The University of Michigan Environmental Justice Dialogue Series hosted a workshop Wednesday night on the intersection between feminism and environmental justice. About 15 students and Ann Arbor residents shared their experiences and opinions in a roundtable discussion at the Trotter Multicultural Center.

The program originated last fall in the Sustainable Living Experience learning community in the Oxford residence hall. According to the group’s Facebook page, the organization aims to connect individuals who are “interested in learning more about Environmental Justice, or how environmental degradation disproportionately burdens low-income and majority black/brown communities.”

The dialogue series started last September. This month’s dialogue, as pointed out by attendees, was held the on same day the Army Corps was ordered to push through and finish the Dakota Access Pipeline. According to reports, protests have been concentrated near Lake Oahe, a segment of the Missouri River, in recent days. Many University students have spoken out against the pipeline.

Facilitator Noor Ahmad, an LSA senior, outlined the history of ecofeminism for the group. The movement, she said, began in the late 70s and early 80s in academic spheres and centers around the brief that in order to push back against female oppression, combating climate change and environmental decay is an important step.

The workshop began by comparing the relationship between the female gender and environmental issues such as fracking and oil pipelines. Detroit resident Lane Lewis said these infrastructures resemble the pressure put on women to continually provide for the world.

“There’s a lack of language for our responsibility to the earth, and even that ‘mother’ language is frustrating to me because it suggests a maternal giving and giving and giving and giving,” Lewis said. “I think that it’s important that we realize it’s not an unlimited resource.”

Engineering graduate student Josh Woods said Americans should not sacrifice technological advancement on the whole when attempting to combat environmental damages.

“I find that whole talk about consent and giving agency to the earth, it seems like muddling of the waters a little bit,” Woods said. “I wouldn’t want that to hamper any advancement on any level unless it’s going to pollute the waters with something like Standing Rock.”

The discussion migrated to climate change and its effect on women all across the world. Issues such as lack of representation in politics and negative health effects were also brought up.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website, “Women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes and labour markets compound inequalities and often prevent women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation.”

Rackham student Teona Williams said while she was conducting research in Kenya, she noticed first-hand how women will be affected by climate change because of their work on farms around the world.

“I was researching in Kenya where there’s mostly women farmers but they don’t own the land. They don’t own the product they produce,” Williams said. “They physically are close to the land. Then we think of things like climate change and that’s why they’re going to face the brunt of those impact because they are doing that natural labor.”

The night concluded with a guided meditation session.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.