking, camping, backbacking or just walking. Many of us have become so separated from our wild world that we can easily lose an affinity with it. It feels like a relief to be able to go out and just BE with the trees, the river, the mountain, hearing the sounds of our beautiful natural world!
    Thank you for the article!
    All the Best,

  6. joan silaco says:

    Never thought it, but you can’t control MOTHER NATURE no matter how many times men try! Men need to learn respect even for MOTHER NATURE too! Thank you for the poignant words given this day and age.

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