WECAN co-founder and Executive Director Osprey Orielle Lake noted, “How we treat the earth is how we treat women. It’s a violent paradigm.”
Each year in September, New York City plays host to top changemakers who come to town for the United Nations General Assembly and related gatherings. It’s a heady time for setting agendas.
At the Church Center of the United Nations on September 29, The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) presented a four-hour symposium entitled, Women Speak: Climate Justice on the Road to Paris & Beyond.
The voices were dynamic and there was a palpable sense in the room that women in unison could create a tipping point on moving the needle.
WECAN co-founder and Executive Director Osprey Orielle Lake set the tone for the event, both in her opening remarks and through insights delivered during the proceedings. She had no reticence about calling out what she qualified as an “old construct” — the “institution of patriarchy.” Lake noted, “How we treat the earth is how we treat women. It’s a violent paradigm.”
Lake believes that what ensues after Paris will be critical. “Women’s voices are key to changing this equation. Our red line is to protect future generations. We’re not going to stop speaking out,” she stated with urgency.
Drawing a correlation between women’s “love for their children” and the “emotional and spiritual selves women bring to the table,” Lake pointed to how “bottom-up action can scale.”
“Women tell me all the time, ‘We are the solution. We are the key to sustainability.’ ” Lake emphasized, “We need to get women in the driver’s seat and at policy level.”
Lake accentuated two facts reiterated by the other speakers:
In addition to referencing the “healing nature of women,” Lake was quick to pronounce, “We also have a sword in our hands.”
A key piece of The Women’s Climate Declaration (ratified September 2013), is a sentence in the preamble declaring:
“Among the most severely vulnerable to climate change are women, Indigenous Peoples, and those who live in extreme poverty.”
These words are a clarion call to the “moral imperative” piece of the climate crisis. It focuses on structuring a response to challenges through an environmental justice prism, which clearly identifies the damage being done to “frontline communities.”
Women activists from affected populations were front and center on the first panel.
Melina Laboucan-Massimo, from the Northern Alberta area in Canada, is Lubicon Cree. She spoke about the tar sands extraction devastating her region. It has been the source of oil spills, “dead zones” that remain contaminated, and water systems being used as dumping grounds. Her documentation included photos of deformed, mutated fish. Showing slides of solar panel installations being installed to power a local health center, she said, “We’re using energy that is not devastating to our planet.”
Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, Jacqui Patterson, told of her experiences growing up in Chicago in close proximity to three coal-fired plants. She pointed to the linkages and intersectionality of issues like food justice and the siting of poisonous sites. She asked rhetorically, “Who is making the decisions? Who are the drivers of these environmental inequities?”
Indigenous Kichwa leader, Patricia Gualinga Montalvo, communicated through an interpreter about her fight to protect the integrity of her people’s land in Ecuador against a slew of international oil companies.
Thilmeeza Hussain, founder of Voice of Women, related the situation facing the inhabitants of her country, the Maldives, islands off the coast of India. “We are thinking about our survival, our existence,” Hussain said. “There’s nothing to negotiate when it comes to global warming.”
Repeating that premise in an emotionally charged delivery, Cherri Foytlin talked passionately about conditions on the ground in South Louisiana, an area hard hit by elevated cancer rates brought on by industrial toxicity. “I’m living in a sacrifice zone, which means my life and my kids don’t mean anything. People think it’s about pollution. For us it’s about survival.” Reflecting on the oil infrastructure that is impacting her neighbors, Foytlin delivered a strong statement that did not mince words:
“This world is driven by extraction. It’s part of rape culture and colonization. We have to shift the power back to the people. It’s a time of choices and changes. Find your resistance story. Find a way to dismantle and reconstruct. Find your power. Make a plan.”
Women around the globe need to be made aware of all the narratives.
The reason is simple.
We are all interconnected. Women must recognize their commonalities as they search for solutions. Every story is valid. They all need to be heard — individually and in unison.
This article originally appeared on Moms Clean Air Force
No matter how desperately certain legislators hold on to their entrenched beliefs that climate change is not happening and that human action has no consequences in the equation, there are plenty who beg to differ. This includes 97 percent of scientists, and military analysts who have warned that droughts and rising oceans will lead to population displacement and global unrest.
Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath — Force of Nature at Wave Hill in the Bronx brings together twelve artists who have their fingers on the pulse of this issue. The exhibit is part of a linked presentation by the Fairfield Westchester Museum Alliance.
The calm of the 28-acre public gardens, which overlooks the Hudson and the Palisades, is the essence of nature’s beauty at rest.
Inside, the tumultuous imagery is a different story.
McGregor introduced the conversation, noting that Wave Hill had chosen to specifically investigate the wrath of nature as, “Nature is so much bigger than us.” Guzman remarked that the works presented were primarily paintings — referencing the long tradition that deals with this theme.
Peabody introduced her piece by discussing her concern with weather patterns. In 1974, her town was destroyed by a tornado. While her house was left standing, it led her to question the subjects of fate, devastation, rebirth, and regeneration.
Her site-specific installation incorporates outside greenery, riffing off of the ivy that climbs the exterior walls of the Glyndor Gallery. Using the fireplace and adjacent window as a jumping off place for her sculpture, Peabody explained that she wanted viewers to question, “What happened here?”
Peabody replicates the growth pattern of the outside ivy, while contrasting it with her copper leaves — each one hand-cut and soldered on to the trailing, constructed vines. She achieves a range of tonalities by applying a chemical solution to individual pieces. Using ivy samples from the grounds, Peabody incorporated natural occurrences, such as insects and spider webs. The viewer is presented with a dialogue between the plant life and the human activity of building a fire. In the end, although the sculpture clearly speaks to destruction and devastation, the beauty of the overall piece captures the primal instinct towards life and hope.
Heffernan, known for her female figures and still life canvases filled with art historical and symbolic references, believes in “the power of an image to affect the viewer.” Her landscapes, as she elaborated, present themselves via an internal “image streaming process.” Acknowledging the impact of literary sources, Heffernan related that she has been influenced by Elizabeth Kolbert’s series on climate change. Heffernan asked and answered rhetorically, “Will nature recover? It may, but will we be here?”
Akin to Peabody, Heffernan has a deep engagement with disintegration and regeneration. “It’s the idea of what do we want to keep versus what do we want to dispense with,” she said. In Millennium Burial Ground, Heffernan portrays what she defines as a “human decentered world.” It is clear that the featured wolves have “agency.” There are sub-paintings revealing political subtext, and an encompassing lushness whether the subject is foliage, wildlife, or architecture.
In Self-Portrait on the Edge, destruction and rebuilding co-exist. Military jeeps painted with a camouflage design wind around a path leading to a grouping of boulders. Tiny human figures stand atop the rubble, as what appears to be molded toy figures with guns peek out from crevices. Ladders leading from one level to another suggest upward movement. The uprooted Lincoln Monument and a truckload of broken Buddhist sculptures are part of the wreckage. It brings to mind the current trajectory of ISIS, as they seek to control history and remembrance through a decimation of iconic sculptural figures.
Kent Monkman uses the actions and emotions of animals to convey a new hierarchy as well. In Study for Bad Medicine, bears roam in a suburban neighborhood. Three of them head in different directions. The one standing upright, in the position of a Homo sapien, makes his presence known through roaring. Perhaps it is in reaction to the splayed figure in front of him. A dropped purse reveals scattered items including perfume, lipstick and a bottle of pills. What appears to be a dart gun suggests that the fallen body has been tranquilized and overcome.
Monkman, who hails from Canada and has Cree and Irish heritage, incorporates iconography from both native and European traditions. A flying Renaissance angel breaks up the spatial façade of a residence. Three cubs cling to what appears to be a telephone pole. Yet, the top is clearly carved in the style of an indigenous culture, suggesting otherwise. Close examination shows bushes that double as contemporary infantry soldiers, as well as a native chief.
Amer Kobaslija also brings specific personal history to his narratives. Growing up in war-torn Bosnia, Kobaslija portrays the ravages left behind in the wake of catastrophes. He has captured the aftermath of global upheavals from Fukushima to Hurricane Sandy battered Staten Island.
In House Near the End of Kissam Avenue, Kobaslija captures the overwhelm and psychological despair in his view of a home that has been reduced to rubble. Small accents of orange and red underscore the personal items — among tones of ochres, browns, and bluish greys depicting the structural refuse.
Employing vibrant colors and narrative scope, the cut paper on wood works of Brian Adam Douglas read, from a distance, like paintings. A Sort of Homecoming conveys the destruction and chaos left behind by a weather event. Storm clouds to the left of the perimeter give way to blue skies on the extreme right. There is detritus (some floating) of a pre-existing life — from tires to a teddy bear doll. A woman braces herself against a remaining wall, the flocked designed paper still intact. Is she holding on or standing firm? Douglas manages to convey both devastation and the potential for a new beginning.
The continuous cycle of birth and death, growth and decay, and ultimately the question of whether the co-existence of nature and humans is viable are manifested in Jon Rappleye’s Before the Dawn. Melding the look of a Durer print with the phantasmagoria of Dali, Rappleye surrounds his “creature” with birds, insects, and flowers — all rendered with intense detail. Although the skull is being transversed by worms, one eye is intact and gazes directly out at the viewer. The flesh of a hand gives way to a radial bone, which in turn becomes a tree-like structure. An owl resides in a crevice, a snake coils from torso to shoulder, and small, rodent-like animals inhabit within the form as well. Is this the future of humanity, or merely the end?
Creatives have become increasingly proactive in the environmental space, visualizing for the public what could be around the corner if policy isn’t reset to address current challenges.
Wrath — Force of Nature proves to be a good starting point for engaging a conversaton.
Exhibiting artists: Diane Burko, Brian Adam Douglas, Angela Dufresne, Julie Heffernan, Amer Kobasilja, Kent Monkman, Tameka Norris, Brian Novatny, David Opdyke, Anne Peabody, Jon Rappleye and Alexis Rockman
Through September 7, 2015
675 West 252nd Street
Bronx, New York
Thursday night I live Tweeted the Republican debate. In response to Megyn Kelly’s opening question to candidate Donald Trump, I wrote:
Okay. Full disclosure. I don’t watch Fox News. I’m an MSNBC kind of girl. Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Melissa Harris-Perry are my peeps. But I do know who Megan Kelly is, albeit from clips on Jon Stewart, (What are we going to do without him?) where he highlighted some of her more puzzling statements like, “Jesus was white.”
However, Ms. Kelly showed her mettle facing the Republican lineup when she took on Trump right out of the gate, calling him on his all too frequent disparagement of women. (I made a note to self to find that New York Times Magazine that had her as a cover story, somewhere in a pile on my “to read” table.)
Question: “Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.’ ”
Trump interrupted Kelly with what he considered a laugh line:
“Only Rosie O’Donnell.”
Needless to say, it got the requisite guffaws from the audience.
Kelly was not deterred. She moved ahead replying, “No, it wasn’t.”
As Kelly tried to get out a comment about his use of Twitter, he kept trying to interject, get the last word, and milk the audience for applause. (It worked.)
But Kelly kept steamrolling ahead. She continued:
“For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell. Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”
Not being a fan of Celebrity Apprentice, the “knee comment” was new to me, and when I heard it, I actually gasped.
I already knew that Trump was a schmuck and an equal opportunity offender. His repertoire for insulting people consists of a litany of well-worn phrases that include:
The latter is my all-time favorite. Most of these phrases would be expected on an elementary schoolyard playground (beyond earshot of the teacher), but Trump still carries them — proudly — in his toolbox. Delivered along with a shrug, some hand jive, and an accent that sounds more Jersey Shore than Queens, New York, he is a prime example of the saying: “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Back to Kelly. I certainly don’t agree with her on a lot. I also think she’s an attractive woman who would have been just as dynamic as a brunette. (Think Angie Harmon as the District Attorney on Law & Order.) But being a bottle blonde doesn’t make her a bimbo…and that’s where Trump was on his post-election retweets. For his original comments about Kelly via his Twitter stream, he wrote:
“Wow, @megynkelly really bombed tonight. People are going wild on twitter! Funny to watch.” 2:40 AM – 7 Aug 2015
Soon after he followed up with:
Trump can go around telling people, “I think Megyn behaved very nasty to me,” but it really makes him sound like a crybaby. Not the tough negotiator that he claims he will be with Putin, China, and Iran.
Note to Trump and his handlers: Stats from the National Women’s Political Caucus:
Yeah, I know. We’re all stupid.
This article originally appeared on the website Ravishly
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