words by Willow Defebaugh
Welcome to The Overview, a weekly newsletter in which Editor-in-Chief Willow Defebaugh offers an expansive look at the latest events in climate and culture—and how it all fits together.
Gaia, Pachamama, Terra, Prithvi—since time immemorial, cultural and spiritual traditions the world over have deified the Earth as a woman, equating nature with divine femininity.
In Atmos Volume 01, ANOHNI draws a parallel between the historical subjugations of women and the environment in a male-dominated society. “Some people say that the dawn of agriculture may have prompted an early sense of separation, as men’s assertion of control over plants and animals led to a fundamental shift in the dynamics of our relationship to nature, spawning a kind of mutiny. Men began to reject ancient notions of the Female Divine. They began to resent Her, lose respect for Her,” she says. “Female subjugation may need to be undone in order to save much of life on our planet. I believe that only female elders in consensus will be able to lead us out of this. That means men finding within themselves the wisdom to defer to their mothers in a profound way.”
Is it a coincidence, then, that the last few years have given rise to both a resurgence in the women’s rights and environmental liberation movements? With his history of misogyny and anti-environmental policies, the 2016 election of Donald Trump incited a cultural revolution that has included the Women’s and Climate Marches, the #MeToo movement, and a record number of women in congress and running to replace him as the next President of the United States. One such woman elected to congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who Trump recently suggested should leave the country—is also responsible for the most comprehensive plan to address our climate crisis, the Green New Deal.
Of the six female candidates who have just qualified for the next round of democratic debates, all have spoken out about climate change in their campaigns. As frontrunner Elizabeth Warren put it, “We’re running out of time to make change, and right now, Washington refuses to lift a finger without permission from the fossil fuel companies. That’s dangerous and wrong. We are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world – of course we can afford to make real investments in renewable energy, green infrastructure, and a Green New Deal. We must meet the urgency of the moment, and I’m in this fight all the way.”
In the highly pollutive fashion industry, which has been traditionally dominated by male designers, Stella McCartney is often the first name mentioned when speaking about sustainability. This past weekend, she launched her latest collection with Adidas, which incorporates recycled polyester made with Parley Ocean Plastic and regenerated ECONYL yarn. The reveal came at the same time as LVMH’s announcement of a new partnership with McCartney, meaning yet another female-run house for the luxury giant.
In “Lab Culture,” another story in our first issue, we highlighted the new class of women scientists and entrepreneurs who are breaking down gender norms and tackling the climate crisis by investing in clean meat. For those not yet in the know, clean or cultured meat involves taking cells from an animal and culturing them outside the animal’s body so that they divide in a controlled environment, and are eventually turned into processed or ground meat products, like burgers and nuggets, or synthesized into muscle tissue for bacon or steak. According to Good Food Institute’s Jessica Almy, “Plant-based and clean meat need to advance as quickly as possible—and women have a critical role to play in making that happen.”
While the connection between these movements might be a matter of belief, their urgency is not. In the words of another presidential candidate, Marianne Williamson, “The climate crisis is the greatest moral challenge of our generation, and we ourselves must rise up to meet it.”