Ecological justice

The crossroads for environmentalism and intersectionality and a gateway to Europe`s green and just transition

Oaktown in Hambacher Forst, Germany Source:

There is a long theoretical tradition of connecting and comparing ecological destruction to the exploitation of other human beings. The oppression and deprivation that women and people of colour experience can be explained as the same power dynamic that the non human natural world is subject to – mostly but not exclusively by white, heterosexual men. 

The paralel is very useful, as it breaks the old concept that humans in general are an enemy to the non-human world. It specifies that there are certain human made socio-economic and mindset systems(namely capitalism, originated in western traditions) that are unnatural, but opens up a way back into nature. It also gives us a chance to differentiate between human nature and certain oppressive regimes, and opens up the chance to recognize other human systems that are not like that. 

The system, and mindset that this eco-feminist tradition points finger at, and defines as unnatural is the system of dividing the body and the mind, as if the two could live without one another. This concept of division, somehow indicates, that humans can and should overcome their embodied experience. Taking care of the physician body, is not an economically productive activity in the capitalist system (however a great encouragement for consumption!), and as ecofeminist economist Mary Mellor puts it:  

Women’s work, and the natural world, are externalised by how our economy is structured. 

Human embodiment is a source of individual and collective experiences: it demonstrates our vulnerability to and our dependence on nature, and also our interdependence with other humans. A system that tries to exclude and overcome these experiences is unnatural and unsustainable. 

Intersectional justice as a survival strategy for humans and a transformational pathway for Europe, has to be incorporated into ecology – it has to recognize that the individual experience at the intersection of identities is also a universal experience of human embodiment – the experience of a human in a body, placed in its environment, exposed and fragile towards its environment.

Ecological justice is therefore more than environmental justice – it recognizes the power imbalance and oppression between humans, but it places it into the ecosystem. It calls for a mindset and a socio-economic system that starts from the acknowledgement of these experiences: interdependence of humans, dependence on nature and human fragility and asks for addressing injustices within the planetary boundaries. 

There are human systems that came far in addressing many of these power imbalances, and can also be a source of inspiration for a green and just transformation of modern western societies.  However, nostalgic idealism of traditional cultures is no answer  to the current level of injustice and nature emergency 

Ecological justice recognizes the need to revitalize research and scientific understanding of non human nature in order to enable the resilience and her capacity to heal and recover, and also to find inspiration from it for resilient human socio-economic systems. For example, forests, as complex socio-economic systems of plants can become a source  of inspiration for building ecologically just  human systems. Some, like Robin Wall Kimmerer, Monica Gagliano or Anna Souter suggest that plants studied through a feminist perspective equip us to bust individualism, binary thinking and gender stereotypes. Cutting edge nature studies help to find the connection, and learn from non human nature.

Humans are part of nature, and they can most effectively defend nature with their own bodies. Being present in our bodies, recognizing its dependence on nature and using this experience to defend the non human world is the most powerful weapon against the unnatural and exploitative socio-economic systems of our times.

Eviction of activists from Hambacher Forst Germany, Source:

For examples, inspiration and further information on ecological justice outside of Europe visit Kairos Canada

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