While Merchant never uses the word ecofeminism in her book, a decade later ecofeminist professors Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein deliberately embrace it in order to thoroughly explore its effects and meaning. Their Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism not only exposes the ideological links between the oppressive exploitation of both nature and women in Western culture, but also examines whether women are thereby uniquely positioned, in this time of escalating ecological disaster, to radically redefine humanity’s rightful position within the ecosphere. The collected essays, written by both women and men, deliberately apply an intriguing mix of academic rigor and poetic visionary intuition which speaks to me of a healthy refusal of tired old patriarchal conventions regarding the rigidly discrete nature of feminine intuition and logical masculinity.
For example, Christ’s crisply-reasoned reflection both exemplifies her ecofeminist roots and rationally advances the radical suggestion of a conscious universe. Similarly, professor and process theologian Catherine Keller, in an essay examining fundamentalist Christianity’s deeply problematic role in justifying capitalistic excess, lucidly warns against a romanticizing of women’s traditional roles, suggesting instead the powerfully relational nature of ecofeminist thought.
The various essays cover a widely divergent span of perspectives, rigorously analyzing this conceptually socio-spiritual movement sparked by the collaborative union of radical feminism, the anti-nuclear ecology movement, and women’s spirituality. Through an examination of the ecofeminist movement’s history to date, authors endeavor to properly situate the human within nature, asking culturally troublesome questions regarding the ontological and axiological basis of society’s current woman- and nature-denying philosophy. Several essays also explicate ecofeminism’s epistemologically unique perspective, such as women’s studies professor Ynestra King’s perceptive analysis of the methodologies of both socialist and cultural feminists. Rather than the ideological limitation of applying patriarchal dualisms to resolve the very issues they create, she offers ecofeminism as an epistemological resolution which transcends the hierarchical conflation of woman with nature, instead formulating a dynamic conceptualization of personhood which is both embodied and embedded in nature.
While there is only one essayist who addresses the international scope of the gender/nature problematic which the book attempts to address — Vandana Shiva, with her articulate exploration of Western maldevelopment — a number of authors of color are an indicator of ecofeminism’s profound influence and future potential. Most personally inspiring are the examples of ecofeminist philosophy transformed into concrete activism. Vocal artist and composer Rachel L. Bagby’s moving interview-essay highlights creative solutions to inner city anomie, through her mother’s determined transformation — with the help of neighbors — of five acres of vacant lots into healthy, life-enhancing vegetable and flower gardens. Also exciting was African American professor Cynthia Hamilton’s essay, which noted that an anti-incinerator campaign organized by black and Latina women in a poor Los Angeles neighborhood eventually counted even nearby middle class women among its activist-members. It appears to be through similarly empowering local activism on issues which will end up affecting broader numbers of people that ecofeminists can best realize their efforts to repair and heal community, society, and world.