Women and the Environment
"Women Are the Energy Decision Makers and Want the U.S. to Move toward Clean Energy, a New National Survey Shows," a new headline tells us.
The article, from World Wire, goes on to say, "While Congress is contemplating a new energy policy, American women are paying the electric bills at home and making the critical decisions on energy use in their homes and businesses, according to the national Women's Survey on Energy & the Environment, the first in-depth women's survey on attitudes and awareness about energy.
"The nationally representative survey of 801 women 18 years or older, commissioned by Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) in collaboration with the Women's Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE), shows that women want the country to move toward clean energy sources, and more than half (57%) are even willing to pay $30 more per month for it." (Read the whole story here.)
The link between women and Mother Earth is thousands of years old. Women, traditionally the nurturers in the family dynamic, have long been thought to have a special connection with the planet that nurtures humankind and provides the sustenance we need to survive.
In 1905, Florence Kelly, social crusader, wrote Some Ethical Gains Through Legislation, crusading for the creation of a children's commission. Kelly was a proponent of the "municipal housekeeping" movement which accepted women's roles in the home but also had an expansive idea of these same roles in the community. For many decades afterwards, the idea of environmental cleanup would be seen as a women's concern.
History records many strong and insightful women who have led the environmental movement, including:
Rachel Carson (1907 - 1964) combined her interests in biology and writing as a college student, young woman and government scientist with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C. Her book, Silent Spring (1962), is credited with inspiring much of the late 20th century's environmental concern as she documented the effect of pesticides on the ecology.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas's (1890 - 1998) 1947 bestseller, The Everglades: River of Grass, raised America's consciousness and transformed the Florida Everglades from an area that was looked upon as a useless swamp - to be drained and developed commercially - to a national park that is seen as a valuable environmental resource to be protected and preserved. She continued her work by founding the Friends of the Everglades, a conservation organization with some 5,000 members today.
Rosalie Edge (1877 - 1962) took her experience in the women's rights movement, her love of birds, her outrage over the behavior of the leaders of the Audubon Association (at the time, in 1929, they were subverting the aims of the wildlife preservation movement) and turned it into action, She also understood that predators have a vital role in the natural order and deserved respect and protection -- something few in the birding community understood during the 1930's, her most influential decade. Her legacy includes both the prominence of women in the environmental movement and a wildlife refuge named Hawk Mountain.
Dian Fossey (1932 - 1985), primatologist and pioneer woman scientist. Her studies of mountain gorillas have helped science to better understand ape behavior, and may have preserved the gorillas from extinction.
Jane Goodall (1934 - ) is an English UN Messenger of Peace, primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist. She is well known for her 45-year study of chimpanzee social and family interactions in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, and for founding the Jane Goodall Institute. Her involvement in tropical forests and conservation has led her to be actively involved in a number of environmental issues, and to found the Roots & Shoots youth group (youth-driven projects fueled by knowledge, compassion and action). She has also endorsed the Forests Now Declaration, calling for new market based mechanisms to protect tropical forests. She is a patron of the Optimum Population Trust .
Julia Butterfly Hill (1974 - ) is an American activist and environmentalist. She is best known for living in a 180-foot tall, 600-year-old California Redwood tree from December 10, 1997 to December 18, 1999. Hill lived in the tree, affectionately known as "Luna," to prevent loggers of the Pacific Lumber Company from cutting it down. She was awarded the Courage of Conscience award October 31, 2002.
Since 1977, Wangari Maathai (1940 - ) has battled deforestation in Kenya through organizing mostly village women to plant trees, to fight soil erosion and water pollution and to provide firewood and some income for their families. Wangari became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Margaret Mead (1901-78) taught generations of Americans about the value of looking carefully and openly at other cultures to better understand the complexities of being human. Scientist, explorer, writer, and teacher, Mead, who worked in the Department of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History from 1926 until her death, brought the serious work of anthropology into the public consciousness. As an environmentalist, she advocated respect for all things in nature -- humankind, animals and the planet itself. "It was not until we saw the picture of the earth, from the moon, that we realized how small and how helpless this planet is -- something that we must hold in our arms and care for," she once said.
Ruth Stout (1884 - 1980) developed a method of organic gardening in the 1950s, and wrote how-to books and articles about gardening into the early 1970s. She also wrote about domestic life and about her own life in 1976 in I've Always Done It My Way.
And of course, Delta Zeta is leading the way today with our alumnae and collegiate members who are doing so much to preserve the earth and make others aware of the importance of eco-minded behavior and actions. You can read about them here on the Green Blog. We even have our own pioneer for green, Rachel Mason Peden, Epsilon, who was a nationally-known newspaper columnist, author, environmentalist and Delta Zeta Woman of the Year for 1972.
Read more about the Summit on Women and Climate Change.
Women's Council on Energy and Environment
Women Environmentalists from About.com