The Good Housekeeping Award

While women have had to fight their way to the top of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and The Wilderness Society, history shows that almost all the major grassroots environmental movements in the United States were started and led by women. Why? The quality of their daily lives and the lives of their children was shaped by the health or filth of their neighborhoods.

Women-led community-based movements were strong, effective, and hard to break because of one-on-one conversations, women’s intimate connectedness and personal experience with the issues, and their desire to build solid relationships around the information they gained. As one indigenous activist from New Mexico said in Robert Bullard’s book Unequal Protection, "We deal with the whole of life and community; we’re not separated, we’re born into it—we are it."

Post-colonial environmentalism started in the United States in the 1880s. The "common good" approach to environmental ethics was developed from a blend of the older indigenous spiritual traditions of the American West, predominantly those of the Ute Indian nation and their contact with the Mormons. The "laws of land stewardship" dictated that there should be cooperative use of land and water to benefit the whole community.

This anti-riparian philosophy came eastward, taking hold in industrial centers and giving birth to the urban environmental ethic: Industry and manufacturers had a responsibility to the health and welfare of their workers and to the communities in which they were located.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1997
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