Eco-Grief and Ecofeminism

For years I’ve enjoyed listening to and watching TED talks—10- to 20-minute lectures delivered by all types of people on all types of topics, broadcast on radio and online. So it was a gratifying experience when just a few weeks ago, I found myself for the very first time, on the TED stage.

Stony Brook University, where I teach and direct the Sustainability Studies Program, has hosted independently organized TED events—called TEDx talks—over the past few years. I was lucky to snag a spot—in fact, the opening talk—in this fall’s “TEDxSBU” event, themed “The Master Pieces.” Such a theme drew forth a diversity of intriguing topics from my fellow presenters, from “How Helping Others Contributes to the Flourishing of Givers” (Stephen Post) to “Printmaking in India” (Marcia Neblett).

I spoke about what I consider to be the most important issue of our day: environmental degradation and the need to take radical action to care for our earth.

Titled “Eco-Grief and Ecofeminism,” my talk focuses on many topics I delve into in my coming books: my cancer diagnosis, my parents’ cancers, and my pregnancy and ultimate development of an unbearable case of what I call “eco-grief”…and what I did about it.

What is eco-grief? It’s the sadness I began to feel as I learned more and more about environmental problems, including synthetic chemical and ionizing radiation contamination, climate change and global warming, deforestation, desertification and species extinction—as a result of human hubris, greed, and the exploitation of our earth’s precious resources.

Eventually I reached a point where my eco-grief was so intense that I couldn’t stand by and watch as more damage was done to our planet and human health. Too many people in my life had been affected and harmed by cancer—cancer that is largely the result of environmental pollution.

Inspired by strong women scientists and writers, including Rachel Carson and Sandra Steingraber, I took action—through teaching, activism, and writing. As I describe in my talk, as a result of my cancer and my parents’ cancers, I began learning more about the environment and its problems, especially focusing on problems related to women and the environment—an area of study called “ecofeminism.”

In a recent interview with a reporter, when asked if I thought activism makes a difference, I replied, “Come talk to me and I will tell you story after story of how that one person makes a difference.”

“I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it,” I continued. “Try it. Talk to people who are doing it, and it is the best high in the world. It’s very empowering to realize that you can make a difference.”

Right now, in New York State, friends and allies have accomplished so much: the banning of Fracking, the banning of the importation of Fracking waste to Long Island, the banning of the Port Ambrose LNG (liquefied natural gas) facility off of Long Island, and right now activists are fighting to stop a dangerous and highly volatile pipeline (AIM/Spectra) that is slated to run just a hundred feet from the Indian Point nuclear power plantPresident Obama just rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline, and many dear friends and activists are off to Paris and COP 21 to ensure that the world’s nations “change everything” (to borrow from the author Naomi Klein) to help reduce global warming and climate change and make our planet livable for future generations.

My first TEDx talk was a great success!

My first TEDx talk was a great success!

After watching my Tedx, I hope you link arms with me, with all of us around this beautiful blue planet, and “fix this thing.”