By Nicole Taylor Morris
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 is rooted in justice and equity. It offers an insightful perspective and lens to Creation Justice by ultimately acknowledging that not only are the marginalized bodies of Black womxn and the Earth reflections and embodiments of God, but that there is a universal necessity to treat them as such in order to effectively move toward ecological restoration. This sentiment is reflected in Scripture from the Bible: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV). We are called to be stewards to the land as reflections of God, who are “called by [God’s] name”. Our relationship to land is intended to be directly symbiotic and is also reflected in the ways that we treat one another; humility by transforming the systems of power we’ve created ultimately leads to a restorative forgiveness and “healing the land”--our voices must be heard and uplifted by one another, by God, and this will impact our ability to restore the environment.
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.."
Though the need for intervention is urgent and requires deep re-imagining of how best to approach societal and planetary healing on a global scale, many communities and societies have maintained and reclaimed ancestral and Afro-indigenous practices toward a Creation Justice of healing with the land. One embodiment of Creation Justice through the lens of Ecowomanism is the urban farm cooperative space, the Common Good Project located in the Neponset Tribal Territory of what is popularly called Dorchester, Massachusetts. The Common Good Project was founded and is led by Black women and women of color who face the daily challenges and impacts of systemic marginalization, neglect, and isolation of living in an under-resourced community of a heavily-resourced metropolitan area. This project is rooted in the concept that liberation from these structures can be found by learning and intentionally returning to an Afro-Indigenous symbiotic relationship with the Earth and land as a space that provides oxygen, food, and the physiological benefits of ecological engagement in right relationship with the Earth, but also a space that must be nurtured, honored, and heard. Not only does this project and similar community-based offerings provide an avenue forward for improving the well-being and seeking justice at a community-level, but also they provide insight to the ways that we can begin to actualize Creation Justice for planetary well-being. Efforts like these continually reemphasize the equity of humanity and ecology and the ways that they are interwoven through a lens of Creation Justice and Ecowomanism; they are tangible pathways forward for both survival and healing.
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.
About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.