Melanie L. Harris describes ecowomanism as, “the reflective and contemplative study of the eco wisdom that is theorized, constructed, and practiced by women of African descent. The discourse validates their lives, spiritual values, and activism as important epistemologies (i.e., sets of knowledge) in ecowomanism.” Harris goes on to draw parallels between the ways that settler colonialism has and continues to harm and impact the Earth, just as it continues to harm and impact the lives of Black womxn, who often face the most severe forms of marginalization, globally, in her book Ecowomanism.
The core of Womanism, which is often used as a theological framework, offers both a theoretical lens and practical applications for centering the voices and experiences of Black womxn and those most marginalized by oppressive systems. It prioritizes actively listening to those voices and experiences toward repair and transformation, individually, communally, and systemically. Eco-womanism extends these principles beyond the experiences of marginalized human bodies and calls for a deep acknowledgment of the “voice” and experience of the Earth, of land and water, and living beings beyond humanity that have been subjected to the iterations of ecological violence due to white supremacy and capitalism. It also calls for a deep listening and attunement to the way that the Earth is an expert in its own healing and for a return to the decolonized, Afro-Indigenous ways of creating a symbiotic, not dominant, relationships amongst humans and the living beings and bodies that make up Earth.
"Eco-womanism extends these principles beyond the experiences of marginalized human bodies and calls for a deep acknowledgment of the “voice” and experience of the Earth, of land and water, and living beings beyond humanity."
Ecowomanism prompts us to reimagine the present by returning to ancestral practices and by challenging the influences of white supremacy on our thoughts and actions in relation to ecology and society. It prompts us to reconsider statements that pose climate change and environmental disasters as “threats” to humanity, to an understanding that climate change is a direct result and symptom of the long-term destructive nature of settler colonialism, exploitative systems of oppression, and the consistent marginalization and neglect of the Earth and non-white bodies as “other”. Creation justice encourages us to consider how human systems and societies have actively harmed and are complicit in perpetuating harm to the environment and for us to approach restoration through healing and accountability, rather than defense and continued domination. Ecowomanism is at the core of what Creation Justice must be; a call for reparations, healing, and transformation of both society and its impacts on the health and well-being of the planet by deeply listening, honoring, and returning to practices that uplift those whose lives and humanity are most often disregarded and the Earth itself, as God.
"Ecowomanism is at the core of what Creation Justice must be; a call for reparations, healing, and transformation.."
1. Melanie L. Harris (2016) Ecowomanism: Black Women, Religion, and the Environment, The Black Scholar, 46:3, 27-39, DOI: 10.1080/00064246.2016.1188354
2. Alice Walker (2011). In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose. Open Road Integrated Media.
Nicole Taylor Morris (she/her/hers) is a womanist bioethicist, scholar-activist, doula, and movement chaplain, and healer-in-progress. She is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School with a Master of Theological Studies focused on the intersections of Black women and community’s health, community-centered healing, and the role of spirituality in wellness. She is also an alumni of Tufts University (’18) with a BA in Community Health.