Leaders in the developing nations today can take many lessons from the environmental movement which started in the US in the postwar decades. Active participation in conservation movement gave ordinary women an opportunity not only to break past their traditional roles in society but made them confident of their abilities and increased their determination to change the world. Women’s sense of responsibility to keep their home environment pleasant, found an expression in protecting the air, open spaces, water and food supplies which were are being challenged by rapid urbanization in the US in the 60s and 70s.
Women fought against water pollution by forming groups to save polluted rivers and lakes. Marion Stoddart of Massachusetts and Verna Mize of Michigan are famous women activists who showed that they could triumph even over powerful mining companies. Women worked towards reducing air pollution in growing cities where large areas of pristine nature were being bull dozed every year. Hazel Henderson, a young women passed leaflets during her walks through the park with her infant daughter and inspired 15,000 women to form a citizen’s group for clean air. She kept her spirits up through challenges and motivated herself to learn of ways to manage the natural beauty even while accepting that society was on a course of transformation using new technology.
Street marchers for peace during the era of cold war in the US were proud housewives. Their activism kept environmental concerns in the forefront in communities across the nation. They picketed offices of elected officials in major cities to stop nuclear testing which was not only polluting the air but the soil. National sorority of women journalists became inspired by one women author, Rachel Carson, who created a massive movement against the wanton use of pesticides polluting food supplies. Women’s natural instinct to provide a peaceful environment for their children blossomed into movements to preserve open spaces. Berkeley faculty wives group is famous for secure the passage of one of the first laws regulating land use. These women set the course for checking the greed of developers.
The developing world is going through many environmental challenges similar to what the US went through in the 60s and 70s. Women, being naturally passionate about the environment have a crucial role to play in countries such as India. The opportunities just need to be exposed to them. The international women’s conference is a perfect place for participants to discuss ways to create wide spread awareness about lessons learned elsewhere and sow the collective seed for a mass movement.
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