Friday, November 16, 2012

Women, Mother Earth & the Environment


In the past, I have written about the connection between the women’s hijab and the struggle for protecting environmental resources. Hijab – beyond religion – is a political statement saying, “I will not be commodified.” 

Women’s bodies are essentially part of the earth’s resources. Her offspring can either thrive or become endangered. That is one reason why it is important to protect women.

Yet women’s persons are resources in themselves – embodiments of boundless love, beauty, organization and creativity when properly nourished. Women are the personal maintainers of human life and human culture. Yet, women are also usually in a weaker position than men, and so must struggle to complete their tasks on earth while simultaneously struggling to create a situation of sustainability on earth. 

Sustainability, in environmental terms, means actions that lead to general health of the soil, air and water. Sustainability, in human terms, means actions that lead to the general health of self esteem, relationships, and ability to contribute to the community. Many times, people in weaker positions like women and children, or indigenous populations such as Native Americans or Palestinians, suffer a lot because of the inability or refusal of the ruling class to hear their voices or care how they feel.

At this time in history, we as humans are at a watershed moment. The environment is in a state of crisis, largely our fault, due to a combination of unbridled consumerism and unbridled warmongering leading to burning up the ozone layer with bombs, airplanes, factories and automobiles. We as a species are at a point where we have to take responsibility for the way things are, and try to do better. Because if we don’t, we will all lose the feeling that our planet is a comfortable and safe place to live and have children.

While this is a pretty scary thing to realize, it’s also pretty amazing. God chose us, out of all the living species, to decide what is going to happen on this planet. There is no other species besides us that is competing for the goal of making decisions for everyone. Yes, whether you believe in God or not, we cannot deny that we as a species have been made responsible for everything – even a frog. And the proof is that there is no frog on earth, except in a fairy tale, that would ever be able to take responsibility for a human.

If we were imbued with the spirit of hope and faith, the potential of good action when realizing this intensely glorifying responsibility would be beyond religion. But most people are not aware that God created us to make the world a better place. 

Many people have already become cynical and decided that the earth is not a good place for raising children and have told themselves that they are doing the right thing by not investing in the future. Those of us who do have children often feel like victims of a hurricane, needing intense amounts of help but not ever receiving enough. It takes a village to raise a child, but today’s world is a prison complex of individual cells, where nobody really talks to anybody, and each child is completely and utterly on their own. 

Kieran Suckling, executive director of Center for Biological Diversity, made five simple demands of President Obama in a recent article in the Huffington Post: 

1. Address climate change and ocean acidification.
2. Stem the extinction crisis.
3. Keep politics out of the Endangered Species Act and other vital environmental laws.
4. Safeguard our public lands, wild places and the Arctic.
5. Embrace a newer, cleaner energy.

While an oppressed person might view these demands for a safe living environment as basic part of being alive, a ruling class person might view other people’s life demands as negotiable, or even justify denying them through force. 

In Brazil, indigenous peoples and traditional groups occupied the Belo Monte construction site to protest the building of a dam. According to White Wolf Pack:

“Everything started with 13 fisherman camping on an island and evolved to almost 200 people between river-dependent community members, small farmers, boat pilots, indigenous leaders, and fisherman. Those 13 brave warriors managed to build a beautiful and organized community. A team of three women cooked day and night for everybody. The stories shared under the stunning sun and crazy storms; the laughs; tears; even the quarrels between people were a sign that we were becoming a big family. No dam could take that from us.” 

The protesters were all there “to denounce the violation of their rights and the government’s pre-conditions that where never met by the company. People should never have to negotiate to secure their rights. With that in mind, we know that the battle is not over, and the dream to stop the Belo Monte dam continues.”

The importance of power dynamics is addressed by Yashar Ali, Los Angeles author of On Her Terms: The Modern Woman’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Romance:

“Women are consciously and unconsciously taught that they are responsible for keeping the man by doing what’s necessary to make him happy. The onus is on women to change, to adjust, to push aside what they need or want in an effort to appease men so that they are willing to engage in dating or being in a relationship at all… Women are faced with the responsibility of maintaining the relationship, while men have the power to direct where the relationship goes.”

Ali’s book is meant to encourage women to stop ignoring or accepting behavior that makes them feel uncomfortable, and to stop making massive adjustments in their character and fundamental selves in order to make a man more comfortable.

“It’s time for women to stop giving up ground when it comes to romance and it’s also time for men to stop expecting them to give up this territory. For too many women, the tone, tenor, nature, path, and dynamics of the romantic part of their life is on the man’s terms. And it’s time for our society at large to recognize it and work to shift that imbalance.”

One of the beautiful things about Islam is that people should never have to negotiate to secure their rights. Human rights are non-negotiable. They are God-given and self-evident. The honor of the life of a human being is never negotiable. It is important for women to address imbalances in their personal relationships in the same way that it is important for all oppressed people who value the Earth to address imbalances in the environment.

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