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Four of the more influential recent anthologies include RECLAIM THE EARTH, edited by Leonie Caldecott and Stephanie Leland, HEALING THE WOUNDS: THE PROMISE OF ECOFEMINISM, edited by Judith Plant, REWEAVING THE WORLD: THE EMERGENCE OF ECOFEMINISM, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Orenstein, and ECOFEMINISM: WOMEN, ANIMALS, NATURE, edited by Greta Gaard. As well, the Spring 1991 special issue of HYPATIA includes a plethora of articles on ecological feminism, creating a sort of anthology in itself. Each book gives an introduction to the theory and practice of
Ecofeminist activities have been a daily part of women’s lives worldwide for centuries. Every day women in India and Africa produce food for their families, creating a sustainable environment. Yet the term “ecofeminism” was just coined in 1974 by the French feminist Francoise d’Eaubonne. Only recently, within the last two decades, has ecofeminism been considered an academic pursuit worthy of debate and a substantial theory. Therefore, it is not surprising that each new anthology progresses in the development of ecofeminist theory.
RECLAIM THE EARTH, the earliest anthology (1983) offers scattered, beginning analysis on the relationship between women and nature, grappling with words to describe what many women and native peoples have been doing all along. The majority of contributors speak about how they or other women protect their communities and their immediate environment and how they are being poisoned by Western technological advancement. The Chipko movement, for example, comprises groups of village women in the Garwal mountains in North India “hugging” trees to prevent them from being felled by “developers.” A statement by a group of Sicilian women protesting the siting of cruise missiles in Comiso, Italy is included in the anthology. An interview with a Kenyan biologist describes her role in creating a community tree-planting project aimed at fighting desertification and soil erosion. Many more examples relate the acrivities of a diverse group of women in fighting for cxhange in their own neighborhoods and their own communities.
The next important anthology came along six years later, in 1989. HEALING THE WOUNDS: THE PROMISE OF ECOFEMINISM, edited by Judith Plant, includes early ecofeminist theory by such authors as Ynestra King and Susan Griffin. It seems these two authors, as others, are beginning to realize the “meaning of ecofeminism.”
Moving beyond description of women’s activities to protect the earth, they are now trying to define what these activities mean and how oppression of the earth relates to oppression of women. Not only do the authors express what ecofeminism signifies to them, but they address ecofeminist politics, spirituality, and community.
The majority of authors in this all-woman collection are from the United States and Canada. Those from other countries come predominantly from India, with one contributor from Haada Gwaii, also called the Queen Charlotte Islands, located off the Western coast of Canada. The Indian authors discuss how the spirit of the Chipko movement has spread throughout their country, how “development” has created real poverty in the South, and how nonviolence holds a powerful spiritual value in their culture.
REWEAVING THE WORLD: THE EMERGENCE OF ECOFEMINISM, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein (1990), continues Plant’s trend of including contributors who examine “the development of ecofeminism as a social movement and a philosophy” (p.xii). A variety of female and male authors from around the United States — professors, actists, writers, and spiritualists — all share their ideas on the “meaning” of ecofeminism. For example, Charlene Spretnak describes the “roots” of ecofeminism, crediting the study of political theory and history, the exposure to nature-based religions, and the increased popularity of environmentalism as paths that led feminists to “eco”feminism.
Unlike HEALING THE WOUNDS, this anthology elaborates on some of the more salient political and philosophical questions. More importantly, it begins to see its relation to other forms of environmentalism. Several articles compare and contrast ecofeminism with deep ecology and bioregionalism. Briefly, deep ecologists assert that all entities have intrinsic value and have the freedom to live unhindered by human domination (HYPATIA, p.91), crediting the environmental crisis to the history of Western culture. Bioregionalism is a way of living *with* the land as opposed to molding and exploiting the environment for human “needs.” It involves restoration of life-supporting systems and establishment of a sustainable pattern of existence (Plant, p.158). The authors discuss whether ecofeminists can find an ally in other groups. For example, Michael E. Zimmerman asserts that on the surface ecofeminism and deep ecology share common beliefs: both are critical of dualism, hierarchalism, and abstract rationality. Yet, although deep ecologists transcend anthropocentrism and view humans as equals with other life forms, Zimmerman charges that they are androcentric and viewmankind and its values as central.
HYPATIA’s Spring 1991 special issue on Ecological Feminism (Indiana University Press), provides the most scholarly and theory-based articles of all the anthologies. Like REWEAVING THE WORLD, this collection contains extensive discussions on the meaning of ecofeminism and its association with other forms of environmentalism. It also incorporates critiques of and provides alternatives for current male-centered environmental movements. Catherine Roach declares that the popular “environmental slogan ‘Love Your Mother’ is problematic because of the way ‘mother’ and ‘motherhood’ function in patriarchal culture” (p.46). Deane Curtin introduces the idea of an ethic of care to replace the language of rights, particularly in relation to animals. Val Plumwood provides an alternative view of nature “based on respect without denying that nature is distinct from the self” (p.3).
This is a scholarly journal, read by an academic audience, housed most commonly in university libraries, so it is not surprising that almost all its contributors are associated with academia. All the authors also live and teach in the United States.
Finally, the most recent anthology to embrace ecofeminism is ECOFEMINISM: WOMEN, ANIMALS, NATURE, edited by Greta Gaard (1993). This book is different from the other collections, with the exception of the HYPATIA issue, in that it includes lengthy debates on the oppression of animals, called specism. Carol J. Adams addresses the issue of serving meat at feminist meetings; though food choice has been traditionally viewed as a personal decision, she is trying to bring the issue into the political arena. Two other authors who write about animal rights (Lori Gruen and Josephine Donovan), scarcely touch on meat production, concentrating more on the exclusivity of animal liberation theory and feminist theory, and the need to merge their agendas. Gruen analyzes the constructed connection between and oppression of women and animals, while Donovan critiques the “fathers” of “rational” animal rights theory, Peter Singer and Tom Regan.
Gaard’s anthology moves beyond RECLAIM THE EARTH and HEALING THE WOUNDS in that it has begun to compare and contrast the work and theory of ecofeminists to that of other forms of radical environmentalism like the “greens” and the deep ecologists. It also provides critiques of current eco-philosophers and of the more male-oriented ecological movements. Its topics, like those of HYPATIA, are very theory-driven, a kind of reversal of the first anthology. Whereas RECLAIM THE EARTH leaned heavily toward descriptions of activism, it was virtually void of substantial theory. In the HYPATIA articles, activism lives only as a vehicle to depict theory (see Birkeland and O’Loughlin’s articles).
Unfortunately, unlike RECLAIM THE EARTH, which brings together authors from countries and cultures around the world, ECOFEMINISM exists in primarily a U.S. context. Only two contributors hail from other countries, Taiwan and Australia.