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Forest fires and the ecofeminist response to the climate crisis

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

“Nature shrinks as capital grows. The growth of the market cannot solve the very crisis it creates.”

-Vandana Shiva, ecofeminist.

Nature is literally shrinking. As we write this post, Patagonia is burning. ⁠

As explained by Escritura Feminista (in Spanish), this Summer high temperatures combined with droughts and lack of rainfall generated the conditions for an unprecedent catastrophe in southern Argentina. Fire, which started this Tuesday afternoon and quickly spread, swept away at least 200 houses. There were nearly 1500 hectares affected.

In this sense, more than 200 families have lost their homes and had to be evacuated. At the moment, one person has died—Sixto Garcés was found calcined along with his horse. There are also more than 10 people who have not been found. The situation is serious.

In 2019, Brazil went through a similiar situation. The so-called “lungs of the planet” produce 20 percent of the oxygen in our planet’s atmosphere. And according to a CIFOR report from 2008, one-fifth of total annual carbon emissions come from land-use change, most of which involves tropical deforestation. Deforestation adds more carbon to the atmosphere than comes from the fossil fuel-intensive global transport sector. ⁠

In May 2019, The Guardian dropped the term “climate change” and began using “climate crisis” instead. We believe this choice is more valid than ever.⁠

What is ecofeminism?

As journalist Tatiana Fernández Santos states, the term “ecofeminism” was coined in 1974 by Françoise D’Eaubonne in her book “Feminism or Death.” In it, the author denounces men's absolute control over women's fertility and that of the Earth itself. In her thesis, she reflects on how our patriarchal society sees women as mere objects to be possessed, a plot of land to be taken and used. The current destruction of the environment would be, then, a consequence of historical patriarchal domination.

However, her ideas were ridiculed in her time and she was berated for having connected two concepts which, apparently, were not related at all. Still, ecofeminist thought kept evolving and found proof of actual connections between capitalism, gender inequality, racism, classism, climate change and environmental damage: vulnerable –or violated– groups are at higher environmental risk and the majority of people leading the fight on the streets are women.

In 2019, as part of the 34th Plurinational Encounter of Cis Women, Lesbians, “Travestis”, Trans, Bisexual and Non-Binary People, took place for the first time a workshop on “Ecofeminism.” The movement was later described in the minutes of the day as “an alternative to patriarchal and capitalist violence, a new type of relationship in which there's no domination, no oppression against the planet and its inhabitants.”

Due to Patagonia fires and the lack of urgent response from the government, ecofeminist activism gained presence—in just a few hours, hundreds of donation centers were organized so as to gather basic necessities for the families that were affected by the fires. In addition, there are many bank accounts available where money can be donated to fund firefighters to alleviate the catastrophe.

Image: Freepik.

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