- The Enlightened West and the Origins of Climate Change
Cemanahuac, climate change, enlightened West, Global South, Guadalupe, Laudato Si', Mesoamerica, El Pocito, Tonantzin, Xochitlalpan
Laurie Zoloth makes a convincing case that climate change is a feminist social justice issue. Moreover, she highlights the fact that climate change disproportionately affects the most vulnerable: women and children of the Global [End Page 167] South. Yet, she does not make it explicit who is responsible for climate change or who should take primary responsibility for addressing it. The statistical reality is that the rational, logical, capitalist, consumerist, industrial, and "enlightened" West is the main cause of climate change. Western first-world nations emit significantly more carbon dioxide, thus draining wells and destroying gardens, farms, forests, and coral reefs. Their profit-driven, extractive, and exploitative multinational corporations displace millions of individuals who are without secure access to water or food. As Pope Francis states in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si', the West has an ecological debt to repay.1 Nonetheless, the West's political and philosophical movements, including the feminist movement, have not consistently acknowledged the sources of climate change. Indeed, the expansion of women's rights and economic opportunities, long championed by feminists, has come at the price of a growth economy. This growth economy, powered by capitalist multinational corporations and consumerist lifestyles, is simply not sustainable. If we are to successfully address climate change, we must be transparent about its sources. Those who live in the first world must experience an ecological conversion so as to replenish wells of water instead of digging wells for profit.
Zoloth draws our attention to the contemporary devastating political consequences of defunct Middle Eastern wells. She then turns to biblical texts for insight into the politics of access to Middle Eastern wells. Referencing Exod 2:15–25, Zoloth asserts, "In the third telling, the infrastructure—the well—is more profoundly in the control of the men of the society—they guard it, they are hostile, and they drive away the women, who presumably have to wait until the men leave, perhaps?" (145). Since biblical times, Middle Eastern wells have constituted centers of religious, racial, and political power for a privileged few. Consequently, control of wells was the cause of discrimination between religions, clans, and tribes and thus was even more contentious than instances of men, employed as shepherds, restricting women's access to wells. Proverbs 5:15–17, along with Exod 2:15–25, confirm Zoloth's keen observation that wells were (and continue to be) a source of political, ethnic, class, and racial inequality: "Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for sharing with strangers" (Prov 5:15–17 NRSV). This particular passage can be used to authorize the privatization of resources on the part of those with sufficient power to enforce their claim to exclusivity. In Laudato Si', Pope Francis warns of the danger of misusing biblical narratives to justify oppression, particularly that of women and children in underdeveloped countries. [End Page 168]
Might we imagine the possibility of an ecological conversion in which resources are both continuously shared and renewed? From where will we draw our inspiration? We might turn to other biblical texts: "Jesus said to her, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life'" (John 4:13 NRSV). We suggest, however, that it is Mary who is the true keeper of such a well: "The womb of Mary is the womb of the Church. Still to be seen in that ancient prototype of all baptisteries at the Lateran is the inscription carved in the marble, which proclaims in the poetry of the fifth century the Marian mystery of the Church's motherhood through baptism."2
Mary's role as caretaker of the well is evident...