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1. Origins of 'tree hugger'
The (sometimes dismissive, now mainstream) use of the term tree hugger to describe environmental activists originates with the Chipko movement in India in the 1970s, led by village women. Women in World History explains:
In the 1980s the ideas of the Chipko movement spread, often by women talking about them at water places, on village paths, and in markets. Women decided they were not powerless; there were actions they could take and a movement which would support them. Songs and slogans were created.
In one the contractor says:
"You foolish village women, do you know what these forest bear?
Resin, timber, and therefore foreign exchange!"
The women answer:
"Yes, we know. What do the forests bear?
Soil, water, and pure air,
Soil, water, and pure air."
2. Vandana Shiva
No list like this could be complete with mentioning Vandana Shiva, an early and tireless ecofeminist. She was also active in the Chipko movement, (see above). Her books, including Staying Alive and Ecofeminism
have made a crucial contribution to ecofeminist thought and practice.
According to the UN's Who's Who of Women and the Environment:
In 1982, she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. This institute is dedicated to high quality and independent research to address the most significant ecological and social issues of our times, in close partnership with local communities and social movements. Initiatives of this foundation are the organic farming programme Navdanya, the Bija Vidyapeeth (or Seed University, International College for Sustainable Living), and 'Diverse Women for Diversity'.
The movement Navdanya focuses on biodiversity conservation and farmers' rights. 'Navdanya' means nine crops that represent India's collective source of food security. The main aim of the Navdanya biodiversity conservation programme is to support local farmers, rescue and conserve crops and plants that are being pushed to extinction and make them available through direct marketing. Navdanya is actively involved in the rejuvenation of indigenous knowledge and culture. It has created awareness on the hazards of genetic engineering, defended people's knowledge from biopiracy and food rights in the face of globalization. It has its own seed bank and organic farm spread over 20 acres in Uttranchal, northern India.
You can see some of the work her NGO Navdanya is doing on climate change here.
The Green Belt Movement
Nobel-prize-winner and the first woman in East or Central Africa to get a PhD, Wangari Maathai (left, photo by Mary Davidson) started the Green Belt Movement with the National Council of Women of Kenya, which has now planted more than 35 million trees.
The Independent ran a long profile of Maathai, explaining the whole story, which is well worth reading. About the origins of the Green Belt Movement, it says:
It was at this personal midnight that she returned to the small seeds she had begun to plant years before. She decided to urge women to plant whole forests. She wanted to see an entire new green belt across Kenya nurtured by women.
She managed to persuade international aid organisations to pay women a very small sum - around 2p - for successfully planting each tree. At first, local men scoffed. What could women do? How could they make trees grow? What did this belong in our traditions? But women were soon organising themselves from village to village into independent committees. "We started by planting trees, but soon we were planting ideas! We were showing women could be an independent force. That they were strong."