5 | Hopes for a Collection on Mothering in a Climate Crisis 🌍
Why we need one and what I’m learning by birthing it in the world.
Happy Spring! Writing took a back seat this spring break in favor of museum trips, library mornings, and science experiments. I’m excited to share an update on one of my writing journeys that came along anyway….
I received the wonderful news that my edited collection Mothering in a Time of Climate Change Precarity in North America was accepted by the Texas Woman’s University special book series. Over a year in the works (so far, many more steps, of course) this collection has over 30 diverse contributors from around North America. Motherscholars, practitioners, artists and activists answered my call to reflect on maternal identity and practice in the climate crisis from their unique standpoints.
Hopes for the Collection
Editing a collection is a labor of love. Much more project management than editing, reminding people about deadlines and revisions and keeping the ball rolling has been a big part of my job. It’s honestly been welcome work throughout this first year postpartum, though, as I’ve been fueled by the questions the contributors are confronting and learning much in the process.
For instance, mainstream environmentalism so often frames mothers as “ecologically other” and censures us because we (sometimes) produce new consumers. Rarely are we invited to explore how our intersectional maternal identities impact our experiences and responses to the growing climate crisis consciousness. Several of the chapters challenge this exclusion less from the stance about whether this is factually true (the ecological footprint argument is false and the entire premise is problematic) but ties the sad state of mothers in Western culture to the root causes of the climate crisis.
I think its important that mothers have a chance to share our perspectives of why and how we arrived at our dire planetary circumstances so we can have more in-depth conversations about solutions. My biggest hope is that this collection is a supportive of building the community understanding and connections we need in an era of climate change.
Mothers as Climate Leaders
I also hope this collection expands our definition of mothering though. Given normative understandings of mothering everywhere, its interesting to understand the wide range of maternal practice mothers engage as they confront concerns about ecological degradation and practice their environmental activism in personal and public spaces. We’ve seen whiteness, capitalism, and heteronormativity claim green motherhood for its own purposes… how can we avoid this distortion of mothers’ environmental values and concerns?
Of course contributors shed light on how human mothers uniquely suffer from climate change consciousness, ecological destruction, natural disasters, and future uncertainty. This is incredibly important because mothers are often the candy wrapper thrown away in favor of the child in our culture and are ignored (Barkin). What I love about the contributions is that they highlight the effects while also proposing leadership through the maternal standpoint. This leadership offers strategies for mobilizing for change and challenges root causes of the climate crisis and their many effects on loved ones.
Mothers Shaped by the Environment
As a therapist I’m motivated to understand the wide-ranging mental health effects the climate and environment have on mothers’ mental health. I know to some, this is a new idea: that the environment affects our psychological wellbeing. For instance, it’s often feels a hard sell for my students studying to become therapists that they need to incorporate the physical environment into their work with clients. What I’ve found working with mothers over the years, though, is that overwhelmingly mothers deeply understand this interrelationship. This is represented well in this collection.
Just as the tree needs birds, animals, and fungi to flourish, mothers are also shaped supportively by their ecological context. Of course the inverse is also true and mothers are impacted negatively by a depleted environment. We are our landscapes. The authors connect their development as mothers to the land they are on and I can see the ways mothers are shaping the land too.
In this truth, I wonder what mothering can become in this crisis. How can mothers resist adapting to the depleted landscape of modern motherhood to evolve it into something able to face this crisis? How is the earth already guiding this evolution? What wisdom is there in mothers’ responses to a climate crisis for the collective? What would shift if we centered carers more? These questions are the thread I’m noticing connecting the diverse perspectives. I’m so excited to be a step closer to sharing them with you all!
A quick thank you to Rachel Brnjas of Tapestry Counseling and Consulting in Ontario. She shared her mothers’ groups’ experience doing the Reorientation Exercise found in my first post. As an expressive therapist I was overjoyed to see mothers doing therapy since the creative process is what generates the transformative movement as much as the reflection. As a mother just a year postpartum, I am also moved by mother-supporters holding space like this for the growth and growing pains of our transitions.
Thank you for reading!
See you next week for an examination of “natural” childbirth with Naomi Redina, historian of women’s medicine.
How to cite this issue:
Davis, A. (2023, March 22) My matrescence: From disorienting to reorienting. Seeding the Mother.
Tending Practice is a place to apply maternal ecopsychology to our lives with expressive nature reflections.
For today’s Tending Practice I’m sharing my favorite expressive activity to introduce the ecological or natural self. The reemergence of an embodied understanding that we are a part of—rather than apart from—the natural world (the ecological self) is a key to maternal mental health and a more regenerative experience of motherhood.
I started an expressive nature writing workshop with this prompt earlier today and the participants had so many insights we didn’t need to write on much else! Take as much or little time as you have this week with this one. It is actually based in a clinical assessment that only needs 1-2 minutes.