Greta Gaard summarizes the overall project of the collection of essays, Queer Ecologies. She identifies three major areas in which queer theory and ecocriticism may coincide. First, they both may challenge the heteronormativity of investigations into the sexuality of nature. Second, they may illuminate the intersection of bio/politics, and lastly, these two approaches combined can queer environmental affect, ethics, and desire. The chapter descriptions that follow explore how notions of sexuality have shaped social constructions of nature (like parks and camping practices), discourse on speciesism, and literary and cultural narratives of nature. Gaard provides summaries of several chapters highlighting their specific material and conceptual connections.
The chapters of Queer Ecologies forefront either “queering environmentalism [or] greening queer politics” (116). Gaard discusses the specific issues of each chapter, and for the sake of a coherent summary on my part, I will discuss most of them briefly. Stacy Alaimo’s chapter frames sexual diversity as part of larger biodiversity, citing animal homosexuality as evidence of its naturalness. Alaimo discusses the prevalence of tools used and produced for masturbation among primates. In his chapter on films featuring penguins, Noel Sturgeon argues that The March of the Penguins and Happy Feet tend to conflate environmentalist projects with the heteronormative family narrative. Ladelle McWhorter’s chapter discusses the scientific discourse on speciesism. She argues that “species” has been used in the past to do violence to racial and sexual minorities. The perpetuating idea of diversity is its necessity for the health of the species; the argument that queer sexuality is part of this diversity risks privileging scientific discourse to determine ethic and cultural questions (118). David Bell queers Donna Haraway’s term, “naturecultures” in his chapter reclaiming nature as the natural site of sex in order to “renaturalize humanity” (119). Bell queries the relationship between sex and public.
In the second section of Queer Ecologies, Gosine argues that the heteronormative solutions to cleaning up parks, like cutting brush, building pathways, and constructing fences, are much more environmentally destructive than the gay sex that rhetoric frames as pollution (120). My favorite chapter description that Gaard offers is Bruce Erickson’s chapter on the Canadian artifact of the canoe and the concept of eco-sex, which emerges as a blending of national identity and economy. He argues that canoe sex reclaims the canoe outside the space of economy and consumption. The end of Gaard’s summary of the collection asks a few questions about how queer theory and environmentalism might together reinscribe a white Eurocentric perspective. In light of our discussion of Tinsley today, I found this particularly of interest, to ask if we are again omitting the centrality of race by employing a Euroamerican environmentalism (125).
I too was wondering how we might engage queer ecologies through Tinsley’s suggested frame of placing race front and center; I wondered about a framework emphasizing class and disability, too, especially given the impacts of environmental racism. I will be interested to see how our readings for Tuesday of week 4, by Mel Chen and Scott Lauria Morgenson, connect up with the discussion we had in class on Friday.