Last night I attended a thought-provoking talk by Germaine Greer called ‘Women For Life On Earth’ about “the inevitability of ecofeminism”.
Germaine Greer has been described as one of the “most influential and opinionated figures of our time”. She is an Australian writer and academic and a prominent feminist who has written several bestselling books.
She has faced media criticism recently for her controversial comments on the #MeToo campaign and transgender women. It was interesting to hear her side of the story and how the media manipulate situations and statements that people make – a good reminder that there are two sides to every headline. But she didn’t make this the focus of her talk.
I have to admit I wasn’t particularly familiar with Greer’s work (other than the controversial headlines) and I haven’t read her books. The event popped up on Facebook as an event I might be interested in (well done Facebook!) and as I am increasingly interested in the role gender plays in sustainability, I booked a ticket without really knowing what to expect.
During her talk, Greer captivated the audience with stories from the land she has purchased in Australia where her and her team are nurturing a rainforest and restoring it to health.
Did you know that Australia has one of the highest rates of extinction in the world? 1 out of 3 mammal extinctions in the last 400 years have occurred in Australia.
The team have seen the rainforest on the land recover and bring back species from the brink of extinction. There are even insects and animals that have never been formally discovered or named on the land – Greer said she sees something different every day when she spends time there.
She talked of how a native butterfly species returned to the rainforest and how the land is thriving. With the world facing a climate crisis, it was refreshing to hear these stories of hope, but also a harsh reminder that if we don’t do something soon it will be too late.
Dramatic headlines last year warned of an ‘ecological Armageddon’ after German researchers found that flying insects have declined by 75% in the past 25 years – which as Germaine Greer pointed out, does beg the question, why didn’t they warn us sooner?
Nature is an amazing, powerful force. Every creature plays a role, even the tiniest insects are essential for the ecosystem. Greer talked about how often humans arrogantly think and act as if they are above nature and can somehow control it and use it for our benefit – but we are nature. When we damage nature we are in fact, damaging ourselves. Soon we may have damaged it beyond repair. Although we may care more when a cute, fluffy animal is at risk of extinction, we need to care about the others too, and take more action to restore the environment and precious eco systems before it’s too late.
At current rates of degradation, all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years, which could have disastrous effects as 95% of our food comes from soil. If we really do have only 60 years of growing crops left we could be facing a global food crisis.
Experts have also warned that climate change is on course to create the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen.
Stephen Hawking predicts that due to the ever-increasing human population and our growing energy needs, Earth may become uninhabitable by 2060, and says that if we don’t explore Space with the intention of finding another planet to live on, humans could become extinct.
Greer made the case that it is possible to repair the damage we’ve done to the planet, having seen it first hand in her rainforest project.
Scientists have been able to assist coral reefs in recovery and with radical action we may be able to reverse the damage we have done to the oceans, rainforests and other ecosystems we need to survive.
Although Space research is interesting, I’m inclined to agree with Greer that we shouldn’t write off this beautiful planet we already inhabit just yet.
Greer believes that women are drawn to sustainability and conservation and have a natural affinity with animals through our history, nature and the way we have been socially conditioned. She believes that women are more grounded, explaining how historically cave paintings done by men would be focused on the stars, mythology and Gods, whereas those done by women would be about the earth and the animals.
The description of her talk said:
“Feminists can be found wherever the planet and our fellow earthlings are in trouble. They shepherd stranded cetaceans back into deeper water, stand in front of lorries carrying live animals to slaughter, lash themselves to conveyor belts in protest against the logging of old-growth forests, march and lobby against the threat of fracking. The action they cannot be moved to take on their own behalf, they take on behalf of the planet. If the planet is to survive and human beings continue to inhabit it, this female energy must be unleashed.”
It was an interesting perspective, to hear some of the history of feminism and its links to sustainability – and to explore theories about why women may be drawn to this work, which I am fascinated with.
However, I can’t help but wonder whether there should be a place for the gender discussion in sustainability, or whether this risks disengaging men and making the movement too niche.
As we’re tackling global problems here, with no time to lose, shouldn’t we be trying to find ways to make sustainability appeal to everyone?