Women and Sustainability Summit Promotes Environmental Feminism


Miranda Levingston

President of Earth Matters Natalie Petrulla, left, reads questions from the audience to Sheila Katmann, center, and Eleanor Blomstrom, right.

Miranda Levingston, Deputy News Editor

Yesterday’s Women and Sustainability summit, organized by Earth Matters NYU, gave a forum for prominent female environmentalists to voice their beliefs that a woman’s place is in environmental activism. Approximately 40 students, alumni and faculty members listened to a panel highlighting the intersection of environmental and women’s issues in the Hemmerdinger Hall of the Silver Center for Arts and Sciences.

The event’s panelists included Chair of the New York City chapter for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Sheila Katzmann, and Eleanor Blomstrom, the co-director of WeDo — a women’s environment and development organization. The panelists encouraged attendees to advocate for sustainability policies in response to the Trump administration’s controversial plans to undo some of the Obama administration’s most significant environmental policies.

CAS senior and Earth Matters President Natalie Petrulla, one of the organizers of the event, said that she first became involved in sustainability initiatives after entering NYU, and has since developed a passion for women’s issues and their intersectionality with environmental issues. She believes that today there are numerous opportunities for students to get involved with social and environmental change on campus.

“Where you can build bridges is where you can make the biggest impact,” Petrulla said. “Our student body is so diverse — NYU brags about being a global community. Really embracing that is about celebrating our diversity, and part of that is protecting it.”

Petrulla said that although it can be overwhelming to think about all the issues that need to be tackled in terms of environmental feminism, progress is feasible with the many people motivated and passionate to make change. She said that NYU students can improve the state of the environment in their communities in ways other than protesting.

“Get involved by forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and really standing up for what you believe in,” Petrulla said. “There are so many different ways to get involved, there are so many different organizations, and not just Earth Matters, on campus that are focusing on those kinds of issues.”

She said that whether it is through physically protesting environmental issues or calling up their congressman, there are many ways that students can aid the environment, and consequently the world.

Co-Director and Head of Office at We Do Eleanor Blomstrom said that sustainable development cannot progress without gender equality. She said that the correlation between the excessive extraction of natural resources and women’s unpaid labor demonstrates that the two conflicts are intertwined.

“I really believe that we need to have an earth to live on and we need to have a future for humanity,” Blomstrom said. “Really the only way that that can be done is with a feminist lens — because that makes sure that every person and their whole self is considered.”

Blomstrom said that the earth’s degradation and destruction pains her, and she recognizes that it is all human-caused. She thinks that people can do a better job by thinking more deeply about environmental issues, and working together to understand corporate hegemony. Blomstrom said that she hopes college students take on roles in local activism and become the change they want to see.

The Chair of New York City for CEDAW Sheila Katzmann said that life and the human narrative inspired her involvement in environmental feminism. She said that her passion for women’s issues and experience as a U.N. peacekeeper also propels her work as an applied theater practitioner.

“I learned that I could change women’s lives and facilitate that change —  women affected by war conflict, women oppressed by patriarchy —  while at the same time being respectful to the men,” Katzmann said. “All issues are women’s issues.”

Email Miranda Levingston at [email protected].