By Meagan Manas
Cross-posted from NCC Women’s Ministries

As we lead up to Climate Negotiations in Copenhagen in December, we are thinking about the theme of  Women’s History Month’s 2009, Women: Taking the Lead to Save our Planet. There is a great list of women from around the world working in eco-justice is available from Women’s History Project.

Among those taking the lead in the ecumenical movement are Cassandra Carmichael, who serves as Eco-Justice Program Director for the National Council of Churches, and Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss, the founder and Faith Communities Educator of the Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) Women of Faith in Action program.  (See below for excellent resources from both organizations.)

Often, the problem of environmental degradation and its solutions can seem too large, abstract, and overwhelming to do anything. To avoid this kind of paralysis, Cassandra Carmichael and NCC Eco-Justice have a strategy. “The way we see it at Eco-Justice,” Carmichael says, “is an education for advocacy model.  You can’t ask people to take action in their homes, congregations, and civic communities unless they know and care about the issues.”  Some Earth Day ideas and resources for your congregation to use in the education to advocacy model are available on the Eco-Justice website.

Another excellent tool in the education to advocacy model for environmental education in your congregation and community is the “Faith Seeking Peace” curriculum from WAND. Available online, this resource examines several often overlooked aspects of war including its environmental impact.  Rev. Hendler-Voss wrote this curriculum and reflected in a recent conversation that “The violation of land, women, and the spirit of a people are all integral to the objectives of war.  Eco-feminist theology names the stubborn link between the violation of women’s bodies and the violation of God’s bodies (the Earth and the beloved community), while also claiming them as a locus for healing and change.”

As we recognize the ecological efforts of women across the globe, we should not be surprised to see so many women working on these issues.  The same oppressive systems in our world that value men over women have also valued humanity and its whims over the health of the earth.  These systems of oppression often lock women into roles where they most feel the effects of environmental degradation.  Ivone Gebara, Latin American theologian calls this connection “ecofeminism:”

“I sense that ecofeminism is born of daily life, of day-to-day sharing among people, of enduring together garbage in the streets, bad smells, the absence of sewers and safe drinking water, poor nutrition, and inadequate health care.  The ecofeminist issue is born of the lack of municipal garbage collection, of the multiplication of rats, cockroaches, and mosquitoes, and of the sores on children’s skin. This is true because it is usually women who have to deal with daily survival issues: keeping the house clean and feeding and washing children.”(Ivone Gebara, “Longing for Running Water,” (Augsburg Fortress, 1999), p.2)

The intersection of the health of the environment and women’s lives may be familiar to many of us in the very basic ways Gebara outlines, and the “Faith Seeking Peace” curriculum encourages us to further examine our connection to God’s creation.  “War’s Silent Casualty, The Eco-footprint of War,” section V of the curriculum, uses a variety of media and activities, including the story of Cain and Able, to encourage the study group to explore the environmental costs of war. On choosing the story of Cain and Abel, Rev. Hendler-Voss commented, “Cain poignantly laments the empty alienation from the Earth that renders him a vagrant and a wanderer.  He cries, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear!’  We too know that living in estrangement from the Earth is akin to death.  And while our personal lifestyles—particularly as Westerners—leave a heavy imprint on the Earth, our insatiable appetite for war contributes far more to the desecration of God’s created world.  Global warring levels a triple impact upon global warming: first, with the production and testing of weapons; second, with the environmental fallout of warfare (including the transport of weaponry and personnel); and third, with the fossil fuels burned to rebuild destroyed infrastructure.  The good news is that the work of peacemaking lightens our load on the planet.”

Quick Links:

-“Faith Seeking Peace” from WAND.

Resources from Eco-Justice

-Bulletin resources from the United Methodist General Commission on the Status of Women