On Ecofeminism at UC Berkeley: A DeCal Spotlight

It’s time to play: name that DeCal! This DeCal is a place for students who are interested in feminism and/or the environment to share ideas, challenge world views, and get inspired to promote change. That’s right! It’s Ecofeminism! In this article, we will explore what ecofeminism is, what the DeCal tries to accomplish, and how students can become involved.

Ecofeminism DeCal Facilitators table at the DeCal Expo.

Ecofeminism DeCal Facilitators table at the DeCal Expo.

Ecofeminism is a philosophical and social movement that explores the ways that oppression of the environment and oppression of women intertwine. In order to understand both concepts, the class discusses both the development of oppression and the modern manifestations of female and environmental oppression.

The Chipko movement

Pictured above are women who participated in the 1974 Chipko movement. Karren Warren, the author of Ecofeminist Philosophy, uses the Chipko movement as an example of ecofeminism. In 1947, commercial contractors threatened the forests of Reni in northern India, which provided the woman with food, fuel, home supplies, and marketing opportunities. The commercial felling of trees also led to rapid ecological destabilization. In order to combat commercial contractors, the woman hugged the trees of their forests.

One of the purposes of the class is to reveal how humans and nature can empower one another to spark change, but Sarah Salvini, one of the three creators of the DeCal and a third year at Cal, makes it clear that the class has far more than one purpose. “We want the students to create a space of their own, where they can talk about issues that they feel are important.”

Sarah Salvini, Kenya Rothstein, and Vivian Bi, the three women who began the DeCal, often try not play the traditional teacher role during their class. Instead, they allowed each student to discuss what was important to him or her, to introduce new topics, and to ask questions of their peers. When a topic of discussion was introduced, there was no right answer.  “We wanted to know what other people think about these concepts and we wanted to inquire into the relevance of Ecofeminism today,” Sarah explained when asked about why the class was created.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, this The village in Rajasthan plants 111 trees for every girl born in order to end prejudice against women, increase education, and protect the environment.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, this village in Rajasthan plants 111 trees for every girl born in order to end prejudice against women, increase education, and protect the environment.

Ecofeminism may be a new concept, but we can recognize its roots throughout history and in the modern day. Why do humans feel they have the right to manipulate and degrade the environment? Why are women being paid less than men? What effects does this have an our society? Ecofeminism asks these seemingly unrelated questions, but then goes one step farther by asking: Are they related? Can we change the way society functions? And how?

If you are interested in learning more, you can sign up for the DeCal next spring! On top of that, to further pursue your interest in ecofeminism, you can learn from the woman who inspired the Ecofeminism DeCal, professor Carolyn Merchant, an influential scholar on ecofeminism who teaches Environmental Philosophy and Ethics (ESPM 161) here at Berkeley.

Aubrey Hills

Aubrey Hills is a junior studying Conservation and Resource Studies with a focus on waste management.

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