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The defense of life and Earth from an intersectional ecofeminism approach

By Gabriela Donaire Pattzy

Since I started my path into the social sciences, gender, class, and race have been important categories for my understanding of the world as a Latin American woman. As the years passed, my interest in feminist theories contributed significantly to responding to many of the questions that were (and still are) closely articulated with my circumstances and experiences. These questions were mainly related to the social symbolism and representation of the female body, understanding it as a living and historical territory where a patriarchal, colonial, racist, and capitalist system has historically built multiple oppressions.

In these reflections, personal and academic interests guided me to the commitment of

researching on the right to safe and legal abortion, the social construction of women's sexuality, and even to get to know the voices, experiences, and demands of sex workers in my home country: Bolivia.

Honestly, complex and challenging topics to analyse and commit to as a feminist and social science student.

Moreover, in a global context marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, war conflict, and environmental collapse, I added a new interest to my reflections about the female body and oppressions built around it: the defence of life and Earth from an ecofeminist perspective.

As I began to reflect on the climate crisis, I felt obligated to commit to such a relevant subject for all of us, even more, if we are involved in the academy and social activism. Evidently, as a migrant Bolivian woman living in Europe, I am well aware that I make my reflections from a specific place and time articulated with my feminist activism and own experiences in a Global South country.

¨Neither land nor women are territories of conquest¨ Graffiti of the feminist movement Mujeres Creando in the city of La Paz-Bolivia. Credits ComAmbiental

To clarify, as explained by scholars and activists such as Vandana Shiva (2014) and Maristella Svampa (2021), we can define ecofeminism as a social movement and theoretical approach based on the certainty of the interconnection of the oppression of women and nature in a capitalist patriarchal system. In this scenario, the defence of life and Earth from an intersectional approach means addressing not only gender oppression but also the intersections of sex and gender with personal characteristics and identities such as race, class, sexual orientation, and others.

Mercury contamination on Illegal gold mining in Bolivia. Credits: Gabriela Donaire

Then, as we analyse the complexity of the climate crisis under an intersectional ecofeminist approach is necessary to highlight the role of colonialism and the long history of exploitation of resources exerted mainly by the Global North.

In this logic, along with the exploitation of minerals and hydrocarbons, the climate crisis is connected to a neoliberal capitalist system that generates irreversible environmental impacts such as deforestation and contamination of the water, air, and lands.

According to Oxfam (2020), ¨The richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth¨. Consequently, we can acknowledge that the groups that suffer the most from the effects of climate change are the poorest and most marginalized people.

As we know, women represent a high percentage of this group. Scholars such as Svampa (2021) indicate that ecofeminism highlights that just as there is an ecological debt and an ecological footprint, there is also a debt associated with the sexual division of labour, which places the burden of care on women, especially on poor women.

Facing this global scenario, we can find many civil organization initiatives, international agreements, and plans of action such as the European Green Deal to fight against climate change.

Although they are valuable, it is fundamental to incorporate an intersectional perspective in our understanding of climate crisis. Political and technological proposals are not enough if we do not consider the connections between climate crisis, gender oppression, capitalism, and colonialism.

In light of this reflection, it is possible to raise the importance of women's participation in

consultation processes and decision-making spaces. At the same time, identifying the necessity of fighting for an anticapitalistic and antipatriarchal ecological movement is essential to place the opposition between life and capital at the centre of discussion.

To conclude, ecofeminism reminds us that there it is not possible to achieve environmental justice without social justice.

Written by Gabriela Donaire Pattzy

Edited by Noemi Nardi

Gabriela Donaire Pattzy is currently studying the first year of the European and Global studies Master's program at the University of Padova.

She is particularly interested in feminist activism and social research related to gender, migration and geopolitics from a Global South perspective.

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Follow us on Instagram (@set_padova)/YouTube (SET Padova)/LinkedIn (Student Engagement Team)/Facebook (SET Padova).


Vandana, S., & María, M. (2014). Ecofeminism (2nd ed.). Zed Books

Svampa, M. (2021). Feminismos ecoterritoriales en América Latina. Entre la violencia

patriarcal y extractivista y la interconexión con la naturaleza. (Fundación Carolina): Segunda

época, (59), 1.

OXFAM international (21st September 2020) Carbon emissions of richest 1 percent more than

double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity.

Cabnal, L (2015) Without being consulted: the commodification of our body-land territory. In

Women Defending the Territory: Experiences of participation in Latin America. Urgent Fund of

Latin America.

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