By Contributor on April 21, 2012

By Yifat Susskind

This Earth Day, as we grapple with the reality of climate change, we can take heart in the initiatives that many women are taking to overcome it.

We can look back on a year of record-breaking extreme weather on every continent and raging conflict over natural resources. These are the symptoms of a global crisis that threatens the very viability of our planet. But we are also on the verge of another tipping point, as hopeful as the threat is grave.

More and more people are realizing that we cannot continue to live outside the laws of nature. They see that we have the capability to reinvent our economies and lifestyles on a sustainable basis and in ways that safeguard human rights. Increasingly, people are focused on creating concrete, realizable solutions that are both local and systemic.

Women are at the center of this movement to reset the course of the world. Working through local organizations in every region, women are improving health systems, combating hunger and poverty, preserving biodiversity, mitigating climate change and demanding human rights.

In Nicaragua, women are developing small-scale, organic family farms.

In Kenya, women are leading projects to dig wells and build pipelines for access to clean water.

In Sudan, women farmers hit hard by climate change are unionizing to demand the resources and training they need to earn income and develop their communities.

Women have always been at the center of both economy and ecology. Both words come from the Greek term for household — the arena of women’s traditional roles as primary caretakers of families and communities. Even today, in nearly every society, women are mainly responsible for providing families with healthy food, clean water and — particularly in the Global South — sufficient fuel. These resources depend on the health of the environment, and that’s why women play such a vital role.

But the ecosystems that have always provided food and energy have been exploited to their breaking points. That’s because our global economy is irrational and amoral: It seeks infinite growth on a finite planet without regard for people’s well-being.

Today, our success depends on rejecting an economic model that prioritizes profit above all else. In its place, we can look to the nascent solutions that women are developing in communities worldwide.

Yifat Susskind is the executive director of MADRE. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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