When I picture the environment, I picture the Earth at large. I see trees, parks and beaches, but also concrete, tower blocks and motorways, deserts, jungles and oceans. I see man-made things and things that are naturally occurring, my immediate environment and environments far away. Depictions of the environment will vary amongst people, as this is influenced by what you have access to, but I only began to critique mine when I discovered the theory of ecofeminism and green consciousness.
Ethical fashion and beauty vlogger Rian Phin introduces the concept in their YouTube video What is Ecofeminism and Green Consciousness, which implores you to picture the environment before delving into the meaning of nature. “The first environment for most people is the womb, meaning the parent who chooses to carry you to term should have access to healthcare and is safe,” says Rian.
This was a revealing moment for me.
I instantly connected the lack of care and protection given to pregnant Black women and non-binary people, and the overarching oppression Black women face, with the ongoing destruction of the environment due to capitalist, imperialist activity.
Not only are this group more at risk of dying during childbirth than their white counterparts, from the get-go, Black women are excluded from achieving a higher quality of life. Whether it’s being denied healthcare or being denied the opportunity to relax, heal, and enjoy nature, this draws a striking parallel with how natural resources are seen as an infinite resource to be stolen, plundered, or abused.
Ecofeminism is both a philosophical and political theory. It is a movement that recognises that the exploitation and destruction of the natural world by the white man parallels the subordination and oppression of women, particularly Black women and gender non-conforming people. Ecofeminism “brings together elements of the feminist and green movements, while at the same time offering a challenge to both,” states sociologist and professor Mary Mellor, University of Northumbria.