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Ecological Politics

Ecological Politics

Greta Gaard
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 337
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  • Book Info
    Ecological Politics
    Book Description:

    In the 1980s, ecofeminism and the U.S. Green movement seemed to offer some of this country's most powerful and promising solutions to problems of social and environmental justice. A decade later, ecofeminism has become more a perspective than a movement, and divisions within the Greens have deepened as its national focus has shifted from issue-based politics to party building. Why have these movements faltered?A member of both movements, Greta Gaard bases her analysis on her personal experience as well as extensive secondary sources and interviews with key theorists, activists, and speakers across the United States. By allowing each movement's members to speak for themselves, she traces the separate origins and development of each movement, explains their connections, and reveals the light that each can cast upon the other and on the difficulties facing social action in general.Beginning with the ecofeminists, Gaard describes the paths -- environmental causes, the feminist peace movement, the feminist spirituality movement, the animal liberation movement, and the anti-toxics movements, as well as experiences of interconnectedness -- that have led women (and a few men) to articulate an ecofeminist perspective. Tracing the movement from the 1980s to the present, she defines its present strands as liberal ecofeminism, radical ecofeminism, socialist ecofeminism, and social ecofeminism.Gaard illustrates the development of the U.S. Greens from a national movement into a political party. She defines the various factions -- the Left Greens, the Youth Greens, and the Green Politics Network -- that influenced the movement's direction and underlay the debates during Ralph Nadar's 1996 presidential campaign. She shows how the history of these three groups can be seen as stages in the transition from a leftist and sometimes anarchist action that places the Green movement squarely within the pattern of other social movements around the world.Despite the significant influence that ecofeminists have had in shaping the Greens as a national movement, many have chosen to withdraw from the Greens. Gaard looks at the reasons for member disaffection and draws disturbing conclusions about the compatibility between liberal feminism and cultural ecofeminism and patriarchal politics. She also presents the divisions within the Greens as ongoing battles within the new left, the radical ecology movement, and various social justice movements. She focuses on three general areas -- conflicts over philosophy, conflicts over representation, and conflicts over strategy -- to make suggestions for how to bring about the kind of social transformation envisioned by both the Greens and the ecofeminists. Arguing that the Concord Principles represent a populist form of liberal democracy that fundamentally betrays both ecofeminism and Green philosophy, she uses the 1996 Nadar campaign as a departure point to developing an ecofeminist theory of radical democracy and to speculate on future directions for Green politics and for ecofeminism. Her analysis illuminates the nature and direction of each of these important movements and the pressures and conflicts experienced by all social movements at the end of the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0398-8
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Every history is an act of interpretation. Originally, my goal in this book was to tell the story of ecofeminist activism and participation within the U.S. Green movement and to chronicle the history and development of the Greens from movement to party. As I wrote, I kept photographs of the activists and theorists near my writing table. Since many of them disagreed with one another, and I had positions of agreement and disagreement with each of them as well, I decided to tell this history not once but several times, once from each viewpoint. As I shifted through the various...

  5. 1. Ecofeminist Roots
    (pp. 11-52)

    Although it hardly seems likely in a decade characterized by an overwhelming assault on the gains of the feminist movement in television, print media, education, and the workplace, the 1980s marked the birth and coming of age of ecofeminism in the United States. The decade was bookended by two events that signify the direction and development of ecofeminism: on one end was the April 1980 conference “Women and Life on Earth: Eco-Feminism in the ‘80s,” followed in seven months by the Women’s Pentagon Action in November; on the other end was the publication of the first North American ecofeminist anthology,...

  6. 2. The U.S. Greens: From Movement to Party
    (pp. 53-87)

    When Ronald Reagan took office as U.S. president in 1980, his election was hailed by many as the end of the dwindling influence of the Left and the coming of age of the Right. The final loss of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982 was emblematic of an era characterized by regressive economic policies (“Reaganomics”) that gave unprecedented tax breaks to the wealthy and eliminated the social safety net for the working classes. Three wars—the war on welfare, followed by the war on drugs and later by the war in the Persian Gulf—were waged to protect the accumulation...

  7. 3. The U.S. Greens as a Social Movement
    (pp. 88-139)

    The parallel development of ecofeminism and Green politics in the United States can be informed by examining these movements through the lens of social movement theory. In this chapter I detail the development of the Green movement in the United States specifically as a social movement, by chronicling the history of three important groups: the Left Green Network (LGN), the Youth Greens (YG), and the Green Politics Network (GPN).

    Formed in 1988, the Left Green Network reached its height of influence in 1990; by 1993 it had diminished into an association in name only (it has never entirely disbanded). Paralleling...

  8. 4. Ecofeminists in the Greens
    (pp. 140-176)

    From Petra Kelly in West Germany, to Ariel Salleh in Australia and Charlene Spretnak in the United States, ecofeminists have been central to the founding of the Green movement internationally. In the United States, the book written primarily by ecofeminist Charlene Spretnak,Green Politics, sparked the founding meeting of the Committees of Correspondence. Moreover, the history of the U.S. Green movement bears the influence of numerous ecofeminists: Charlene Spretnak’s organization of the founding committee and her contributions in drafting the Ten Key Values, Ynestra King’s participation in the 1987 Amherst gathering, Marti Kheel’s inclusion of animal rights in the life...

  9. 5. Divisions among the Greens
    (pp. 177-228)

    The cover of the March 1990 issue ofGreen Synthesisdepicts an elephant surrounded by six men with their eyes closed, their hands touching various parts of the animal. On the elephant’s back, one man feels the ear; on the ground, two men touch either the trunk or the tusks, while two others grip the leg or the tail, and the sixth man stands with his palm flat on the elephant’s side. Of course, the drawing is intended as a visual representation of the poem printed inside the cover, “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” by John Godfrey Saxe. The...

  10. 6. Democracy, Ecofeminism, and the Nader Presidential Campaign
    (pp. 229-263)

    Insofar as democracy is concerned with relationships, with equality and power, feminism is a requisite component of any truly democratic theory. Although the link between feminism and democracy now seems self-evident to most feminists, the two theories did not develop in tandem: according to accounts from patriarchal history, democracy has been around since the time of ancient Greece, but feminism is a more recent phenomenon.¹ If we look only at the Western tradition, feminism can be traced from its origins in seventeenth-century Europe, through the Enlightenment and the development of liberalism, to the “first wave” of liberal feminism and on...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 264-270)

    In a 1988 article written forZ Magazine, Ynestra King, one of the principal organizers of the first ecofeminist conference and one of four keynote speakers at the Greens’ first national gathering, voiced a cautious optimism about the potential future of the Greens. If they could create “a theory, culture, and strategy that embodies the legacy of the new left come of age,” she wrote, “the lefts, both old and new, should note that the best chance for the historic continuation of the red and the black is in the green.”¹ Less than a decade later, ecofeminism had become more...

  12. Appendix A: Chronology of Ecofeminism
    (pp. 271-273)
  13. Appendix B: Chronology of the U.S. Greens
    (pp. 273-276)
  14. Appendix C: The Original Ten Key Values of the U.S. Greens
    (pp. 276-279)
  15. Appendix D: The Pillars, Values, and Principles of the Greens
    (pp. 280-280)
  16. Appendix E: Interviews
    (pp. 281-284)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 285-324)
  18. Index
    (pp. 325-337)