Beyond Mothering Earth - Ecological Citizenship and the Politics of Care

Article excerpt

Beyond Mothering Earth - Ecological Citizenship and the Politics of Care Sherilyn MacGregor UBC Press, pp 286, CAD 22.00

Reviewed by Reggie Modlich

Beyond Mothering Earth provides a feminist analysis of existing ecofeminist and environmentalist theories relating to caring in and for the earth; it also offers a positive direction for the future. The North shares far greater responsibility both for causing and potentially mitigating looming climate changes. Being a white, middle-class feminist from the North, concerned with the state of our environment, Beyond Mothering Earth touches many deeply felt experiences and quandaries that have been gnawing at the back of my mind for years. Another major plus - MacGregor's book wrote her book in a style that non-academics can understand it.

Most significantly, MacGregor focuses on caring from domestic chores to mothering. For most women, it's a huge, complex, and conflicting component of our lives. Theorists often overlook the complexity, magnitude, value, and, most of all, the legitimacy and necessity of caring work. Some ecofeminist theorists go as far as ascribing women's traditional care giving role to the maternalistic nature of women. This is a treacherous concept that plays into the most reactionary and fundamentalist interests, absolving men and, for that matter, the public sphere from sharing responsibility for care giving.

Environmentalists too frequently acquiesce to the increasingly loud neo-liberal choir assigning responsibility for protecting or "caring for" the environment to individuals and their lifestyles, i.e. women in their homes. While creating awareness and acting to protect the environment at the individual household level has value, I did feel Beyond Mothering Earth could have pointed more strongly to the limitations of saving the environment at the level of the private household. Complicity of governments at all levels with corporate interests is an important part of the environmental context in capitalist economies. Although not the book's focus, this factor could have been stressed more forcefully.

MacGregor presents her research by giving voice to actual women. In this way Beyond Mothering Earth, reverberates strongly in all of us women readers. The author confirms that limits and contradictions in the realities, identities, and experiences have come to co-exist in the lives of most women. While real in the life of the individual woman, MacGregor feels that "it is questionable whether 'lived experiences' will provide sufficient insight into macro-political problems or global ecological developments like climate change, (p130)." Theorists need to come to terms with the contradictions, relativity, and limitations of lived experiences and also transcend the bondage of age-old patriarchal dualistic thought to arrive at dynamic and valid theories. …