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Embodied Materialism and Women Who Sequester CO2, in Addition to Other Tasks

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Women all over the globe work daily to restore and enrich ecosystems, grow food, and cope with the devastation patriarchal capitalism has foisted on us all. While scientists who receive public platforms debate how dire our situation may be, women in most parts of the world keep feeding people, keep bearing and caring for children, and caring for the sick and the elderly. In fact, women produce 50% of the food humans eat. In some countries, women produce 60-80% of the food.

The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) recently offered an event called Women for Soils: Healthy Soils, Restorative Small-Scale Farming and Carbon Sequestration Training 2017 (Women for Soils: Healthy Soils, Restorative Small-Scale Farming and Carbon Sequestration 2017 Training Summary) The event brought "diverse speakers and participants from around the world united to explore topics including women farmers, agro-ecology, peasant farming, and carbon sequestration as part of the solution to the climate crisis, while highlighting farmers’ rights, food sovereignty and ecosystem integrity." As WECAN reminds us, organic and small-scale farming is sustainable and can feed people even as their approach cools the planet through their CO2 absorbing practices.

Somehow, though, the reproductive labor of women and ecosocialist theory seem cut off from each other. Ecosocialists may write about reproductive labor, but they rarely consult the women who most frequently perform this work to learn what wisdom has come to them through their labor.

Ariel Salleh, a scholar whose books and articles have explored topics of embodied materialism for decades, describes the challenge facing ecosocialism as:

As I see the shared goal of ecofeminism and ecosocialism, it is to draw the separate movements together—workers’, women’s, indigenous’ and ecological struggles—in a way that integrates while holding on to diversity...t is not urban industrial labor, so much as meta-industrial labor—mothers, small farmers, hunter-gatherers on the fringes of capital—who know most intimately the meanings of economic justice, social equity, cultural autonomy, and ecological sustainability. This is not to dismiss Marx’s economic analysis, but to adapt it to our time.


Salleh also argues:

However, as primary care givers and community food producers, women are also the quintessential experts in precautionary wisdom and practitioners of sustainability. These experiences educate them—whether they are housewives, peasants, or indigenes—for global leadership. Moreover, the ambiguous attribution and denial of humanity to resourced and sacrificed people charges their political sense.
WECAN insists that the practices Salleh describes can also play a powerful role in mitigating climate change.

Whether the planet is already doomed will not change the fact that women will continue to engage in reproductive labor. What do you think? Is there room in your worldview for Salleh and WECAN? Are you ready to study and support their efforts to lower the temperature on this fevered planet?
 
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