Womennature

Ecofeminist theory makes a highly important contribution to this study. The common realm is not a patriarchal construct nor is it sex/gender blind. The healing of the relations between 'humanity' and nature does not turn upon the fracturing of women's lives nor does the production of nature exclude its reproduction. I have already noted that the requirement to rethink the relations between nature, humanity and God has been proposed in ecofeminist religious thinking. Further, ecofeminist commitments have already been presented: in chapter 2, the model of production was expanded to include vital issues concerning the reproduction of the human. In this chapter certain aspects of ecofeminist philosophy will be considered. Ecofeminism merits treatment at this point in the argument because the theoretical development of ecofeminism has been secured partly by way of the critique of deep ecology.1

Important though these considerations are, the crucial contribution that this political theology of nature learns from ecofeminism is the theme of the 'agency of nature'. As Donna Haraway notes: 'Ecofeminists have perhaps been most insistent on some version of the world as active subject.'2 Of course, such a view of the agency of nature is deeply consonant with the common realm of nature, humanity and God: the tendencies and movements of nature in a mutual yet asymmetrical dynamic indicate activities with which un/natural humanity interacts. Humanity indwells nature;

2. Donna J. Haraway, 'Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective', in Simians, Cyborgs and Women:TheReinvention of Nature (London: Free Association Books, 1991), pp. 183-201 (p. 199).

nature indwells humanity. However, this account of the co-constitution of nature and humanity - of humanity and nature as co-emergents in a realm sourced to the activity, ground and force of God - is not well presented in standard ecotheology. In political-ideological interpretation, by contrast, the radicality of the co-sociality of humanity and nature privileges the theme of the encounter of nature and humanity. Nature inhabits humanity, humanity inhabits nature: ecofeminism enables political theology of nature to relearn the insight of the agency of nature.3

Moreover, there are important affinities between the theological concept of the common realm and the philosophical commitments of some ecofeminisms. In what way.? In a memorable formulation, Ariel Salleh proposes an ecofeminist analytic thus: M[en]/W[omen] = N[ature].4 And this schema has the following valuation: 1/0, in which M has the value of 1 and W and N the value of 0. The strength of ecofeminist analysis is here depicted: there can be no crossing by women over the patriarchal forward-slash to join men, for after such a journey Nature would still be awarded the value, nil. Yet, on account of the forced association of'Women' with 'Nature', certain epistemic benefit may accrue to those women who act as mediators of nature to men.5

To move onward, the relations between Women, Nature and Men must be transformatively reshaped. Therein lies the connection with the common realm of God, nature and humanity: as we have seen, implicit in this concept is the rethinking of the relations between humanity and nature on account of their mutual orientation towards the triune God who is also their author. The significant conceptual advance secured by the common realm is to make problematic the relations between humanity and nature; to suggest that because both are orientated towards God a political theology of nature is free to reconsider the relations between humanity and nature; to present humanity and nature according to their mutual inter-dependencies as well as modes oftranscendence.

Ecofeminist thought is here especially interesting on account of a certain homology between its commitments and the political theology of nature being presented here: the former proposes a double move which seeks the affirmation ofnature but not the re-emphasis ofthe association

3. It is instructive that in his Redeeming the Time: A Political Theology of the Environment (New York: Continuum, 1997), ch. 5, Stephen Bede Scharper overlooks this point.

4. Ariel Salleh, Ecofeminism as Politics:Nature, Marx and the Postmodern (London: Zed Books, 1997), pp. 35-49.

5. See Salleh, Ecofeminism asPolitics; Vandana Shiva, Staying Alive; Mary Mellor, Feminism and Ecology (New York University Press, 1997).

of women with nature which devalues both,6 the latter encourages and supports a view of nature's agency and telos in God in a linked, but not identical, manner to humanity's agency and end. A certain parallel is operative here: the common realm seeks to locate human society within natural society, but sees both as authored by and oriented towards God; ecofeminism seeks to affirm the place of humanity in nature, but notes the gendered way this has commonly been done, to the devaluation and domination ofboth women and nature.

Materially, ecofeminism requires the expansion of the theme of production to include reproduction. The identity of the human in the common realm includes reproductive activities: procreation, and the fulfilment of basic needs (food, water, shelter). To ignore these reproductive activities is to ignore the ways in which, as Ariel Salleh puts it, women mediate nature to men. As I hope to make clear shortly, I reject those attempts to secure mystical or intuitive connections between women and nature.7 Instead, the case made here draws on the social/ist side of ecofeminism: Salleh writes of the labour of women as a bridge between men and nature as part of the 'women-nature-labour nexus'; Mary Mellor argues for a 'material relation' between women and nature. That there is a deep and persistent set of connections between the domination of nature and the subjugation of women is the basic claim of ecofeminism. What follows is a brief excursus on how I shall understand this claim towards the sexing/gendering of the common realm.8

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