As I read through Bell Hooks’ “All about love”, I see myself underlining most of the sentences, sometimes full paragraphs. The book came at a time when I needed to put words on my thoughts and my feelings about what world I wish to fight and work for. Love as defined through the book’s chapters is the most powerful act of resistance. It represents the path through which we liberate ourselves and our communities from capitalism, imperialism and greed.
You must be wondering how. I invite you to read through the article, but mostly to feel through it. Love connects the feelings to action, love binds us to every living being and every non-living entity. Love is about the connection with the land, with kinship, with nature, with community, with the universe. Politicizing love embodies what feminist ecological economies are engaged to do.
Breaking from the overly intrusive and violent capitalist and patriarchal systems is a daunting task that requires an understanding of the dynamics that allowed these systems to impose themselves as the ‘only’ and best solution.
One angle through which this can be explained is related to economic interests and trade. International trade is ancient, and it does not begin with the World Trade Organization and globalization. It is a story as old as the expansion of human life on earth. Just like migration. Just like the connection with the land. However, the violent era of colonialism, supported by capitalist interests, has led to the greedy and unequal accumulation of wealth in the hands of the ‘few’. It has also allowed the self-appointment of the Western ‘white’ race as the superior one; the race that other groups should deform themselves into in order to ‘evolve’ in today’s world. Putting the word ‘white’ in between brackets is intentional since it does not solely refer to the color of the skin, but it should be read through an intersectional lens which widens the angle of understanding enough, to encompass class, gender and ethnic explorations as well. The act of politicizing the concept of ‘whiteness’ is crucial in subverting the binaries and the labels on which capitalism and colonialism rule.
International trade – despite the wishes of the current global order – is determined by the sovereignty of communities and exchange. Trade becomes sustainable when it respects biodiversity and nature and acknowledges the interconnectedness of all things. From atoms to planets, and everything that is in between. Fair international trade cannot take place at the expense of food security and ecological security.
The illusion of being separate from nature found a fertile ground in the global economic order. This violent separation between economy and nature, one of the core processes deployed by capitalist and patriarchal structures in order to maintain hegemony, has brought destruction and devastation to life on earth.
In the ultra-capitalist mindset ruling today’s world, the food we buy in supermarkets is regarded as an innate object, as a mere commodity. The supply chain, linking the product to the soil where it grew and to the diverse natural environment that allowed it to flourish, is intentionally masked by big companies.
Every time we eat food coming from nature, or we drink water, we must witness our interconnectedness as living beings with the earth. These acts are not merely mechanical or reduced to raw materials to be extracted. They are a confirmation that the happiness of earth is the happiness of the natural and animal worlds, and the happiness of humans.
What the world is going through today (massive human-made deforestation of the Amazon forest, monetization and privatization of access to water, etc.), is an obvious depiction of what greed and dominance can do. Five billion people will not have access to clean water within the next decade due to pollution, extraction, and mining, and other exploitative practices. This statement is enough to confirm that we are not separate from our ecosystem.
Faced with the exhaustion of natural resources and the damages caused by pushing liberalism to its extreme, despite its devastating impacts on the ecosystem, it is more urgent than ever to co-create alternative economic models that are centered around sustainability, nature and people over profits. To that end, feminist ecological economic models are constructed on the five main building blocks: (1) horizontality of power dynamics, (2) cultures of care, (3) respect of biodiversity, (4) respect of ecological limits and environmental regeneration, and (5) the integration of emotions.
In each of these building blocks, love can be recognized as a foundational and inherent aspect, without which, none can blossom. Thus, even at the personal level, love can be perceived through conscious eating and consumption. It can be embodied by refusing to be passive consumers and participate in the destruction of Earth. Love can expand through community building and creating ties with other human beings, as well as plants and trees, seas and soil. The discipline of care – a core feminist value – is indispensable for the cultivation of happiness and hope. Unconditional love for nature is the basis of life, its protection and its preservation.
Vandana Shiva, an avid eco-feminist activist, has proved through her work that the only way for humanity to survive is by reclaiming our intrinsic connection to land and soil. At the center of it all, there is love. Love as a practice. Love as action. Love as communion and community. In this realm of love, women have an essential role to play as they represent the biggest stock of care on this planet. Women who still value the connection to Earth are the bearers of the seeds for a better future.
Above all, politicizing the concept of love, hereto defined, allows individuals and groups to re-center themselves within their communities and to acknowledge that their actions, in their quantum-ness and simplicity, have an impact.
For instance, in India in the late 90s, many widowed women living in rural areas found themselves faced with the responsibility to provide for their families. They started using the small lands around their huts to grow fruits and vegetables. The movement grew quickly, and other women started to imitate them as a way to secure food autonomously. During COVID-19, not only did these women, who started the Gardens of Hope, provide their villages with food; they also started organic vegetable businesses and distribution of seeds. It all started with one woman working the land around her hut – a quantum action with a ripple effect.
This a blunt confirmation that there is an economy of working with nature and that the economic system currently ruling over us is not de-facto the only way to exist. The motto of the eco-feminist model would be: Gender Justice = Social Justice = Environmental Justice.
As the brilliant philosopher Rabindranath Tagore once put it, humans have learned democracy from the forests, and utilized it after understanding the importance of biodiversity in economics. The current globalized order concentrates power in the hands of few corporations wiping out local economies and leaving destitution everywhere. The quantum-ness of life is thus intentionally robbed from humans, as they pursue material and ephemeral interests. There is a choice to make which guarantees the protection of our interconnectedness, from the smallest to the biggest entity. The choice is all about love.
At the essence of feminist ecological economic models lies the will to question the power apparatus in place, one that is entrenched in capitalistic and patriarchal modes of existence. This is an extremely challenging path since it requires revoking privileges, power and space from those ruling the current world order. It also entails a radical change in priorities, and the dismantling of wealth accumulation and land dispossession.
However, deconstructing the current system is not enough; an alternative – or alternatives – must be created, tested, questioned, and altered. The existence of these alternatives should not only be defined as a polarized side of a binary, i.e. not solely as a system opposing the current imperialist and capitalist one. In fact, the sustainability of the opposing system can only be guaranteed through the sustainability of the current one – the other side of the same coin. What is needed is to deconstruct the current system, as carefully as possible, and to co-create new foundations soaked in love and coexistence. This represents the core work of feminist principles applied to ecological economies.
As Bell Hooks writes, ‘Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist’.
Hind Hamdan is a feminist, a lover of solidarity and a passionate lover of the sea. She is a gender and socio-economic development specialist with over 12 years of professional experience. She is also a trainer who works on transformational principles and processes.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.