Asian Women as an Important Agency to Change the Culture of Destroy
by Dr. Jasmin Nario-Galace
I had the opportunity to do my MA abroad. That was when I was young like many of you here. The dissimilarity between the economic and social environment here and where I studied stared me at the face.
That was more than 23 years ago, but I remember many incidents where I saw the stark contrast between living in the affl’uent North and the global South.
One of these incidents I remember was the university’s anniversary that was held in the football field. All 8,000 students were invited for an afternoon of games, food and fireworks. Thousands of hotdogs, burgers, corn on the cob, apples and oranges flooded the venue and many of my classmates, like me, who were from the Global South had our fill. After the event, garbage trucks came to collect thousands of uneaten food. I was shocked. I went to one of the collectors and argued that the food was still clean and was definitely not garbage and if they could please not throw them away. He just looked at me and continued putting the leftover food into the trash. My classmates from Sri Lanka, Kenya, Palestine and I started saving what we could putting them all in our bags but alas, we could only save a few.
The incident left me upset and somewhat angry. My country (Philippines) is a country where so many people are deprived of enjoying decent meals and there they were, throwing food that could have saved a lot of people here from hunger. That experience was only one of the many where I saw how resources were used in excess; where resource wastage disturbed and haunted me. As I was reflecting on the theme of this year’s forum “Women, Family and Ecological Sustainability,” many such memories of excessive utilization of resources came back, This theme, indeed, is very relevant, if we want the Commons to be saved from further tragedy.
Women, Family and Ecological Sustainability are three different constructs, but definitely related to one another. I see ecological sustainability as the end considering how the Earth is shamelessly utilized. I see the women as agency to attain this end, and I see the family as space where women can use this agency. Why women? It must be because Earth is referred to as our Mother. And Mother Earth, like our mothers, sustains, nurtures and cares- attributes though socially constructed and ascribed to women from the process of socialization- are indeed what the Earth gives to us. It sustains our needs. It yields fruits that make sure we have food, clothing and shelter, among other resources that keep us thriving. So much like our mothers. Our mothers who nursed us in their bosoms to sustain us; mothers who cared for us and nurtured us in our families.
Women, then, can be a very important agency of change to help reverse the culture of domination that destroys our ecological base. And where can this agency be primarily utilized? In the family, in the home, where the values of ecological sustainability are first learned. My husband, who is the bigger environmental advocate between us, would often tell me about his mother who always told them of the concept of “sapat” or “sufficient”. He often told me of his mother who prepared and
apportioned just the right amount of food for the members of the family; of his mother who taught all of them simplicity of lifestyle.
My husband has brought forward these learnings to our family. Hence, our pantry and refrigerator have just the right amount of food. Hardly do we have anything in excess. Our household help cooks only what we can consume. If there is leftover, this is put in the fridge and is to be eaten again.
Indeed, at home, hardly do we put anything to waste, thanks to my husband who was trained by a mother who lived the value of “sapat” or “just enough”.
Indeed, the family, the home is the space where values can be learned and engrained. If the values of simplicity of lifestyle, sufficiency and conservation of resources are learned in the family, these values may be carried forward by the young to other spheres of interaction- to their school, their work, or their community.
Individuals who did not learn these values early on are more predisposed to consumerism; to overconsumption that lead to the overutilization of resources from our ecological base. They are more likely to support a lifestyle that will harm the ecosystem. They are more likely to be anthropo/
centrists who see themselves as above or are separate from the Earth- and not part of it. Hence, they cannot be guardians or stewards of God’s creation. They tend to be users- extracting from wherever they could.
Hence, we are all called to action- and women are called to lead the way in sustaining the ecology. Women are called to lead the way in teaching the young that the Earth is our homeland and is therefore to be cared for and loved. We are called to advocate and model simplicity of lifestyle. We are called to teach our children that the culture of individuality and insistence on personal freedom can prevent us from examining the effects of our choices on others and on the world around us. We are called to campaign for accountability from those who destroy our Common Home. We are called to lead the way to a new beginning.