Ecofeminism Panel Discussion

Submitted by JessicaW on December 9, 2011

The library multimedia room was filled with students on the afternoon of November 30th for a panel discussionentitled “Daughters of the Earth: Ecofeminism in China and India”. The discussion was coordinated by Fairfield’s Associate Professor of English & American Literature, Dr. Elizabeth Petrino, and included panelists Dr. Gita Rajan, professor of English, and Dr. Danke Li, associate professor of history. The discussion directly correlated with Dr. Petrino’s “American Literature & the Environment” class because of the themes which included global environmental issues among women, environmental consciousness, and the global economy during a time of environmental crisis. Wikipedia defines ecofeminism as a social and political movement that points to the considerable common ground between environmentalism and feminism.

Dr. Li led her discussion with the basic fact that ecofeminism is a new concept and phenomenon in China because it was not until the late 1980s when the country began to modernize and recognize feminism. The first discussions of ecofeminism that were ever held in China stemmed from the translation of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1979 which was chosen to be translated because of its politically safety and its degradation of western culture. Although the book was translated, these discussions were not allowed because of the communist regime of the country. After being invited to the Global Environmental Summit in Stockholm in 1972 which led to more outcries and calls for political activism, ecofeminism became a very powerful academic discourse for the country throughout the 1990s. The topic became the platform for debate among scholars of different disciplines of world issues and led to the retranslations of Silent Spring in both 2000 and 2008 where she was finally introduced as both a woman and an environmentalist. Dr. Li also spoke of her interviews with Sheri Liao, winner of the Sophie Prize in 2000. Ms. Liao was a philosopher who came to the United States to study where she funded and created her own documentary “Daughters of the Earth”. After she finished her schooling, Ms. Liao founded the Global Village of Beijing (GVB) in 1966 and was critical in the building of an eco-village in Sichuan between 2008-2011 after an earthquake had devastated the area. Because of her efforts in mobilizing women in the reconstructive movement, she was honored by President Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative in 2008 and was recognized as an environmental hero in 2009 by Time magazine.

Following Dr. Li’s discussion, Dr. Rajan continued the panel by showing a clip of a short film by Arundhati Roy about the water crisis in India. She asked many questions of the students in attendance while explaining many of the problems of the environmentally conscious companies and women of India who are entering the global economy in a time of severe environmental crisis. She explained that the government officials in many poorer countries are corrupt and sell water rights that are not theirs to sell because the rights belong to the people of the country. The language of globalization is governed by commerce, especially through organizations such as the World Trade Organization which processes rules and protocols for trade throughout the entire world. The changing climate has an effect on the way crops grow which does not benefit the fact that the world’s food reserves are shortening and people are beginning to worry about food shortages because of food’s importance to sustaining life. It is human nature for people to protect themselves which has led many to gather their reserves. It was also made extremely clear in her conclusion that unless the food shortage is properly and sustainably addressed, the food shortage will never be alleviated.

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