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 the 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.

One way to confront the challenges to centralising the work of social reproduction in fighting the climate crisis is to draw on new thinking and ideas from the Degrowth Feminist movement. Degrowth and care are intrinsically linked- not just because care jobs are ‘green’ (low carbon intensive) jobs, 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” (Devaki Jain, 2000:21) and counter to the dreams of liberal feminism “we don’t want to be mainstreamed into a polluted stream” (Moghadam, 2005:168).

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 gonna feed whom? How? And how do we avoid gender ‘coming through the back door’, ie. Having a body that produces milk for infants shouldn’t mean all the infant care ought to be done by mothers or parents.

– Reproductive/care jobs are 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- the very same approach that it has taken to the environment. How can we bring these struggles together more concretely in our analysis of the climate crisis?

– Social reproduction is the dynamic that reproduces labour power but also life. It is at the core of building autonomy yet working to strengthen our collective capacity to care under capitalism threatens to also reproduce capital’s power base. How does this play out in the context of climate crisis and what struggles we take on today?