The Future We Want – the motto chosen by the UN in the run-up to the June 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) – is certainly forward-looking. Expectations are higher than ever: Rio+20 is supposed to be the great historic opportunity to define routes towards a safer, fairer, greener, and cleaner world. The focus of the Rio de Janeiro conference is to be the principle of a “green economy” as a way out of the global crises of climate, food, and poverty. Those who, like Christa Wichterich, the author of this essay, take a closer look at the preparations and blueprints for a green economy will discover that they are devoid of gender perspectives. The theoretical frameworks, practical knowl - edge, and experience of feminists and women’s networks play virtually no role in the debate around the “future we want.” Yet, for many decades, those women have been developing responses to local and global-level ecological and social crises. Twenty years ago, the most important document of the first Rio confer - ence, Agenda 21 , acknowledged that women are key actors in protecting the environment and combating poverty; however, by the time the preparations for Rio+20 began, the consensus that environmental justice, sustainability, and gender justice are inextricably linked and mutually dependent issues had been lost. Ecofeminist approaches that had their heyday in the 1980s and 1990s were now rarely to be heard, let alone influential. Many women advocating feminist points of view had withdrawn from global negotiations on the environment and from ecological activism.
As a result, gender is often sidelined in debates on growth and the environ - ment. Yet, for some time now, women’s networks have been making their voices heard once again, calling for gender-equitable policies during climate negotia - tions. In local struggles against inequality and the destruction of the foundations of human life, women continue to hold an important position: Feminists and women’s networks are reclaiming spaces for action and thought. Occupy Patri - archy , for example, is a bid by US feminists to position themselves in society’s debates and struggles around inequality and privatization.
Feminist ecological and economic models and utopias are regaining ground. For the Heinrich Böll Foundation it is crucial to make these ideas heard and to give them greater prominence within the larger discourse on a post-growth, equitable world. Our perspective on the great transformations and the quest for a better life is critical of growth and, at the same time, gendered: The “future we want” is a future that thinks of gender justice as inseparable from ecological and social sustainability – one that discusses and strives for new models of prosperity, 8 The Future We Want – a Feminist Perspective quality of life, and the social dimension of global restructuring in terms that take account of gender.
Christa Wichterich’s essay provides the analytical foundations for this vision. It points to spheres of political action that are especially interesting and relevant for contemporary ecofeminism. The essay is part of a series of publications on Rio+20, a series that intends to promote new emphases that are able to break down blockages in thought and action – and thus to create a space for social innovations, something we need much more urgently than technological ones.
For the Heinrich Böll Foundation the public interest in the 2012 Rio+20 conference is a starting point for a whole range of activities. To us the debate around a green economy, growth, and new models of prosperity is a great oppor - tunity to draw more attention to feminist ecology and a gendered sustainability, and to bring such approaches back onto the global political agenda.