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Strong Rural Women on Climate: Gathering to Listen and Learn

We gathered women to talk about the connection to the land and climate. We learned that women innately understand that CLIMATE is personal.

We decided to turn in a new direction for the next round of Strong Women focus groups. We know that all around the world women and girls are making enormous contributions to creating solutions to the climate crisis we currently face. It’s not a big surprise that the most promising solutions to the climate crisis are rooted in feminist principles. Principles such as collaboration, connection, creativity, compassion, empathy, and regeneration. The solutions are putting us on a trajectory that is live giving and life sustaining. Solutions that honor the fact that we are all connected to each other and the earth, come from a place of compassion, generate greater empathy and see regeneration and healing as the goal.

Since the climate crisis is inescapable, we know we have no time to waste and want to learn about and highlight what rural women are doing to help end the climate crisis.

The climate crisis is the largest challenge humans have ever faced.

We asked the women in the focus group both how they are thinking about the climate crisis and what ways do they see a feminist approach being part of the solution? And, how do they feel about it?

The group was full of activists, educators, experts, environmentalists, healers, problem solvers, scientists, and agents of change.

Themes & Insights
Healing Ourselves and Our Relationship with the Earth - Build Communities Around Solutions 

“The climate crisis is the biggest challenge we have ever grappled with. It is going to take more than our thinking minds to solve it. It is going to take our whole selves - heart, mind, body, and spirit.”

“Building community around solving the climate crisis is critical. This too will require healing. Healing ourselves and our relationships with each other and the earth. Solution focused.”

“Relationship building - women are commonly relational, good at relationships. We have to foster deeper relationships with the earth - with nature and remember that it too is a living organism and the only home we have. We need to build strong relationships with our earth, so much so that we will do whatever we need to protect it. Mother earth.”

“Healing is critical. Healing ourselves, our society, our economy, and our earth.”

“The feminine approach to things tends to be more relational. I think that is what is happening - there is no relationship with our earth. We need women to be having these conversations - being leaders.”

“I attended a Council of Indigenous Grandmothers and they agreed to come together for 10 years - and one thing they said is we have to heal ourselves. We have to heal ourselves in order to heal the world. Healing, nurturing and regenerating themselves.”

“I just read, Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet - one of the most empowering chapters is how you heal yourself so that you will have a better self to give to the world. If we are more loving with ourselves and others we are more likely to influence others and take care of the earth.

“I ask myself how can I use my life to best serve Mother Earth?”

Change our Economic System to Less Extraction, Less Consumption to a more Regenerative, Restorative Model - Feminist Model

“Our economy - extractive capitalism - needs to change. Consumption needs to change.”

“Feminist perspective is about relationship and we have a sense that everything is connected. Women have been the gardeners mainly in society and that is the connection with soil and earth. Many women are learning to find our voices, including myself, and to say what we know to be true and there is value in it, even if that isn’t valued in our society. Our capitalistic system is crumbling - more money at all cost regardless of the harm it causes. I think more and more people are looking for a different way. One of the things we are doing here is things based on reciprocity - so classes are free and you decide how you pay it could be monetary or service - we want all people to be able to come regardless of how much money they have. ”

“There are so many things that we need to do with our capitalistic system we need to be asking so many questions about consumers and producers. When I see crab legs at the store in northern Minnesota, I think why do we - it’s 1000 miles away. Should we have crab legs in our stores? What are the consequences of that?”

New Approaches that Merge Western Science with Indigenous Wisdom and Traditional Knowledge 

“We started a nonprofit focused on sustainable living, earth spirit and people, trying to be more respectful of how we live on this earth. I’ve always cared about the earth, all the creatures, and I have a deep spirituality. Women’s perspective is much needed and the balance of it with the masculine.”

“We all do it all in our own way. I am a grassroots believer that we should do culture change. I have been working my whole life asking how I do my best work for mother earth. I did a masters program at BSU environmental program and slid into doing sustainability - teaching an environmental course. Western science blended with indigeneous ways of the world. Indigenous sustainability programs major and minor are the first like it in the country.”

“I am thinking about the Braiding Sweetgrass book - the whole concept of blending the spirituality and science that's the feminine.”

Build Relationships with the Earth, Get People Connected to Nature = They Will Take Care of It

“I come from the education side which is historically a female dominated field. Almost all the programs we host are almost always attended by women. Mainly women are signing up the kids for educational opportunities. That comes from nurturing and building relationships to the earth. I also think about what I get when moms are attending my programs and they go talk to their friends and I have a hard time imagining a group of men getting together and going back to their friends and talking with them about changing out their plastic sandwich baggies, etc.”

“Educate kids on nature, sustainability. The more you know the natural environment the more you will care for it. Getting people back to their connection with nature. When I was a teacher I was told that I could not teach kids about climate change because it was too doom and gloom, too terrifying and I was so offended. I have a framed letter from a parent that their kid came home from school talking about renewable resources.”

“Getting people more connected with the natural world, gets more people to care about nature.”

“If we grew up caring about the earth it would be a totally different life. 5 years old talking about reusable plastic. There is a whole generation of people who are growing up learning this. Growing up with the concept that the earth matters is huge.”

Recommended Reading List: 

Zen and Art of Healing the Planet, Thich Nhat Hanh

Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmer

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilson

Regeneration Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation, Paul Hawken

My Grandmother's Hands, Resmaa Menakem

The Book of Hope, Jane Goodall

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.