“The very concept of feminist emancipation harbors an implicit ecology.”—Claire Colebrook, Sex after Life, 20141
Feminism has contributed much to the discourses of environmentalism. But as we come to understand and face the climate crisis in this critical moment, it is time for new voices and new paradigms to emerge in feminist scholarship on the environment. As this special issue demonstrates, feminist media history can be particularly salient to current debates in the environmental humanities. The essays collected here present a set of materially grounded case studies on the role of women in historical representations of the environment, the gendering of nature, and the history of feminist interventions in environmental media. Feminism, media studies, and history are each vast categories, but what joins them together here is the concept of the environment. For the purposes of this special issue, I define “environment” in the broadest possible terms to mean the habitat and matter that surround us on our planet—atmosphere, landforms, oceans, mountains, forests, deserts, rocks, weather—along with the human and nonhuman lives that they support: animals, plants, microorganisms, ecosystems, and so forth. Although “environment” is conventionally understood as a synonym for “nature,” I include the built environment—that which has been made by humans—in my definition. Likewise, I invoke feminism in the most inclusive terms as a framework for understanding gender in the context of its intersection with the discourses and lived experiences of race, sexuality, class, ability, age, species, and other categories of embodiment.
The forms of ecological calamity that we now face—ranging from rising sea levels, mass extinction, and deforestation to toxins, plastic pollution, and fresh water scarcity, all of which emerge in popular discourse under the catchall banner of climate change—are widely understood in popular, scholarly, and scientific discourses as material problems, a result of our burning of fossil fuels and overconsumption of resources. From a Marxist perspective, global warming can be understood as an unanticipated and unavoidable by-product of capitalism.2 But the ways in which heteropatriarchy has contributed to this set of problems are less regularly discussed. Perhaps this is because there are complexities and contradictions involved in thinking about the environment from a feminist perspective, many of which are related to the vexed question of nature and the feminist commitment to rejecting essentialism. Or perhaps this is because patriarchal blinders stubbornly remain in place within the academic worlds of history and critical theory. In fact, the specificity of historical case studies offered by feminist media history can provide nuance, surprises, and counter-narratives that underscore the importance of feminist perspectives on environmental history.
Feminist media history also has a role to play in shaping growing public awareness about the causes of environmental crisis. While the milieus of scholarship and popular discourse often seem worlds apart, I want to make a case for the critical use value of feminist environmental humanities work as we face what Isabelle Stengers has called “the coming barbarism.”3 At the dawn of a new decade, our always-on digital mediascape has accelerated the pace of public environmental discourses and proliferated the directions in which they take shape. Some feminist environmental discourses are alive and debated on social media, though not to the extent that they might be. What is clear is that public awareness about environmental problems has shifted in the past decade, and has risen sharply even in the past year. As I write this in the waning weeks of 2019, while Australia is on fire and just months after Amazonia and California burned, 72 percent of people in the United States believe that climate change is happening, and a majority of them are deeply concerned about it, according to multiple authoritative surveys.4 A majority also think something should be done about it: more than half of adults in the United States believe that protecting the environment should be a top priority for the federal government, and in California, for a majority of likely voters in the coming Democratic primary election, the environment is the number one priority for the next US president to address.5 Globally, according to the Pew Research Center, climate change is now seen as the top threat by majorities in thirteen out of twenty-six surveyed countries.6
But despite the increasing attention to global warming and other forms of ecological precarity, a feminist lens on these issues has not gained significant traction in popular discourse. This is surprising when we consider that many of the emergent public figures in the climate movement are teenage girls and young women, including figures such as Greta Thunberg, Xiye Bastida, Alexandria Villaseñor, Jamie Margolin, Isra Hirsi, Autumn Peltier, and Mari Copeny. This diverse group includes more women of color and Indigenous activists than previous generations; the intersectionalism of contemporary feminism stands in marked contrast to earlier traditions of women's environmental activism. We get a historical glimpse of this “women's club environmentalism” from one hundred years ago in Alexandra Edwards's essay on Gene Stratton-Porter in this issue. Certainly the misogyny directed at Thunberg has mostly been called out and soundly rejected by the media, but this has not (yet) inspired an attention-grabbing popular understanding of how patriarchy constitutes one root of the climate crisis, working in tandem with capitalism and colonialism.7 These different structures of domination should not be collapsed into one another, of course, and this is my point: although there remains a divide between popular feminism and feminist theory and history, we have an opportunity in today's media ecosystem for feminist media history to become a force in shaping environmental awareness as we live through this crisis. Telling historical stories of feminist environmental representation, discourse, and resistance, we can potentially reach larger audiences today than ever before. The specificity of these historical stories can serve as an antidote to the overgeneralizations that circulate in climate change journalism and government studies.
Take, for example, the issue of gender and environmental social justice. Gender equity is often listed as one of the best solutions to combat climate change: NGOs, along with European and North American environmentalists, agree that empowering women will counteract a range of environmental ills. According to the widely circulated book and affiliated research organization Project Drawdown, the top ten most effective approaches to reversing global warming includes educating girls and securing women's access to voluntary birth control (these are listed as strategies 6 and 7, respectively).8 These ideas are certainly crucial, providing important language for activism, organizing, and fundraising around women's empowerment initiatives. But at this level of generalization, such language also groups all women together into one uniform category, failing to distinguish between women from different economic circumstances and geographical regions, and thus reinscribing a gendered universalism that contemporary feminism aims to trouble. This logic is also underpinned by some hard-to-shake neocolonialist assumptions that women in developing countries need rescuing by people from the Global North.
Seema Arora-Jonsson has analyzed the ways in which women tend to be framed in environmental discourse as either vulnerable or virtuous. This in turn “can deflect attention from power relations and inequalities … in discourses on climate change … [and] can lead to an increase in women's responsibility without corresponding rewards.”9 Terri Francis's interview with Jamaican filmmaker Esther Figueroa in this issue illustrates how the specificity of feminist media history can disturb the self-assured “big fix” ideas that circulate in discussions about how to respond to global warming. Figueroa has been making explicitly feminist environmental documentary films for many years; today her micro-budget films circulate on YouTube and among local audiences in Jamaica. Her story resists the “vulnerable or virtuous” narrative, and instead tells of an educated, empowered woman from a Caribbean country who is pursuing her own path to spur environmental change. Figueroa's practice fits into the category of activist media discussed in a recent issue of Feminist Media Histories. As editors Angela J. Aguayo and Alexandra Juhasz put it, “Despite harsh criticism leveled by many film theorists, the activist strategies embedded in the realist codes of feminist media representations accomplish important political work, tethering previously unarticulated knowledge to history.”10
Feminist environmental media history is concerned with writing examples of women's presence as makers, thinkers, audiences, and subjects into the history of environmental media. Such recovery work is crucial, and has constituted the bread and butter of much feminist historiography. But in addition to the specificity of historical storytelling, feminist media history has much to contribute to theory, for instance in the re-theorizing of concepts of nature, ecology, planet, and history currently underway across the humanities. We are witnessing a flowering of new environmental scholarship, much of it inspired by the theoretical work of Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway, to name two of the most influential figures. Critical debates about traditional humanities topics such as ethics, aesthetics, politics, subjectivity, and justice are being reactivated and reconfigured as we experience the accelerating environmental calamity. A characteristic of current humanities work on the environment is its grounding in the world (not just texts), as it aims to provide ways to reflect and act in this time of crisis. But at the risk of oversimplifying a diverse body of interdisciplinary work, we can observe that outside the important path forged by Haraway, this new body of scholarship rarely proclaims itself as feminist. In a provocative essay, Jennifer Mae Hamilton and Astrida Neimanis argue that while feminist thinking provides a foundation for the environmental humanities, feminism is often “an unacknowledged presence—referenced implicitly but not named.” I echo their point that this lack of explicit acknowledgment (or is it a disavowal?) “neutralizes … feminist politics and undermines the potential for environmental humanities to build alternative worlds.”11
Indeed, Hamilton and Neimanis, following Haraway, propose a useful critical methodology they call “composting,” in which ideas are mixed together slowly and deliberately in a process of organic transformation, but in which it matters greatly what ideas we add. They ask, “Might a more attentive or deliberate ‘composting’ of ecological questions with feminist insights feed different kinds of hungry questions for the environmental humanities?” Further, they declare that “feminism is not a special interest or an add-on…. Rather, we argue that certain feminisms are immanent and fundamental to contemporary environmental humanities.”12 This is not to say that all environmental critique must use a feminist hermeneutic, but that the feminist element of environmental critique should not be neutralized, and telling stories of feminist media history contributes to this goal. In other words, feminist history can join forces with feminist theory to help with the urgent task of remaking humans' relationship with the environment in the crucial coming decades.
Both feminism and environmentalism have problematic histories of centering white, middle-class concerns. But women are not uniformly victims of climate change; many of them are perpetrators or accomplices in the system that produces it. It is critical to contextualize gender, because class, race, nationality, sexuality, and other identity categories also signify alongside gender. Any feminism that will be productive in ecological discourse must itself be anti-racist, anti-colonial, and intersectional. It must reject essentialism, trans-phobia, and false binary models of biology. Within emergent discourses in environmental theory, feminist approaches must work together with politically engaged perspectives of anti-racism and decolonization as we prepare for a future of environmental precarity.
Perhaps surprisingly (or perhaps not), history has emerged as one of the most vital categories in new humanities scholarship on the environment. In order to understand and reimagine our future relationship with the planet, it is imperative that we reconsider the past: we must examine what led us to this pass in the first place. In his pathbreaking essay “The Climate of History: Four Theses” (2009), Dipesh Chakrabarty argues that the concept of the Anthropocene—the idea that we have entered a new geological epoch in which human intervention has altered the life cycle of the planet—changes the very concept of history itself. His first thesis is that “anthropogenic explanations of climate change spell the collapse of the age-old humanist distinction between natural history and human history.”13 From the perspective of the Anthropocene, history is no longer just what human institutions have done; now we must bring into view what natural or planetary forces have been doing at the same time. While Chakrabarty's approach has been criticized for its universalism, it initiated a direction of nonlinear historiographic inquiry that can be useful for challenging the power structures of heteropatriarchy, racism, settler colonialism, and fossil capitalism that lie at the root of the environmental crisis. The unique historicity of the climate crisis is not just a temporal discordance—for instance, the fact that past emissions cause current temperatures to rise. Rather, there is an incommensurability of timescales when one considers the planet's history alongside human history.
The concept of the Anthropocene has been justly criticized for the way it universalizes a problem that has been and continues to be caused by specific groups of people. Simply put, affluent people from the Global North have largely created a problem that is felt first and most acutely by less affluent people from the Global South, and by oppressed people everywhere. The term “Anthropocene” is problematic, then, because it emphasizes yet again the perspective of colonizing, extractive cultures. We should be wary of narratives that center the lives of privileged people who are contending with existential threats for the first time. To cite one counterexample: for the Indigenous peoples of North America, the apocalypse already arrived five hundred years ago. And, it is important to remember, Indigenous people not only have survived but are contributing important frameworks to environmental discourse, some of which we learn about in Kate Galloway's contribution to this issue. Zoe Todd's 2015 essay “Indigenizing the Anthropocene” should be required reading for anyone engaging in this debate.14
Other terms have been suggested—Capitalocene, Chthulucene—and it is certainly useful to have a critical name for the environmental crisis.15 But there is also a case to be made that “crisis” should not be the only lens through which we view the environment. Such naming is of interest for a feminist critique for many reasons, one of which involves the fascinating materiality of the scientific debate. As a proposed scientific name for our current geological epoch, “Anthropocene” is a term that relies on discernible stratigraphic traces that are used as markers for the shift in the Earth's life cycle from the Holocene epoch that preceded it. If the Holocene is marked by traces of receding glacier ice measured in ice cores and plant remains in peat moss, geologists are debating whether the onset of the Anthropocene (if they adopt the term) is marked by the radionuclides released by the detonation of the first atomic bomb in 1945.16 Other scientists argue that the increase in carbon dioxide emissions (also traced in ice cores) appearing after the invention of the steam engine in the 1780s is a more appropriate marker for the era of global warming caused by past, current, and future emissions. Perhaps most powerfully, Indigenous scholars and activists (and some scientists) have argued that the dip in carbon dioxide levels (again traceable in ice cores) known as the Orbis Spike of 1610—caused by the colonization of North and South America by Europeans beginning in 1492—is a better marker of the modern human footprint on the planet because it centers colonialism's mass death, slavery, war, and newly globalized economic exchanges as primary historical forces.17 Beyond these top contenders for marking the Anthropocene timeline, others have been proposed; some argue it should be dated all the way back to the beginning of human agriculture.18
An environmental humanities methodology shares some characteristics with the history of science, wherein historians examine discourses about the environment and nature (just as historians of science examine discourses about science) rather than the object of study itself (for example, representations of weather rather than weather itself, the history of environmental attitudes rather than actual environmental properties, and so forth). What we have here is a discourse-material opposition, or a culture-nature opposition. But today, one of the major goals of the environmental humanities is a larger ambition to undermine anthropocentrism and the Cartesian nature-culture opposition on which it rests. What Latour calls “nature-culture” and Haraway refers to as “natureculture” invokes a need for environmental humanities scholars to take on the task of analyzing more than just texts and discourses.19 We have a materialist commitment to discovering the traces of actual environmental material in the texts and discourses that we study. One of the many important insights offered by the climate crisis is a recognition that humans are not at the center of the universe, but are in fact less powerful than the Earth's systems, including its atmosphere (weather), hydrosphere (oceans), land features (including tectonic plates), and even its biosphere (living things). If humans were to die off, the planet would remain, as would other living entities.20
Here we come to one of the thorniest problems for feminist approaches to the environment: the vexed role of “nature.” The idea that women are essentially biological, defined by a binary model of sexual difference that centers on genitalia and female reproductive capacity, has long been and continues to be a source of oppression for women, trans, and nonbinary people. This idea is grounded in a static notion of “nature” and is naturalized as biological “truth.” Indeed, discourses of nature are perhaps the most frequently weaponized ideological tool in the battle of misogynists against those who are gendered feminine or nonbinary. There is a long and diverse tradition of feminist theory that argues against this naturalized form of gender oppression, from Simone de Beauvoir to Judith Butler and beyond. The dismantling of any connection between nature and gender has been the dominant approach to “nature” in feminist thinking in the past three decades. While this line of argument is powerful for the emancipation of marginalized humans, one problem it brings about is that by defining “nature” as an entirely cultural construction, we end up in a circular argument in which nothing exists outside of culture. And what could be more anthropomorphic than that? As Stacy Alaimo puts it, “The relief with which something is declared cultural betrays an assumption that culture is dynamic and nature static.”21 But of course nature is not static, which is another of the major insights proffered by ecological discourse. How can feminist thought admit nature into its model of social constructionism?
There are, in fact, established lines of argument within feminism that work to rehabilitate some form of “nature” in the service of feminist concerns, and it is to this problematic that I now turn. The best-known tradition in this lineage is that of ecofeminism, a specific subset of feminist thought that explores the linkages between the oppression of women and the domination of nature. Emerging in the 1980s, ecofeminism is associated with the work of Val Plumwood, Carolyn Merchant, and others; although it was not a monolithic methodology, it was marginalized by the late 1990s along with cultural feminism for what seemed to be their shared embrace of essentialist notions of gender.22 In a recent article, Clare Monagle traces the maligned intellectual history of Mary Daly, a popular figure during the era of 1970s cultural feminism and goddess worship who later came to stand for the most egregious essentialist and racist tendencies of second wave feminism, and who was called out for this in a famous letter by Audre Lorde. Monagle does not rehabilitate Daly, but rather urges historians to account for “feminism's mystical history.”23 I trace part of this history of feminist thought in my essay for this issue on Barbara Hammer's 1974 film Jane Brakhage, which was made in the context of 1970s feminist environmentalism but (I argue) resists casting Jane Brakhage as an essentialized goddess figure.
While it is crucial to stand firm against the essentialism and racism found in some historical and current forms of feminism, we should be unafraid to rethink conventional conceptions of nature. In this task, the work of some earlier feminist thinkers warrants new attention. Carolyn Merchant's 1980 book The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution exhaustively traces the gendered idea of nature across human history, and remains eminently useful.24 Likewise Val Plumwood in Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (1993) argued against what she terms the “backgrounding” of nature before this line of thinking gained currency in the work of Latour, and the book is worth revisiting today.25 Latour observed in 2015 that the so-called climate crisis feels “as if the décor had gotten up on stage to share the drama with the actors. From this moment on, everything changes in the way stories are told, so much so that the political order now includes everything that previously belonged to nature—a figure that, in an ongoing backlash effect, becomes an ever more undecipherable enigma.”26 Merchant and Plumwood traced the long history of “nature” and “women” as so-called background figures some years before this observation, and would argue that the so-called decor was of critical interest before the current ecological emergency. Moreover we can note, thanks to their work, the shared affinity between patriarchal constructions of femininity and Latour's figuration of nature as an “undecipherable enigma.”27 This is absolutely not new, but follows a long tradition in the gendering of nature as feminine.
In contending with the problem of nature, scholars working in feminist posthumanism and feminist new materialism have contributed some of the most exciting developments in the theoretical rethinking of the environment. Beginning with Haraway's foundational work, a reading list on feminist theory and the environment today would include the work of Alaimo (mentioned above), Mel Y. Chen, Claire Colebrook, Jack Halberstam, Astrida Neimanis, Rebekah Sheldon, Kari Weil, and Kathryn Yusoff, among others.28 These theorists approach nature and gender from a wide range of perspectives, but what they share is a commitment to writing about gender in the context of the material world, and a feminist understanding that we all write from our embodied experience as gendered subjects. This theoretical work can provide crucial guidance for feminist historians as we scan media history for traces of what led to the current ecological emergency and work collectively to imagine a more feminist future for the world.
The essays collected here range across the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, covering subjects from Australia, Canada, Korea, Jamaica, and the United States, arranged roughly in chronological order. They take a variety of approaches to their subject matter, drawing from archival research, critical theory, close textual analysis, and oral history methodologies and incorporating approaches from not only feminism but also critical race studies, Indigenous studies, sound studies, and geography. In its own way, each piece considers gendered bodies in specific locations, approaching embodiment as a question of situated-ness within the environment.
Alexandra Edwards's essay, “Hollywood Regionalism: What the Studio System Did with Gene Stratton-Porter's Nature Novels,” analyzes the career of this popular nature novelist whose books were made into more films than almost any other female author. Her most famous novel, Freckles (1904), was first made into a film in 1917, starring Louise Huff and Jack Pickford and directed by Marshall Neilan. This film is now unfortunately lost, although several other adaptations were later produced. Edwards traces Stratton-Porter's discontent with this first adaptation, and cites this as a reason for her move from Indiana to Los Angeles to found her own production company in 1919. Stratton-Porter was one of many women who formed film companies in their own names in the silent era, but most were started by film stars, whereas she was a novelist.29 Even after she died in an automobile accident in 1924, many more of her novels were made into films, culminating with one last Freckles adaptation in 1960. Edwards traces the shift from Stratton-Porter's regionalism—she was known as “the famous Bird Woman of the Limberlost country in Indiana”—into a more generalized vision of nature as a commodity in which “sentimental, nostalgia-laden depictions of the natural world [were used] to advocate for conservation, protection of wildlife (especially birds), and the founding and maintenance of national parks.”
Daryl Meador's “Waltz of the Oil Field: The Politics of the Voice in Texas Petro-Media” juxtaposes two different aural traditions: oral histories with Texas oilmen conducted in the 1950s, and Creole musical culture, especially zydeco music and its lyrics. Borrowing Josh Kun's notion of the “aural border,” Meador shows how the shared borderland of the Sabine River in Texas was shaped by the oil industry, which created very different lived experiences for white oilmen and the largely African American and Latino laborers in the surrounding oil industry workforce. Meador argues that these two different archives of recorded sound history, produced around the extractive oil industry in Texas, allow us to listen “carefully to sonic histories for other frictions, and other temporal modes, … [that might] help us imagine a sustainable energy future that would diverge from the rhythms of the hydrocarbon past.” The unequal power dynamic inscribed in these two different sound archives, derived from the economics of the fossil fuel industry, upheld structures of discrimination based on gender as well as race and class. This is just the kind of expansive, intersectional feminist environmental criticism I called for earlier.
Moving to a case study from Korea, Laura Ha Reizman argues in her essay, “(Re)mapping the Yanggongju and the Camptown in Shin Sang-ok's Hellflower,” that this renowned film from the “golden era” of Korean cinema uses the landscape to tell a story of post–Korean War survival in the era of the Anthropocene. In Reizman's analysis, Hellflower develops an opposition between the country and the city that is specifically grounded in its representation of the camptown's decomposing natural landscape, destroyed by the war and the US military occupation. Here the environment is portrayed not as a space of nostalgia in need of conservation (as it was in the Stratton-Porter example above), but as a space of neocolonial dystopia.
In the United States, the 1960s were a turning point in the history of environmental awareness. Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, published in 1962, is often heralded as the beginning of the popular environmental movement. A wave of new environmental productions appeared in the 1960s and 1970s across all media, including radio, television, film, photography, and the arts. In my essay, “Barbara Hammer's Jane Brakhage: Feminism, Nature, and 1970s Experimental Film,” I consider one corner of 1970s environmental media: the world of experimental film, which has its own history of engaging with the environment. My essay situates Hammer's portrait film of Jane Brakhage, the first wife of experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage (who is not pictured in the film), in the context of feminist debates about nature in the 1970s. Newly preserved, this 1974 work resonates today for its portrayal of 1970s ideas about living a reclusive life in the mountains, as personified by Jane. This is one of numerous films in which Hammer explored the topic of nature; in this one she celebrated Jane's visionary connection to nature yet critiqued the patriarchal social structure that confined her to the traditionally gendered role of housewife.
In their coauthored essay “The Wilderness Diary: Sentimental Attachments, Gender, and the Domestication of Environmental Politics in Australian Landscape Photography of the 1980s and 1990s,” Nicole Matthews and Jane Simon analyze the gendering of landscape photography. While landscape photographers are overwhelmingly male, wilderness calendars circulate in domestic spaces such as kitchen walls and are consumed by largely female audiences. While such commodified mass cultural landscape images have been “seen as derivative, sensationalist, repetitive, and often linked implicitly or explicitly to women and the feminine,” Matthews and Simon show how they did important cultural work to shape environmental awareness in Australia at the end of the twentieth century. They argue that sentimental attachments to commodified forms of nature “can produce an ethics of care that moves beyond … passive empathy … [to operate] as a kind of aesthetic low hum of feeling.”
Terri Francis's interview piece, “Urgent Media and Nontheatrical Ecologies: Jamaican Filmmaker Esther Figueroa in Conversation,” provides an engrossing account of this filmmaker's career making feminist, anti-colonial, environmental films on a shoestring budget. In her introduction, Francis contextualizes Figueroa's practice within the larger history of nonfiction filmmaking in Jamaica by the Jamaica Film Unit and others. Figueroa's films address problems in Jamaica such as overfishing, bauxite mining, and excessive tourist development, framing current problems in a historical context; for example her recent film Fly Me to the Moon (2019) is constructed out of archival footage. In Figueroa's telling, we hear how intersecting structures of racism and sexism have shaped the environmental problems Jamaica faces—which, she reminds us, are not unique.
Kate Galloway's essay, “Listening to Indigenous Knowledge of the Land in Two Contemporary Sound Art Installations,” also deals with contemporary media that aims to produce a long historical perspective on the environmental issues with which it engages. In this case, Galloway analyzes two 2017 sound art installations by Indigenous women artists that address the history of Canadian settler colonialism: Rebecca Belmore's Wave Sound and Julie Nagam's Our future is in the land: if we listen to it. Belmore's site-specific piece was installed in two Canadian national parks before moving to an art gallery in Toronto, and Nagam's piece re-creates the foliage, fauna, and sounds from a specific location in Winnipeg. As Galloway points out, while environmental media and art produced by settler colonial culture tends to envision climate change and the environment itself only in terms of disaster and apocalypse, “Indigenous artists, like Belmore and Nagam, who are using sound and other forms of sensory media … to express Indigenous epistemologies of nonhuman nature do not locate environmental emergency in the now. Their work is more meditative, because Indigenous peoples of what are now known as the Americas have dealt with the escalation of the forces of environmental change… since the time of first contact.” As Galloway's contribution shows, environmental catastrophe has a long history predating today's “climate emergency.”
There are many feminisms, of course, but in its broadest definition feminism is an emancipatory, future-looking discourse founded upon the desire to make the world a better place. Feminist thinking has been one arena that has sustained an exploration of the utopian dimension of nature and the environment. Stacy Alaimo argues that “nature has been and continues to be a place of feminist possibility.”30 This is certainly tricky territory, for one group's utopia is all too often another group's dystopia. But it should be possible to think with nature rather than against it, continuing the feminist critique of essentialism yet forging new paradigms for cohabitation, kinship, and alternative world building on our shared planet. This has always been an urgent task, and it is ever more urgent today.
Claire Colebrook, Sex after Life: Essays on Extinction (Ann Arbor, MI: Open Humanities Press, 2014), 2:8.
See Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014).
Isabelle Stengers, In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism (Lüneburg, Germany: Open Humanities Press, 2015).
See the data jointly compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, presented in “Climate Change in the American Mind,” November 2019, accessed December 22, 2019, https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/climate-change-in-the-american-mind-november-2019/; Lydia Saad, “Americans as Concerned as Ever about Global Warming,” Gallup.com, March 25, 2019, accessed December 22, 2019, https://news.gallup.com/poll/248027/americans-concerned-ever-global-warming.aspx.
Cary Funk and Brian Kennedy, “How Americans See Climate Change in 5 Charts,” Pew Research Center, April 19, 2019, accessed December 22, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/19/how-americans-see-climate-change-in-5-charts/; David Lauter, “Hit by Fires and Droughts, California Voters Call Climate Change Their Top Priority,” Los Angeles Times, December 6, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-12-04/issues-in-the-democratic-primary.
Moira Fagan and Christine Huang, “A Look at How People around the World View Climate Change,” Pew Research Center, April 18, 2019, accessed December 22, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/18/a-look-at-how-people-around-the-world-view-climate-change/.
Thunberg has been called “hysterical,” “mentally ill,” “chronically anxious and disturbed,” and more by many powerful male leaders on Twitter, including the current US president. For some critical accounts of this misogyny, see Camilla Nelson and Meg Vertigan, “Why Are Powerful Men So Scared of Greta Thunberg?,” The Independent, October 7, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/women/greta-thunberg-climate-change-crisis-strike-austism-misogyny-protest-speech-a9127971.html; Camilla Nelson and Meg Vertigan, “Misogyny, Male Rage and the Words Men Use to Describe Greta Thunberg,” TheConversation.com, September 30, 2019, https://theconversation.com/misogyny-male-rage-and-the-words-men-use-to-describe-greta-thunberg-124347; Jennifer O'Connell, “Why Is Greta Thunberg So Triggering for Certain Men?,” Irish Times, September 7, 2019, https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/why-is-greta-thunberg-so-triggering-for-certain-men-1.4002264.
Seema Arora-Jonsson, “Virtue and Vulnerability: Discourses on Women, Gender and Climate Change,” Global Environmental Change 21 (2011): 745.
Angela J. Aguayo and Alexandra Juhasz, “Editors' Introduction: Informed Historical Reveries,” Feminist Media Histories 5, no. 4 (2019): 8.
Jennifer Mae Hamilton and Astrida Neimanis, “Composting Feminisms and Environmental Humanities,” Environmental Humanities 10, no. 2 (2018): 506–7, 510.
Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry 45, no. 2 (2009): 201.
Zoe Todd, “Indigenizing the Anthropocene,” in Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters among Aesthetics, Politics, Environment and Epistemology, ed. Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin (London: Open Humanities Press, 2015), 241–54. See also Kyle Powys Whyte, “Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene,” English Language Notes 55, nos. 1/2 (2017): 153–62.
“Capitalocene” is associated with Andreas Malm and Jason W. Moore. See Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming (New York: Verso, 2016); Jason W. Moore, Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (New York: Verso, 2015); Jason W. Moore, ed., Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (Oakland: PM Press, 2016). “Chthulucene” is associated with Donna Haraway. See Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).
See Jennifer Fay, “Cinema's Hot Chronology (5:29:21 Mountain War Time, July 16, 1945),” Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 58, no. 2 (2019): 146–52.
See David Biello, “Mass Deaths in Americas Start New CO2 Epoch,” Scientific American, March 11, 2015, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mass-deaths-in-americas-start-new-co2-epoch/.
There are sixty-five golden spikes of the geological time scale currently being considered by scientists (other markers include plastic traces found in ocean and lake floor sediment). A decision about the onset of the Anthropocene will come from the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which has yet to officially adopt the term as it continues to study it. See Meera Subramanian, “Humans versus Earth: The Quest to Define the Anthropocene,” Nature, August 6, 2019, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02381-2.
Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 7ff; Donna Haraway, Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm, 2003).
For an oddly heartening read, enjoy the best seller by Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (New York: St. Martin's, 2007).
Stacy Alaimo, Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), 11.
For a useful history of ecofeminism see Greta Gaard, “Ecofeminism Revisited: Rejecting Essentialism and Re-placing Species in a Material Feminist Environmentalism,” Feminist Formations 23, no. 2 (2011): 26–53. See also Noël Sturgeon, Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory, and Political Action (New York: Routledge, 1997).
Clare Monagle, “Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology: Mysticism, Difference, and Feminist History,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 44, no. 2 (2019): 350.
Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (New York: Harper and Row, 1983).
Val Plumwood, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (London: Routledge, 1993).
Bruno Latour, Facing Gaia, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2017), 3.
Latour works to avoid reinscribing this gendering of nature, and he does refer to Merchant's work once (though not Plumwood's); however, this is an example of a missed opportunity to mark the feminist lineage of his line of critique.
All of Haraway's work is important, but I particularly recommend Staying with the Trouble (a title that functions as a useful mantra for our current moment). Key works by the authors I mention here include Mel Y. Chen, Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012); Colebrook, Sex after Life; Jack Halberstam and Tavia Nyong'o, “Introduction: Theory in the Wild,” South Atlantic Quarterly 117, no. 3 (2018): 453–64; Astrida Niemanis, Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016); Rebekah Sheldon, “Form/Matter/Chora: Object-Oriented Ontology and Feminist New Materialism,” in The Nonhuman Turn, ed. Richard Grusin (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 193–222; Kari Weil, Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now? (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012); Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019).
See Karen Ward Mahar, Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press), esp. chapter 6, “A ‘Her-Own-Company’ Epidemic: Stars as Independent Producers,” 154–78.
Alaimo, Undomesticated Ground, 2.