It’s springtime in North Carolina. Between the redbuds, dogwoods, azaleas, wisteria, lily of the valley, and the wild violets – my yard is a riot of color. This is the time of year when my girls and I gather wild violets and make violet jelly to enjoy with our tea and scones and when we turn the compost into our raised bed to begin to prepare the soil for our modest annual attempt at tomatoes, basil, and the odd pepper or melon. A robin has built her nest just in view of the kitchen window and last weekend we bought a hand-carved wooden nest box that we hung in hopes that a hummingbird will lay her eggs alongside our robin.
We are a decidedly urban family. Three years ago we moved from a semi-rural suburb smack dab into the middle of the city. Our first night in our new home my husband and I were awakened by police and ambulance sirens whizzing through the intersection where our house sits. My husband remarked in the morning that he felt like we were living in New York City again. While Greensboro is a far cry from NYC, our move to the “big city” puts us in the company of the majority of the world’s population who are city-dwellers.
Our family’s cultivation of the flowers, vegetables, and birds in our yard is akin to our commitment to the local co-op and farmer’s market near us. Despite our urban existence, we strive to lower our eco-footprint in as many ways as we are able. This is part of our commitment to just-living and the foundation for teaching our children respect and appreciation of the beauty of nature as well as helping them to recognize our interdependence with the natural world.
But we don’t stop with flowers, birds, and developing relationships with the farming families who grow our food. We also talk with our children about climate change, fracking, the hog waste polluting our waterways and other environmental issues and problems affecting our state. During last fall’s election, our eight-year old frequently asked people who they were going to vote for and often gave people an earful about the dangers of fracking if they even hinted they were thinking about voting for Thom Tillis to represent NC in the Senate!
As an ecofeminist, I am committed to teaching my children, the college students in my classes, and anyone else who will listen about the intimate connections between different forms of oppression. I am not an essential feminist who believes that there is something “special” about being a woman that enables a deeper connection to the earth or nature or peace or childrearing. I am a materialist feminist who believes deeply and passionately that all forms of oppression are deeply connected. It is the same motivations of greed, desire for control, and human hubris that cultivate the sense of entitlement and arrogance that shape the conditions in which women, the poor, minorities, and the environment are, in turns, used, abused, ignored and destroyed.
Picking flowers with my daughters, hiking trails with them, and sharing my love of the natural world is the easy part. That’s the easy part for most of us. Teaching them about the ways in which our industrial economy is increasingly exploiting and overburdening our eco-systems is harder. Harder still is helping them see the connections between our exploitation of the land and water and the homeless people in our neighborhood and our city who are homeless because the majority of jobs available no longer pay a living wage.
Cultivating our relationship with nature is an important aspect of environmentalism but unless it is coupled with an active commitment to protect and care for the natural world (human and environment) through active engagement in public policy, we are in danger of participating in the wholesale destruction of God’s good gift of creation. Seeing the intersections between our picking violets, the rising crisis of poverty in our country, and the policies being passed by our representatives is not always easy. But it is essential for justice. May we continue to connect the dots.
Find this and other great articles in the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s PHP Post, Summer 2015 issue online at www.pcusa.org/phppost
image Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_Elenathewise’>Elenathewise / 123RF Stock Photo</a>