Ecofeminsim and the Act of Theoretical Praxis

I recently completed a philosophy course in Environmental Ethics. It was immensely insightful and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Below is a short essay I wrote in response to Janis Birkeland’s article “Ecofeminism: Linking Theory and Practice,” which was included in the book, Ecofeminism: Animals, Women, Nature, addressing the relationship between theory and practice. I have attached a pdf of Birkeland’s original article directly below. I encourage you to read her text and then, my reply and response. I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to comment! I always greatly appreciate your feedback.

Ecofeminism_Linking Theory and Practice


In his book, Ecology without NatureTimothy Morton writes the following:

From an environmental point of view, this is not a good time…The sky is falling, the globe is warning, the ozone hole persists; people are dying of radiation poisoning and other toxic agents; species are being wiped out , thousands per year; coral reefs have nearly all gone. Huge globalized corporations are making bids for the necessities of life from water to health care. Environmental legislation is being threatened around the world. What a perfect opportunity to sit back and reflect on ideas (10).

While Morton’s comments have a note of sarcasm, Morton assuringly suggests that, in fact, “there could be no better time” for reflection (10). Indeed, Morton implores that we “must reflect – theorize, in the broadest sense,” especially “Since ecology and ecological politics are beginning to frame other kinds of science, politics, and culture, we must take a step back and examine some of ecology’s ideological determinants” (10). Morton highlights that while “There is an ideological injunction to act ‘Now!’, there is a futility and a toxicity in the ‘act now’ imperative (117). In this way, Morton points out that “There is a meme that theory is the opposite of practice (117), however, this is a pathological fragmentation and a false binary. “If we value life,” as Janis Birkeland explains, “then we must transform the cultural and institutional infrastructure – our frameworks of thinking, relating, and acting” (15). To do this we are then “tasked with slowing down, using our minds to find out what this all means” (Morton, 117). In short, we must practice theorizing.

In this regard, as Janis Birkeland demonstrates in her essay, “Ecofeminism: Linking Theory and Practice, ” from the book Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature, an ecofeminist paradigm can help us to redress the historical split between experiential/individual and critical/institutional orientations,” which, “On a practical level,…can enable us to link environmental theory and practice,…to develop new strategies for social change” (16). This breaks the dualism that arbitrarily rests between theory and practice. Theory, then, is neither the enemy nor the opposite of practice, nor is practice the antithesis of theory. Theory is practice and practice is theory. Theorization is a kind of activism. It is an activity. Theory is a form of political demonstration and “political analysis” (Birkeland, 18). It is the necessary means in which to “uncover our ‘blind spot,’ or what we are denying,” that is “what we are trained not to see” (32).
“[U]ltimately,” then, “theory is not supposed to make you a ‘better person’ in any sense. It is supposed to expose hypocrisy,… to examine the ways in which ideological illusions maintain their grip” (Morton, 12).
Birkeland, Janis. “Ecofeminism: Linking Theory and Practice.” Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, and Nature. Ed. Greta Gaard. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010. Print.
Morton, TimothyEcology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. Print.
—. The Ecological Thought. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010. Print.

One response to “Ecofeminsim and the Act of Theoretical Praxis

  1. Pingback: 처음 읽는 페미니스트 환경 철학 – 1. 핵심 용어와 차이 | 나무평의회

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