Follow-up Friday: The Environment is a Reproductive Justice Issue

by Courtroom Mama on April 23, 2010

When I posted yesterday, I considered talking a little bit about how environmentalism is a reproductive justice issue. I eventually decided against it but, conveniently, the National Women’s Law Center took it on for me. I’m not really talking about ecofeminism, a particularly essentialist form of feminism that I generally can’t even read about because my eyes are too busy rolling uncontrollably (although I’m willing to try if someone can provide me with a primer that doesn’t use the words “earth” and “mother” within two words of each other). Rather, I’m talking about the intersection between Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice, beautifully articulated by this factsheet from NWLC and the Law Students for Reproductive Justice. The basic thesis is this: if you care about reproduction, you also have to care about the effects of the environment on our ability to prevent pregnancy and bear and raise children.

Thanks in part to the ouster of the flat earth mentality that concern about the mutual effects between humans and the environment is “speculative” or “alarmist,” this is an issue that has been gaining an increasing amount of attention. As the primary carers and sole gestators of children, bio-women are particularly impacted by certain environmental issues, and uniquely burdened by reproductive policies intended to curb environmental depletion.

Some of these things, I think most mothers have already considered as they worriedly pause before popping a tupperware into a microwave; for example, an an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof asks whether exposing developing brains to toxins causes autism. Assuming, of course, that they have the privilege of owning a microwave, much less worrying about tupperware instead of the Superfund site next to which they are supposed to be raising their kids. Other issues, such as NAPAWF’S work on the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance to protect the reproductive health of women in the beauty industry, or Sharon Astyk’s prolific writings on how peak oil is a women’s issue, are so far beyond my ken that I had to do a double take. I’m not anything that could be mistaken for granola, but having kids has definitely increased my sense of urgency about not leaving a scorched and salted earth behind me when I leave this planet.

So in the continuing spirit of making “every day Earth Day,” I hope you brilliant folks will consider the ways in which the ways we affect our environment affect us.