Social reproduction, the work of care that keeps us alive every single day, has become a key concept that has mobilised huge swathes of the global radical movement. At the same time, women are leading the climate justice struggle across the world, producing new feminist visions of what the future can, and must, look like. The ongoing essentialist arguments constructing women as inherently closer to nature need to be contested. Meanwhile, the ways in which women’s reproductive labour and natural resources are similarly exploited to meet the demands of capital must be examined more closely. How do we build capacity in the feminist movement, and imagine and structure the conditions of reproduction remains a key weapon in the climate fight?
The climate crisis must be understood not only as a public health crisis, or as an economic crisis of the capitalist mode of production but also, fundamentally, as a crisis of the reproduction of life. In this sense, it is a crisis of care: the work of caring for humans, non-humans, and the shared biosphere. Degrowth and care are intrinsically linked not just because care jobs are ‘green’ jobs (being low carbon-intensive), but because radically reordering society is a process of ensuring an abundance of care and a scarcity of colonialist and capitalist modes of economic ‘growth’. As the feminist adage goes, “we don’t want a larger slice of the poisoned cake” and to counter to the dreams of liberal feminism “we don’t want to be mainstreamed into a polluted stream”.
If growth is elite accumulation, enclosure and commodification, then degrowth is a process of de-accumulation, de-enclosure, and decommodification. This means doing more of some things and less of others – in short, we need more practices of care and of sustaining our lives together.
In this session, we will start to think about how we would meet the challenges of redistributing the work of sustaining life. Who is going to care for whom? How? And how do we avoid gender ‘coming through the back door’, ie: having a body that produces human milk for babies shouldn’t mean that all childcare and rearing has to be done by mothers or biological parents.
Reproductive/care jobs are often used as examples of green jobs, yet the current conditions of those jobs are so dire. What would revaluing care really look like? We know that capital functions to exploit reproductive labour as a seemingly endless resource. This is the same approach that capital takes to the more than human world. How can we bring these struggles together more concretely in our analysis of the climate crisis?
Questions we want to answer
- What is the importance of social reproduction as a lens in the climate crisis?
- What are the connected histories of domination around the more than human world and the patriarchy?
- How can reproductive work become valued in the transition from fossil-based industry jobs to climate jobs?
- What are some of the conflicts generated by reproductive work becoming green jobs?