November 1, 2019

Environmental justice is a feminist issue

Erika Mandreza Sales
This article is written by:

Erika Mandreza Sales

Supporting feminist environmental justice groups and movements globally

 

 

What is the feminist pursuit of environmental justice? It is our response to the degradation of our environment. Capitalism is driving a massive consumption of our planet’s resources in pursuit of endless economic growth. This comes at the expense of our planet’s ecological balance. Climate change and global warming are some of the adverse effects that are already being felt. We are living beyond our means and there is a price to pay. But the people currently paying that price are spread unevenly around the world. And those who are least responsible for climate change and environmental degradation experience the greatest impacts.

Who are the most affected? Women, girls, trans and intersex people who experience not only the effects of envrionmental damage, but also the intersecting oppressions and violence within their contexts. This is also true for racialised, ethnicised and indigenous people around the world.

So how do we define Environmental Justice?

Environmental justice is concerned with resisting environmental degradation and injustices. It ensures a good life and well-being for present and future generations. It is about maintaining our harmonious relationships with nature. Environmental justice recognises that our planet’s resources and its capacity to renew resources are finite. Hence, it strives for ecological balance and social justice. Why? So present and future generations can enjoy living with nature, especially communities vulnerable to capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy and racism.

Mama Cash’s vision for environmental justice is that women, girls, trans and intersex people are able to resist environmental injustices and implement alternative environmentally just frameworks to live in a sustainable world. We link and support feminist environmental justice groups through grantmaking and accompaniment. We believe that supporting these groups and movements is the lasting route to ending inequalities and injustices experienced by millions of women, girls, trans and intersex people. We support self-led groups that are from historically marginalised communities. They are most familiar with their situation and they have solutions. And with resources and support, they make change happen!

The environmental justice groups Mama Cash supports are not only resisting, but they are building alternatives for the unsustainable way societies function now.

Resistance

Feminist environmental justice groups are resisting the abuse of corporate power and state power. They defend their territories, communities and environment from extractive industries and destructive agriculture and development projects. They demand climate justice because those who are least responsible for climate change experience its greatest impact. Through resistance, they challenge profit-oriented models of development and progress. In doing so, they confront powerful players such as governments and corporations. They fight for their rights to participate fully in decision making that effects their environments.

All environmental defenders are under threat but women, girls, trans and intersex environmental defenders also experience gender-based violence such as sexual violence, harassments, intimidation and murder. Women, girls, trans and intersex environmental defenders also experience attacks and intimidation within their communities.

The indigenous women leaders and organisations of BAI Indigenous Women’s Network in the Philippines are resisting development aggression and militarisation in the country, while fighting for indigenous women’s leadership and participation in decision making on policies and programmes that affect indigenous women and the environment. In Nigeria, Wanel-aedon Development Association (Waneledon), a group of rural women from communities that depend on forests, are fighting against the cancellation of their land titles for the construction of a superhighway. Meanwhile in Bolivia, indigenous, mestiza and campesina women of Red Nacional de Mujeres en Defensa de la Madre Tierra (RENAMAT) from the provinces of Oruro, La Paz and Potosi in Bolivia are defending their territories and fighting for the rights of Mother Earth.

Alternatives

The groups Mama Cash suports are envisioning and building an environmentally just world in different ways, depending on their location. They envision alternatives to the extractive, linear and universal model of economic growth. Some of their ideas also emerge from communities that have continued living in a sustainable way since before the arrival of extractive industries and destructive agriculture and development projects.

Feminist environmental justice groups promote alternatives based on community or collective power and solidarity. They propose to change the way we relate to both nature and women, girls, trans and intersex people. Equality, freedom and interdependence of rights should prevail, rather than concepts like domination. The groups we support are using decision making practices and systems that are feminist, indigenous and local. They promote knowledges and practices that protect the environment. And they advocate for climate change solutions such as renewable energy and sustainable farming.

In Northern Mindanao Philippines, indigenous and peasant women farmers of AMIHAN Northern Mindanao Region (NMR) are implementing a climate change programme that includes promoting the use of organic seeds in sustainable farming. A regional network of rural women active in the lands rights movement in Southern Africa, the Rural Women Assembly (RWA), advocates for agro-ecology, climate resilient agriculture and seed saving, and advancing the local green economy. Meanwhile, the indigenous and rural women of Consejo de Mujeres Indigenas y Biodiversidad (CMIB) in Guatemala focus on valuing ancestral knowledge and conservation as they lobby and advocate for the environment at national, regional and international levels.

Mama Cash believes in the collective power of feminist environmental groups and movements. The groups we support, contribute to ensuring good life and well-being of present and future generations, and maintaining our harmonious relationships with nature. Their feminist activism for environmental justice works!

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