Publications from the Women's Studies Librarian and Her Staff

Ecofeminism: An Introductory Bibliography

[This bibliography is number 72 in the series WISCONSIN BIBLIOGRAPHIES IN WOMEN'S STUDIES published by the University of Wisconsin System Women's Studies Librarian's Office, 430 Memorial Library, 728 State Street, Madison, WI 53706]

Ecofeminism is a relatively new part of the feminist movement, evolving out of political activism over the past three decades. Peace marches, anti-nuclear protests, environmental and animal liberation movements, and world hunger activism have raised the consciousnesses of many.

A range of theoretical positions has emerged from this movement, resting on the assumption that there are critical connections between the domination of nature and of women. Particularly, ecofeminists attack patriarchal society's dualistic thinking, wherein one side of the dualism reflects the "self" or the subject, while the second represents the "other" or the object. The object is considered only insofar as it can benefit the subject. Some of the more common dualisms addressed by ecofeminists are male/female, culture/nature, and mind/body, the former embodying all that is desired and "good" in Western society, the latter epitomizing those characteristics that should be denounced, shunned, or conquered. Ecofeminism seeks to move beyond this dualistic worldview and restructure our notion of power; life-affirming, consensual relationships are to replace "power-over" relationships. The movement wants to create an interconnected community, void of hierarchies, where all beings -- human, non-human, and members of the organic world -- have their own intrinsic value and are part of the same living organism, the earth.

The primary goal of this bibliography is to introduce the field of ecofeminism. Myriad books on this relatively new subject are popping up constantly, providing broad and differing views. I analyze four anthologies and one special journal issue on ecological feminism. These, I believe, provide a fundamental understanding of ecofeminism, lead the reader to other important sources, and give a general view of many of the issues within the field, from its philosophies to its spiritualism to its activism.


Four of the more influential recent anthologies include RECLAIM THE EARTH, edited by Leonie Caldecott and Stephanie Leland, HEALING THE WOUNDS: THE PROMISE OF ECOFEMINISM, edited by Judith Plant, REWEAVING THE WORLD: THE EMERGENCE OF ECOFEMINISM, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Orenstein, and ECOFEMINISM: WOMEN, ANIMALS, NATURE, edited by Greta Gaard. As well, the Spring 1991 special issue of HYPATIA includes a plethora of articles on ecological feminism, creating a sort of anthology in itself. Each book gives an introduction to the theory and practice of

Ecofeminist activities have been a daily part of women's lives worldwide for centuries. Every day women in India and Africa produce food for their families, creating a sustainable environment. Yet the term "ecofeminism" was just coined in 1974 by the French feminist Francoise d'Eaubonne. Only recently, within the last two decades, has ecofeminism been considered an academic pursuit worthy of debate and a substantial theory. Therefore, it is not surprising that each new anthology progresses in the development of ecofeminist theory.

RECLAIM THE EARTH, the earliest anthology (1983) offers scattered, beginning analysis on the relationship between women and nature, grappling with words to describe what many women and native peoples have been doing all along. The majority of contributors speak about how they or other women protect their communities and their immediate environment and how they are being poisoned by Western technological advancement. The Chipko movement, for example, comprises groups of village women in the Garwal mountains in North India "hugging" trees to prevent them from being felled by "developers." A statement by a group of Sicilian women protesting the siting of cruise missiles in Comiso, Italy is included in the anthology. An interview with a Kenyan biologist describes her role in creating a community tree-planting project aimed at fighting desertification and soil erosion. Many more examples relate the acrivities of a diverse group of women in fighting for cxhange in their own neighborhoods and their own communities.

The next important anthology came along six years later, in 1989. HEALING THE WOUNDS: THE PROMISE OF ECOFEMINISM, edited by Judith Plant, includes early ecofeminist theory by such authors as Ynestra King and Susan Griffin. It seems these two authors, as others, are beginning to realize the "meaning of ecofeminism."

Moving beyond description of women's activities to protect the earth, they are now trying to define what these activities mean and how oppression of the earth relates to oppression of women. Not only do the authors express what ecofeminism signifies to them, but they address ecofeminist politics, spirituality, and community.

The majority of authors in this all-woman collection are from the United States and Canada. Those from other countries come predominantly from India, with one contributor from Haada Gwaii, also called the Queen Charlotte Islands, located off the Western coast of Canada. The Indian authors discuss how the spirit of the Chipko movement has spread throughout their country, how "development" has created real poverty in the South, and how nonviolence holds a powerful spiritual value in their culture.

REWEAVING THE WORLD: THE EMERGENCE OF ECOFEMINISM, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein (1990), continues Plant's trend of including contributors who examine "the development of ecofeminism as a social movement and a philosophy" (p.xii). A variety of female and male authors from around the United States -- professors, actists, writers, and spiritualists -- all share their ideas on the "meaning" of ecofeminism. For example, Charlene Spretnak describes the "roots" of ecofeminism, crediting the study of political theory and history, the exposure to nature-based religions, and the increased popularity of environmentalism as paths that led feminists to "eco"feminism.

Unlike HEALING THE WOUNDS, this anthology elaborates on some of the more salient political and philosophical questions. More importantly, it begins to see its relation to other forms of environmentalism. Several articles compare and contrast ecofeminism with deep ecology and bioregionalism. Briefly, deep ecologists assert that all entities have intrinsic value and have the freedom to live unhindered by human domination (HYPATIA, p.91), crediting the environmental crisis to the history of Western culture. Bioregionalism is a way of living *with* the land as opposed to molding and exploiting the environment for human "needs." It involves restoration of life-supporting systems and establishment of a sustainable pattern of existence (Plant, p.158). The authors discuss whether ecofeminists can find an ally in other groups. For example, Michael E. Zimmerman asserts that on the surface ecofeminism and deep ecology share common beliefs: both are critical of dualism, hierarchalism, and abstract rationality. Yet, although deep ecologists transcend anthropocentrism and view humans as equals with other life forms, Zimmerman charges that they are androcentric and view mankind and its values as central.

HYPATIA's Spring 1991 special issue on Ecological Feminism (Indiana University Press), provides the most scholarly and theory-based articles of all the anthologies. Like REWEAVING THE WORLD, this collection contains extensive discussions on the meaning of ecofeminism and its association with other forms of environmentalism. It also incorporates critiques of and provides alternatives for current male-centered environmental movements. Catherine Roach declares that the popular "environmental slogan 'Love Your Mother' is problematic because of the way 'mother' and 'motherhood' function in patriarchal culture" (p.46). Deane Curtin introduces the idea of an ethic of care to replace the language of rights, particularly in relation to animals. Val Plumwood provides an alternative view of nature "based on respect without denying that nature is distinct from the self" (p.3).

This is a scholarly journal, read by an academic audience, housed most commonly in university libraries, so it is not surprising that almost all its contributors are associated with academia. All the authors also live and teach in the United States.

Finally, the most recent anthology to embrace ecofeminism is ECOFEMINISM: WOMEN, ANIMALS, NATURE, edited by Greta Gaard (1993). This book is different from the other collections, with the exception of the HYPATIA issue, in that it includes lengthy debates on the oppression of animals, called specism. Carol J. Adams addresses the issue of serving meat at feminist meetings; though food choice has been traditionally viewed as a personal decision, she is trying to bring the issue into the political arena. Two other authors who write about animal rights (Lori Gruen and Josephine Donovan), scarcely touch on meat production, concentrating more on the exclusivity of animal liberation theory and feminist theory, and the need to merge their agendas. Gruen analyzes the constructed connection between and oppression of women and animals, while Donovan critiques the "fathers" of "rational" animal rights theory, Peter Singer and Tom Regan.

Gaard's anthology moves beyond RECLAIM THE EARTH and HEALING THE WOUNDS in that it has begun to compare and contrast the work and theory of ecofeminists to that of other forms of radical environmentalism like the "greens" and the deep ecologists. It also provides critiques of current eco-philosophers and of the more male-oriented ecological movements. Its topics, like those of HYPATIA, are very theory-driven, a kind of reversal of the first anthology. Whereas RECLAIM THE EARTH leaned heavily toward descriptions of activism, it was virtually void of substantial theory. In the HYPATIA articles, activism lives only as a vehicle to depict theory (see Birkeland and O'Loughlin's articles).

Unfortunately, unlike RECLAIM THE EARTH, which brings together authors from countries and cultures around the world, ECOFEMINISM exists in primarily a U.S. context. Only two contributors hail from other countries, Taiwan and Australia.


Attributes lacking in one of the above anthologies are most likely compensated for in another. Altogether, the four books and one journal should give the reader a good idea of what ecofeminism "means." Yet much more literature exists. The following books, [categorized by topic (many of which were introduced in the anthologies),] offer deeper knowledge of the subject.


Caldecott, Leonie and Stephanie Leland, eds. RECLAIM THE EARTH: WOMEN SPEAK OUT FOR LIFE ON EARTH. London: Women's Press, 1983.

Diamond, Irene and Gloria Orenstein, eds. REWEAVING THE WORLD: THE EMERGENCE OF ECOFEMINISM. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990.

Gaard, Greta, ed. ECOFEMINISM: WOMEN, ANIMALS, NATURE. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.

Plant, Judith. HEALING THE WOUNDS: THE PROMISE OF ECOFEMINISM. Philadelphia: New Society, 1989.

Warren, Karen, ed. "Ecological Feminism." Special Issue of HYPATIA: A JOURNAL OF FEMINIST PHILOSOPHY 6(1), Spring 1991.

Further Information

Adams, Carol J., ed. ECOFEMINISM AND THE SACRED. New York: Continuum Publishing, 1993.
First anthology dedicated entirely to the issue of ecofeminism and spirituality. Assesses various religious traditions from a feminist standpoint. Interprets and critiques ecofeminist spiritualities. Themes of interrelationship, solidarity, transformation, and embodiment pull together the articles. [SPIRITUALITY]

Details the interrelationships between feminist and vegetarian concerns and examines the connections between male dominance and meat eating. Demonstrates the ways in which animals' oppression and women's oppression are linked. [ANIMAL RIGHTS]

"Explores...the themes of women, the environment, and development on the theoretical level." Surveys alternative development strategies and offers ideas for reform in the current economic system. [DEVELOPMENT]

Gray, Elizabeth Dodson. GREEN PARADISE LOST. Roundtable Press, 1981.
Describes the urgent need to remythologize "Genesis" and cherish our present world as Eden. [SPIRITUALITY]

Griffin, Susan. WOMEN AND NATURE: THE ROARING INSIDE HER. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978.
Book-length prose-poem. Juxtaposes the voices of women, animals, and the natural world against voices of patriarchy gathered from theological texts, the writings of early philosophers, scientists' diaries, and other male sources of history. [CLASSICS]

Merchant, Carolyn. THE DEATH OF NATURE: WOMEN, ECOLOGY, AND THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980.
Examines "the values associated with the images of women and nature as they relate to the formation of the modern world and [the] implications for life today." Argues that conceptualizing the earth as a machine, a result of the Scientific Revolution, rather than a living organism has sanctioned the domination of nature and women. [CLASSICS]

Mies, Maria and Vandana Shiva. ECOFEMINISM. London: Zed Books, 1993.
Addresses the "inherent inequalities in world structures which permit the North to dominate the [S?]south [and] men to dominate women." Proposes the creation of a holistic, all-life-embracing cosmology and anthropology. [DEVELOPMENT]

Rodda, Annabel, ed. WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT. London: Zed Books, 1993.
Collection of articles detailing the role of women as producers, consumers and agents of environmental change and the effects of the environment and its degradation on women. Includes case studies of projects that women are implementing around the world. Defines key environmental terms and gives ideas for personal action. [THEORY]

Shiva, Vandana. STAYING ALIVE: WOMEN, ECOLOGY, AND DEVELOPMENT. London: Zed Books, 1989.
Questions the meaning of progress, science.html, and development, [concepts] which the author believes destroy life and threaten survival. Reveals how rural Indian women experience and perceive ecological destruction and its causes, and how they have conceived and initiated processes to halt the destruction of nature and begin its regeneration. [DEVELOPMENT]

Documents the vast destructiveness of the Green Revolution, its devastation of genetic diversity and soil fertility, its contribution to conflicts in the Punjab. Warns of further environmental and social damage. [DEVELOPMENT]

Sontheimer, Sally. WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT: A READER. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991.
An anthology of women's lives in light of the ensuing ecological destruction in developing countries. Contains a collection of essays that "explore interrelationships between women and their ecological base of survival" and how Third World women are responding to the situation. Provides a complete picture of a reality in which women are "less the cause of environmental destruction than the victims of a cycle of events beyond their control." Shows the ability of women to organize themselves to fight this destruction and carry out actions that improve their communities' lives. [DEVELOPMENT]

By Julie Knutson. Prepared as an undergraduate independent study at Univ. of Wisconsin-Parkside, Spring 1995.