by The Editors
The Spring 2011 edition of On The Issues Magazine “The Ecology of Women” examines how environmental health affects women’s lives, particularly the toxins and chemicals that enter our bodies from the air, water, food and consumer products. These toxins are implicated as possible causes of conditions like cancer, early puberty, infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects. “The Ecology of Women” seeks to insert the effects of environmental toxins into conversations around women’s health, and spark collective awareness and action within the feminist and environmental justice movements.
In Acting as if Future Generations Matter, environmental lawyer and activist Carolyn Raffensperger explains that, despite mounting, and sometimes frightening, evidence of environmental harm, there is hope in adopting a precautionary principle to end the use of unregulated chemicals. The work of another modern-day pioneer, Sandra Steingraber, is heard in a video clip by the outstanding filmmaker, Chanda Chevaness, who also contributes a rich essay about her discovery of toxins in breast milk, hers and a beluga whale’s — in A Tale of Two Nursing Mothers. Theresa Noll reminds us in Moving the Silence: Rachel Carson’s Groundbreaking Work that the environmental movement came into being because of the 1962 book, Silent Spring, that exposed the dangers of DDT and shocked the world.
Three writers show us examples of women who embody ecological activism. Eleanor Bader reports on the activities of Breast Cancer Action in San Francisco, as it fights to remove synthetic hormones from milk and to protect nail salon workers from harmful chemicals. Margie Kelly tells a story about mothers who used their consumer power to force the removal of baby bottles made with a harmful chemical in Message in BPA Baby Bottles: Don’t Mess With Moms. In Little Girl Lost: Early Puberty Hides Environmental Injustice, Michelle Chen explores research on girls and the complex web of environmental and socioeconomic influences that is altering their development, along with the response of one New York community organization.
Karen Charman, in a feature especially timely with the disasters in Japan, uses her original research about the Three Mile Island nuclear power accident in Pennsylvania to explain potential harms from radioactivity in Nuclear Revival: Lessons for Women from the Three Mile Island Accident. Jacqui Patterson, in Gulf Oil Drilling Disaster: Gendered Layers of Impact, describes multiple health, family and economic gender differentials she found after the BP oil spill. Molly M. Ginty follows a trail through The Everglades, the only place in the U.S. declared an endangered site by the UN, in Swamped: Trying to Save Fragile Bodies. Elayne Clift looks at water “we all need it, but women around the world suffer in especially cruel ways when it is scarce” in Life’s Precious Trio: Women, Water and Health. Laura Eldridge explains in Adding Environmental Footprints to Birth Control Choices how to prevent pharmaceutical drugs, including the Pill, from damaging the environment.
“The Ecology of Women” features three poets selected by Poetry Co-Editor Judith Arcana, Marge Piercy, Denise Bergman and Frances Payne Adler, who describe women coping in their own perilous environments. In The Art Perspective, curated by Linda Stein, artist Mary Miss shows a unique outdoor installation in India the she designed to elevate nature and well-being.
On The Issues also offers a special tribute to groundbreaking feminist health activist Barbara Seaman, a leader of the feminist movement in bringing women’s health issues to the forefront. Various authors and advocates offer their thoughts and reflections on the late writer, including Judy Norsigian, Executive Director of Our Bodies Ourselves, Cindy Pearson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Merle Hoffman, Jennifer Baumgardner, Leora Tanenbaum and many more.