Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pope Francis’ Encyclical: A Message of Hope for the Earth, but Where are the Women?

By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern

“Laudato Si” or “Praised Be to You”, Pope Francis’ recently released environmental encyclical, details how the collective actions of people are responsible for the irreversible degradation of our Earth. Subtitled “Care for Our Common Home”, the encyclical speaks boldly to the need for change to the structural injustices that drive environmental devastation. However, as the many years of WEA’s work has shown us, the Pope fails to identify one of the most prevalent social injustices that directly links to climate change: gender inequality. The question we—as women, as allies, as actors in our global community—are left with, then, is: how can humanity care for the planet while half of our population continues to fight for an equal position in ‘our common home’? 

In general, the encyclical takes an important stance as it calls for people to accept our role in and impact on the degradation of the Earth. This has been the most controversial point of the statement across religious and political spheres, with Pope Francis calling out the unrestricted rights of human “dominion”. He states that being created in God’s image does not give humanity justification for the domination of other beings, and such “dominion theory” has only encouraged the destructive exploitation of the natural world. Our greed, he says, has led to an alteration of the Earth’s natural cycles, resources and productive capabilities. To find solutions, Pope Francis stresses the need to bring impoverished and Indigenous voices to the center of environmental discussions. This is a critical steps since, as we have learned from our partners, these communities already face the damaging impacts of climate change in acute ways, even though they’re often not the drivers of this destruction.

What this landmark statement doesn’t do is highlight the fact that even within these communities, women are typically those most disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation due to their roles as mothers, food providers, and community caretakers. However, despite this overall lack attention paid to gender issues and impacts, the Pope does acknowledge that, "This sister [Mother Earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse.... We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will." As we read this, we are reminded of the direct link between the body of the Earth and our bodies as women. The violence to Mother Earth that Pope Francis talks about is seen reflected in the violence experienced by women through climate change, pollution and natural resource development. At WEA, this is one of many reasons we are committed to supporting grassroots women around the world who intimately understand the interconnectedness of our place in this world as both women and stewards of the Earth, who draw strength and wisdom from our relationship with Mother Earth, and who are stepping forward and leading our communities toward a future where we co-exist in equality with one another, and in reverence of the Earth.

Gender equality must become recognized as a central point to the environmental movement, especially in a world where women living in poverty are the demographic most affected by the effects of our actions. While we applaud Pope Francis for taking this important first step in directing humanity’s attention to our historically negative impact on the environment, and for boldly calling for change where it is so very necessary, we stand firm in the knowledge that respect for our Earth and respect for women are undeniably linked.  We must understand this simple truth: we cannot have one without the other.

Further reading:
Mother Earth Cries Out & We Must Listen and Act Boldly--Reflecting on Pope Francis's Encyclical on the Environment
"Sister Earth Cries Out": Did Pope Francis Just Proclaim an Eco-Feminist Theology?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Meet Our Summer Intern!

We love summer for so many reasons.  It's the time of year when seeds planted in the spring blossom, bloom and grow strong, and it's a time to prepare for the warm gatherings and occasions for sharing that seem to characterize the fall.  At WEA, the summer is when we tend partnerships, plan for celebrations to come, and welcome in the amazing interns we've been fortunate enough to work with in summers passed.

This summer is no different, and we're so thrilled to welcome Katie to the team here in Berkeley for her summer break. Meet Katie below!

KATIE DOUGLAS General Office & Research Intern 

1. Tell us about yourself your background/journey to WEA.  I’m a student at Brandeis University in Boston, and heading into my senior year with majors in Environmental Studies and Anthropology. I attribute my love of the natural world to my parents for introducing me to redwood trees and blue-bellied lizards. During college I became heavily involved with the organization Half the Sky, and was incredibly moved by their work in providing access to education for girls across the globe. When I stumbled onto WEA I was amazed to find an organization that seemed to perfectly address the intersection of my interests in women’s rights, the environment, and the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities.

2. What do you do at WEA?  I’m a General Office Intern so I mainly support Kahea with general administration tasks, such as filing and managing the donor base. Additionally I research ongoing environmental developments for women, and assist with current campaigns.

3. Share 2 unique/fun/crazy/weird things about you that your co-workers do not know! 
I worked on a farm for several summers, and seriously considered taking a baby goat home with me because I’m obsessed with goats. I have a secret skill for building camp fires.

4. What do you see as the biggest challenge in the intersections of women, indigenous issues and the environment?  I think that the mainstream western environmental movement can be very ignorant to what an integral role women and indigenous persons play in the protection of the environment. While I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the preservation of land, or the legal protection of endangered species, I think that the environmental movement can forget that millions of people around the world are already facing the direct consequences of climate change. Therefore their experiences make them experts on the current effects of climate change, and place them at the most important locations to develop sustainable change with equal access to resources and community training.

5. Tell us about a woman who inspires you and why. 
Sheryl WuDunn, the co-author of Half the Sky, is one of my biggest inspirations. She has broken so many barriers as a reporter, an educator on women’s rights, and a modern leader. Her work on the direct links from women’s education to a country’s economic prosperity, resource management, and levels of poverty has always reminded me how integral women are to the state of our world.

6. Tell us one thing that surprised you at WEA.  WEA is such a close-knit and welcoming community, and everyone made me feel so comfortable on my first day. I was really surprised by how small WEA is, but all these women have accomplished so much. And there are always so many kinds of tea in the office, which is awesome!

7. What do you hope to get out of your time at WEA?
  I hope to be continuously learning about current global developments and issues that deal with the intersection of women’s rights, the environment, and indigenous rights. I’m also hoping to gain a greater understanding of how non-profits like WEA function, and get to know an amazing group of women leaders.

Meet the rest of the talented interns that have worked with WEA throughout the years here!