I believe that environmental justice IS social justice. It is that fundamental.
There is no environment AND us, there is just the environment that we are deeply and inextricably participative with.
In the same way that we cannot go out into the environment, we are already in it. The heart of New York is as much the environment as the heart of the Amazon.
We cannot think about the environment as a separate issue, as a sub-set of politics or justice. It is rather, everything.
The belief in the separation from the environment and that it is simply there as a set of resources to be used. Or the belief that we are the most advanced life form and sit at the top of the pyramid. Or even the beliefs that we know best and that humans come first.
All of these things are aspects of patriarchy.
From them comes the appropriation of indigenous land. The writing out of the feminine from history and culture, which in turn became fear of the feminine, which of course led to the persecution and defilement of the feminine.
Ownership was created from the commons and countries were created. Tribes became races and armies were invented to defend the surplus of agriculture and commerce.
Ultimately the earth was reduced to a set of commodities which included people. These commodities were then traded and hoarded unfairly, including the trade in some of these people.
The resulting slave trade lives on in the segregationist housing of the USA and in the idea of racism itself.
However slavery is not dead, the shackles have merely been replaced by the suit and tie, high heels and makeup.
Thus for me the social inequalities of gender, race, wealth, the continuing rape of the feminine, the destruction of ecosystems and even global conflict, all find their roots in this disconnection from nature.
They are so deeply rooted in our culture, after all, aren’t we told that the feminine (Eve) destroyed Eden; the original guilt, not the original sin!
To address the environment, therefore, is to address patriarchy itself.
Signing global deals between countries and trading carbon, fencing off nature reserves and shooting more poachers is still more of the same.
The answers don’t lie in the skyscrapers of the U.N., or the corridors of the White House, rather they lie buried under the frozen mud of Wounded Knee or in the voices at Standing Rock. They’re in the songlines of the Aborigine and the heart of the Bushman.
It is perhaps the ultimate irony that we now need to go to the reservation and ask the native not only for forgiveness but for guidance on what to do next.
This post was originally published on our Environmental Social Interest Group’s page on Facebook.
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