Atoms, Eco-Feminism, and Moving Towards Love

A perspective shift

As I write this reflection, I am above the clouds flying to the other side of the world. The view from up here is spectacular! 

I can see rivers winding through the landscape, forests spanning for as far as the eye can see, farmlands growing varieties of crops, bustling cities with cars and neighborhoods, towering mountain ranges, and miles and miles of open water. Sadly, it is also all too obvious from my beautiful vantage point that much of our society is unsustainable. 

Small Actions – planting a tree, organizing an education event, going to the hardware store on a Friday afternoon to pick up river stones for a project -- add up to significant and measurable outcomes that take us from an extraction model of living with earth to a one of mutuality. This grassroots approach to climate stewardship keeps us grounded and hopeful, yet we must never lose sight of the bigger picture. 

Similar to how being in a plane grants new perspective, eco-feminism offers us a new angle or perspective that can be helpful to exploring our connections and responsibilities to the world around us.

“Before a system can be turned on its head and before we can bring peace and justice to people and creation, we must first become more intimately connected to our place. In our watershed the land, creatures, and people are all nourished by the same water; the more we come to know this, the more stake we have in its wellbeing, and the more accountable we are to it.”
- Erinn Fahey (1)


What is eco-feminism and how does it connect to IPC’s work? 

Eco-feminism, simply put, is the practice of looking for the intersections between gender and environment. It explores gendered inequalities and how these often parallel mistreatment of the earth. It invites us to look with care at the ways that we have learned to treat each other, and how we reflect these harmful behaviors into our interactions with creation. Loving action first requires seeing, and eco-feminism provides the perspective and tools to do just that.

Transformative feminism (2) refuses to isolate issues of justice into single silos - it works for the eradication of all forms of oppression. All systems of oppression are interconnected and share similar origins, yet the ways our society affects different communities are not the same. Asmae Ourkiya writes, “Sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia are systemic forms of oppression that shape our relationships with each other by designing a hierarchical pyramid…this translates into how natural spaces are accessed and exploited. (3)

For this reason, it is important that eco-feminism be one discipline among many that engages in anti-oppression work. Eco-feminism specifically examines the hierarchies that are established which result in these oppressions, inviting humans to view ourselves as part of our local ecologies. It is both a de-emphasizing of the human experience while also affirming the key part we have in changing the trajectory of our future. It asks us to enter collaborative, mutual partnership with each other and the Earth, defying the unjust systems of power that disenfranchise the most vulnerable and hinder our collective flourishing. It imagines a world that moves beyond the practices of extraction, domination, and scarcity. The earth is generous in its nourishment of us, it is our responsibility to discover together how we might participate in that cycle of reciprocity in healthy and life-giving ways.

“Soul and soil are not separate. Neither are wind and spirit. Nor water and tears. We are eroding and evolving, at once, like the red rock landscape before me. Our grief is our love. Our love will be our undoing as we quietly disengage from the collective madness of the patriarchal mind that says aggression is the way forward.”
- Terry Tempest Williams (4)


An example of eco-feminism in action:

I recently had the privilege of attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women as a delegate in partnership with my academic institution, United Lutheran Seminary and the Lutheran World Federation. The theme of this year’s commission was exploring the connections between gender inequality and climate change. Over the course of two weeks, I heard statements from participating nations, non-governmental organizations, and faith actors reaffirming again and again, that gender justice is unachievable without global movements towards climate justice. It is women who are disproportionately affected by the devastation of climate change. It is also often women who are on the frontlines of innovative solutions to the climate crisis. 

A conclusion of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women final report agreed upon the urgent need for young people’s voices to be centered in climate mitigation and adaptation decisions. This goes beyond young people being invited to meetings and giving statements. Our youth need to be actively involved in the decision-making processes! The need for young women’s voices to particularly be lifted is more important than ever, especially highlighted amongst women of color and economically deprived communities

“Spirit, nature, and humanity are connected in an interdependent web of life in African cosmology. Thus, any ethical or unethical behavior conducted by humans impacts the other aspects of the cosmological order positively or negatively. According to this framework, one could argue that since ancestors are believed to reside in many aspects of nature, any human behavior that diminishes and dishonors nature or the earth can have a devastating impact on the relationship between the human and the ancestor. In the case of water pollution, for example, the act of humans misusing, damaging, wasting, or abusing water is understood to be an immoral act against nature, which disrespects the ancestors.”
- Melanie L. Harris (5)


What does this mean for us?

As a growing partnership of individuals and congregations called by our faith to advocate and mobilize for cleaner waters in the Chesapeake, in what ways can eco-feminism influence our work? How will we work to do justice to those who are most impacted by the pollution and degradation of the Chesapeake? How will we work to intentionally center youth voices and cultivate youth leadership in our endeavors? As ocean temperatures rise, communities are displaced, and life as we know it fundamentally alters – how will we choose to respond?

As communities of faith, we are called live into love. Our different traditions challenge us to move towards solidarity with our neighbors and the earth. The more that I realize that the boundaries between me and you, between the waters in my local community and the waters that make up most of me – are porous and shapeable – I am set free to live in a loving and harmonious way that refuses to devalue one single atom in the universe.

“Sacred waters carry us beyond the marketplace into a world charged with myths and stories, beliefs and devotion, culture and celebration. These are the worlds that enable us to save and share water, and convert scarcity into abundance…Each of us has a role in shaping the creation story of the future. Each of us is responsible for the kumbh - the sacred water pot.” 
- Vandana Shiva 



1) Erinn Fahey, Caring for Our Waters: Shifting the Engineering Paradigm in Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice, edited by Chad Meyers.

2) Karen J Warren, essay; Feminism and Ecology: Making Connections in Readings in Ecology and Feminis Theology, edited by Mary Heather Mackinnon and and Moni McIntye.

3) Asmae Ourkiya, Queering Eco-Feminism: Towards an Anti-Far-Right Environmentalism.

4) Terry Tempest WilliamsAll We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K Wilkinson.

5) Melanie L Harris, Ecowomanism: African American Women and Earth-Honoring Faiths.

6) Vandana Shiva, Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit.