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Ecofeminist Books and Ecofriendly Books
Ecofeminism is growing by leaps and bounds. As its popularity increases, look for more and more books that are straight-up ecofeminist. What the field could really use, though, is some exciting, new literature targeted towards the grassroots constituency.
The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution
Carolyn Merchant, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981.
This groundbreaking ecofeminist work outlines the shift from women-identified cultures—thousands of centuries old and based on harmony with nature—to the relatively recent creation of male-dominated rational/hierarchical systems of thought. Merchant documents the deliberate use of misogynist strategies by European scientists such as Bacon and Descartes to dominant and control nature. She presents a convincing framework for understanding modern technological neuroses.
Ecofeminism and the Sacred
Carol Adams, ed., New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1993.
This one-of-a-kind collection of essays looks at the spiritual side of ecofeminist issues. The book's vibrant multiculturalism is one of its most compelling features. Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Native American spirituality, "afrocentric ecowomanism", and shamanism are all represented.
Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature
Greta Gaard, ed., Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.
This stimulating collection of essays is must reading for serious ecofeminist thinkers. Even though most of the authors are academics, Gaard, a committed activist, makes sure theory does not upstage action. The book's strong emphasis on animal rights underscores the contention of many ecofeminists that speciesism is an integral part of liberation politics.
Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy
Greta Gaard and Patrick Murphey, eds., Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1998.
Ecofeminism continues to spread its wings and impact other disciplines. This anthology examines the work of Octavia Butler, Terry Tempest Williams, Ursula LeGuin, Ana Castillo, and Linda Hogan, among others. It goes without saying that the essay, "Grass-Roots Ecofeminism: Activating Utopia" by Cathleen and Colleen McGuire is especially worth reading!
Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism
Judith Plant, ed., Philadelphia: New Society, 1989.
Plant, a bioregional activist, has collected a series of essays with a grassroots emphasis that speak to budding ecofeminists. The forward is by the late Green Party member Petra Kelly. Other contributors include Joanna Macy, Ursula LeGuin, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Dolores LaChapelle, Anne Cameron, Vandana Shiva, Ynestra King, Marti Kheel, Starhawk, and Susan Griffin.
Hypatia, a Journal of Feminist Philosophy
Special Spring 1991 issue on "Ecological Feminism."
This collection of ecofeminist essays is well worth reading, but bear in mind it is very intellectual, abstruse, and written primarily by and for the Ph.D. crowd. Also, typical for the academy, it totally lacks a women’s spirituality perspective, Contact Journals Manager, IU Press, 10th & Morton Streets, Bloomington, IN 47405.
Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism
Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein, ed., San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1990.
This multicultural collection of essays was one of the first anthologies on ecofeminism available. It's a very accessible introduction to deeper levels of ecofeminist thinking. The contributors include Starhawk, Paula Gunn Allen, Susan Griffin, Marti Kheel, Ynestra King, Vandana Shiva, Michael Zimmerman, Riane Eisler, Carolyn Merchant, Cynthia Hamilton, and Charlene Spretnak.
Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development
Vandana Shiva, London: Zed Press, 1988.
Shiva presents the links between colonialism, oppression of women, and the destruction of the environment. Based in New Delhi, she feels economic progress, or "maldevelopment," marginalizes and exploits both nature and women. She urges Western science to listen to the wisdom of all women in order to learn about harmony, diversity, and sustainability.
An ecofeminist reading list is eclectic, multidisciplinary, diverse. Weaving strands of radical brillance from a wide range of thinkers, ecofeminists strive to re-envision the whole.
Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens
John Mack, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994.
Mack, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is at the forefront of exploring the spiritual and environmental dimensions of extraterrestial consciousness. Questioning his own deeply rooted rationalistic belief system, he bears witness to cosmic mysteries that hold extraordinary implications for humankind's future.
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh
Helena Norberg-Hodge, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991.
Norberg-Hodge resided for years with the Ladakhi (Tibetan) people who lived simply and in harmony with the earth and each other. Then came industrial capital in the form of "development." She watched with horror as this ancient traditional society absorbed inflation, pollution, divisiveness, and ecological imbalance. What makes this book profound for Western readers is that through the Ladakhi experience we not only see the identical disintegration being perpetrated on other peoples throughout the world, but can come to understand the roots of our own social malaise as well.
Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture
Jeremy Rifkin, 1993.
Rifkin is a brilliant activist and Renaissance thinker. Interweaving anthropology, sociology, economics, and ecology, he outlines the staggering cost of addiction to beef: heart disease, cancer, and strokes; rainforest devastation and fertile plains turned to deserts; violence against other animals; and the injustice to the poorest peoples in the world starving for the sake of the appetites of the wealthy.
Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War
Barbara Ehrenreich, New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1997.
This highly provocative inquiry on why humans war spans pre-history through modern times. Ehrenreich's thesis is that sanctioned violence is not a result of a Darwinian killer instinct or man the great hunter myths. Rather, she postulates bloodshed became a sacralized cellular memory homage to our ability to overcome our terrifying victimhood from the jaws of large animal predators. Her wide and deep hypotheses on everything from women's blood to ritual animal sacrifice makes this a perfect book for study group discussions.
The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future
Riane Eisler, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987.
Eisler presents compelling data from prepatriarchal history to explain how patriarchal technologies of weaponry destroyed the peaceful goddess societies. She calls for a partnership relationship with men in which the feminine principle is restored to its former position of influence and power.
A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War
Susan Griffin, New York: Anchor Books, 1992.
A collage of memoir and social history, this deeply thoughtful book explores the connection between personal denial and ghastly public events. Weaving in and out of time and history, and biographies large and small, Griffin excavates the interiority of our body politic.
The Creation of Patriarchy
Gerda Lerner, New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Lerner's scholarly work relies on historical evidence from ancient Sumerian texts to illustrate the origins of Western gender relations. She traces the progressive decline of women's power, respect, and status during an era in which patriarchy was still consolidating. Lerner demonstrates that over time male dominance became a culturally created phenomenon and enforced ideology.
Sue Coe, New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1996.
Sue Coe is a popular leftist artist whose dark, blunt pictures speak volumes about the horrors of factory farms, feedlots, and the "killing floors" of slaughterhouses. With stunning precision, she captures the tragic truth underlying our meat-eating culture: the castrations, debeakings, electrocutions, and decapitations of living, sentient beings.
The Demon Lover: On The Sexuality Of Terrorism
Robin Morgan, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989.
Through a radical pacifist lens, Morgan traces the roots of violence and its modern day counterpart, terrorism. Analyzing myth, literature, and history, she ingeniously lays bare male fascination with death, the age-old cult of hero worship, and the normalization of violent behavior. Morgan asserts that female sexuality and women's "erotic intelligence" provide a blueprint for regenerating life affirming values.
Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex and Politics
Starhawk, Boston: Beacon Press, 1982.
Starhawk presents a transformative vision of the goddess to heal the spiritual and political schism between society and the individual. She advocates replacing "power over" relationships resulting in societal breakdown for "power-from-within" relationships that tap the deep sexual life force energy of the universe.
Dreaming the Past, Dreaming the Future: A Herstory of the Earth
Diane Stein, Freedom, California: The Crossing Press, 1991.
Through channelers, Stein probes our collective consciousness back to the ancient civilizations of matriarchal Mu and patriarchal Atlantis, and then into the year 2,500. According to Stein, earth is currently in quarantine until our species heals. Dismissing patriarchal New Age Armageddon theories, she claims a nonviolent ecofeminist paradigmatic shift is possible, thereby returning us as welcome members to the intergalactic community.
The Fifth Sacred Thing
Starhawk, New York: Bantam Books, 1993.
This action-packed, quasi-sci fi melodrama would make a great movie. It is set in 2048 with the world's environment ravaged. San Francisco has created a city of spiritual harmony, multicultural diversity, and a reverence for nature. In Los Angeles a wealthy white elite rules over a brutal military state. The utopia/dystopia plot allows Starhawk to explore the beauty of ecofeminism.
The God of Small Things
Arundhati Roy, New York: HarperPerennial, 1997.
Ms. Roy's first novel is an extradinary work of fiction. Characters are introduced in crypic sentences, later expanded on in paragraphs, until their lives are eventually laid bare through haunting, astonishing drama. With poetic erudition, this story of twins weaves race, class, gender, and colonialism into a gripping tragedy.
Gossips, Gorgons, & Crones: The Fates of the Earth
Jane Caputi, Santa Fe, New Mexico: Bear & Company Publishing, 1993.
Trolling popular culture, Caputi examines with great wit the national fascination for nuclear technology. At her most trenchant, she explores the atomic priests' obsession with secrecy and control, and extrapolates it into understanding the sexual abuse of women.
The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth
Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987.
This book is quintessential herstory—profound, powerful, and moving. The first 200 pages is an extraordinary compilation of women's multitudinous contributions to the survival and development of our species. The last 100 pages offer a radical analysis of Eurocentric imperialist patriarchy. Alice Walker claims Cosmic Mother is one of the most important books she has ever read.
Green Paradise Lost
Elizabeth Dodson Gray, Wellesley, Massachusetts: Round Table Press, 1979.
This is an excellent, easy-to-read study of the roots of our mythic and psycho-sexual disconnectedness from nature. Excerpting key quotes from Western philosophers, Gray documents how society inculcates anthropocentric (human-centered) values in all of us, and the negative impact this has on our relationship with nature.
Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism
Mary Daly, Boston: Beacon Press, 1978.
Deeply intellectual, always controversial, Mary Daly's profound body of work constitutes the philosophical, theological, and political underpinnings of ecofeminist thought. Deconstructing, reinventing language and reality, she re-members our consciousness back to its original, primordial, biophilic Be-ing.
In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations
Jerry Mander, San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991.
Expanding on his earlier work, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, Mander puts forth the definitive neo-Luddite rebuttal to the cyberspace drumbeat. The first half of the book is trenchant and original. Unfortunately, the second half dealing with indigenous peoples feels grafted on, like an obligatory, romanticized 101 version of the noble savage.
Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks At Cancer and the Environment
Sandra Steingraber, Reading, Massachusetts: Addison Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1997.
The Mother Machine: Reproductive Technologies From Artificial Insemination To Artificial Wombs
Gina Corea, New York: Harper & Row, 1985.
In this comprehensive study, Corea shows how patriarchy usurps women's reproductive capacities in order to solidify social control and political rule. Although somewhat dated, it remains a significant ecofeminist resource for understanding the myriad forms of technology's invasion of motherhood. Corea attributes men's obsession with reproduction to their marginal role in the process. Except for ejaculation, she sees paternity as an abstraction, while maternity is experiential and connective.
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?
Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers, New York: Penguin Books, 1996.
Picking up where Rachel Carson's Silent Spring left off, environmental scientists are finally discovering the scary truth about man-made industrial pollutants. This groundbreaking book exposes how synthetic chemicals known as endocrine disruptors are upsetting the hormonal balance of all living beings. An absolute must-read! Compared to endocrine disruptors, AIDS is going to seem like measles.
Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour
Maria Mies, London: Zed Books, Ltd., 1986.
Mies examines the historical connections between European colonialism, the witch hunts, "housewifization" and the role of women in national liberation struggles. Deconstructing Marx's theory of labor, she exposes a profound male bias in his work. One of Mies' main arguments is that both capitalist and socialist governments are economically dependent upon the relentless exploitation of women and the earth's resources.
The Politics of Women's Spirituality: Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power Within the Feminist Movement
Charlene Spretnak, ed., New York: Anchor Press, 1982.
This comprehensive collection of essays go beyond an elementary understanding of women's spirituality. A cross-section of leading feminists address personal power and self-images of strength and wholeness. The writings call for new postpatriarchal values based on the unity of politics and spirituality.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
Eckhart Tolle, Vancouver: Namaste Publishing, 1999.
This extraordinary book is utterly paradigm shifting. If I had to recommend one book to evolve our species, among all these incredible titles, The Power of Now would be it.
Rape of the Wild: Man's Violence Against Animals and the Earth
Andrée Collard with Joyce Contrucci, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1988.
Collard asserts that our entire society could not function without the continued systemic violence perpetrated daily against all nonhuman animals. Everything from the clothes we wear, to the pharmaceuticals we ingest, to the colonization of outer space, is a direct consequence of endless experiments on and exploitation of other living sentient beings.
Reweaving the Web of Life: Feminism and Nonviolence
Pam McAllister, ed. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1982.
This multicultural anthology focuses on the struggle to remain pacifist in a world where violence against women is ubiquitous. McAllister has selected writings that speak to women's anger against the patriarchy, yet caution against adopting the tools of the patriarchy (i.e., weaponry or warfare). Contributions from over fifty women maintain that our revolutionary strength lies in nonviolently fusing our rage with compassion.
A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia
Blaine Harden, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997.
An excellent read, this book is a case study in misguided development. Learn how one of America's mightiest rivers was reduced to an elaborately engineered, artificial machine. The Department of Energy is threatening to put the final nail in the coffin by turning over to developers Hanford Reach, the last free-flowing portion of the river ironically preserved by decades of nuclear secrecy.
The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory
Carol Adams, New York: Continuum, 1990.
In this cutting edge ecofeminist work, Adams brilliantly analyzes language and literature to show the connections between the oppression of women and the oppression of animals. She critiques the historically masculinist roots of a carnivorous diet and chronicles a tradition of principled vegetarianism among early feminists. Adams advocates veganism as an effective political and personal tool in the dismantlement of patriarchy.
Sisters of the Earth
Lorraine Anderson, ed., New York: Vintage Books, 1991.
This rich collection of poems, essay, stories, and journal entries is a unique compilation of women's thoughts on nature. Bypassing theory, diverse writers such as Joy Harjo, Willa Cather, Alice Walker, and Annie Dillard speak to us through the eloquent voice of experience.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collusion of Two Cultures
Anne Fadiman, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.
This true story explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of their Hmong child who has been diagnosed with severe epilepsy. The Hmong shamanic traditions run counter to the AMA-style treatment that is often enforced on all parents in this country by law. Sadly, the liberal, do-gooder doctors in the story can never seem to see beyond their own ethnocentrism to save little Lia Lee.
Two Old Women
Velma Wallis, Seattle, Washington: Epicenter Press, 1993.
A beautiful Alaskan legend of two indigenous elders abandoned by their people when things got tough. Their inspiring story of survival is a tribute to the power of all crones.
Trees Call For What They Need. Melissa Kwasny, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Spinsters Ink, 1993.
This tender novel chronicles the lives of three working class Midwestern women from young girls to old age. Interwoven throughout is their relationship to the land, capturing in essence a vivid historical portrait of the displacement of rural nature by the onslaught of urban "progress."
The Way of Compassion: Survival Strategies for a World in Crisis
Martin Rowe, ed., New York: Stealth Technologies, 1999.
This is a collection of 50 of the best articles from Satya, the superlative magazine dedicated to vegetarianism, environmentalism, and animal advocacy. One of the book's strong points is its inclusion of the spiritual component of social change. Words of wisdom on non-violence and local activism come from such contributors as Dick Gregory, Jane Goodall, and Maneka Ghandi.
Woman on the Edge of Time
Marge Piercy, New York: Doubleday, 1976.
Piercy's imaginative novel is about a working class Chicana committed to a mental institution where she is struggling to avoid a ruthless lobotomy. Able to channel into the year 2137, she experiences a remarkable ecofeminist utopia. To her horror, she also stumbles into a competing techno dystopia. This riveting work of science fiction has become a source of inspiration for all ecofeminist visionaries.
Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her
Susan Griffin, New York: Harper & Row, 1978.
An ecofeminist classic, this poetic work gave a feminist voice to the metaphor of nature as female. Forgoing dry documentation, Griffin employs lyric narrative as she weaves illuminating connections between the oppression of women and the oppression of nature. Women and Nature early on influenced many ecofeminists, and continues to do so to this day.
When God Was a Woman
Merlin Stone, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1976.
This is one of the first books to document the ancient goddess cultures of the Middle East from a feminist perspective. Uncovering "overlooked" historical information, Stone reveals the profound violence and misogyny of early patriarchy. She deconstructs biblical texts to demonstrate that patriarchy unequivocally informed the roots of Judeo-Christianity.