“Climate justice really helped me to see the bigger picture” – interview with our board member Miriam Mona Mueller

by Eveline van der Veen

Miriam’s first introduction to WECF came in 2017, when she took a leap of faith and joined our youth delegation at the 6th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Ostrava, in the Czech Republic. Afterwards we never left her sight again and are now very happy to welcome Miriam Mona Mueller as a member of our Board of Trustees. She is a PhD-researcher taking a decolonial perspective on gender, peace and security and besides that also works for the Centre of Feminist Foreign Policy. She hopes that her path with WECF will not be an exception and other young people will follow in her footsteps, encouraging a growing intergenerational organization where everyone can share their knowledge.

The feminist aspect of WECF is what initially drew Miriam in. She adds: “I’m very thankful for WECF contributing to my ecofeminist understanding of the world. Climate justice really helped me to see the bigger picture and understand how all of the other issues are interlinked.” This interlinkage is important because we see that in many spaces this is still lacking.

“The policies in Germany surrounding feminism are still mainly about the empowerment of the already privileged, e.g., white women in management positions or higher. Because it’s already difficult to talk about feminism people often think they cannot bring in another issue, like racism. But this is very hurtful and also really exclusive because it means that my interests or the interests of my friends are not being taken into consideration. But if you don’t take everything into consideration than to me it’s not intersectional, and it’s not progress at all.”

Could you tell a bit more about the importance of intersectionality and how it’s also necessary for our own movements?
“It’s really hard to have to explain again and again when something is racist in and outside the feminist movement. It takes a lot of emotional labour, because it’s not just work or a protest, it’s about our lives. The pressure for BIPoC women to be diplomatic and intersectional, where you have to tackle a lot of problems, is also higher compared to white activists. So, what we need are safer spaces for BIPoC people, not because we want to divide the feminist movement, but to protect ourselves from more emotional labour. So, I think it’s better to step back as a white person and not invade those safer spaces, just listen to your BIPoC colleagues and leave it here, let it be. Also, activist and advocacy work have never been paid that well, which is not something everyone can afford. So, in climate action and advocacy locally as well as on a global level we see mainly (young) white people participating who have time, energy and money to invest and be involved in the debate. This leads to an elite perspective on climate justice. A few BIPoC organizations have criticized for example the discussion about flying. The discussion in Germany was really saying we should all fly less, which is true. But for people with a so-called migration history in Germany, flying means getting to see our families because the majority of us has family members across the world. This perspective was totally missing.

Allowing all voices to be heard isn’t just about tackling racism, it’s about empowering women in all their diversity as well. “When we look at the people who are deciding on the climate policies and the innovation sector, it’s still really male dominated. What’s important is that we bring in different perspectives and experiences, not necessarily because the ‘new’ perspective would be better, but because that perspective is also a part of this society and deserves to be heard. In Germany we have the chance and the finances to make our platforms really diverse.

What we are also hearing a lot about is the relation between the Global North and South and the decolonisation of our work, what is your experience with these topics?
“From my start at WECF I learned a lot about advocacy work, which turned out to be a milestone in my career. It really helped me understand all these processes and strategies of advocacy making. So now I look at how the African Union and the European Union see themselves in terms of gender, peace and security and I got a greater understanding of the layers that surround it. What I find really interesting is that the EU portrays itself as a goalkeeper and exporter of human rights. But this narrative isn’t being disrupted in terms of Europe as a former colonial power, in particular when we’re analysing the EU’s so-called migration policies today. So, the EU portrays itself and its members as goalkeepers for human rights, but only for a specific group of people, of white and Christian people. So, it leaves out a big part of the population and the lack of discussion also makes it hard for people to see and understand there is something else out there.”

“There are only a few voices saying in Germany that when you talk about climate justice, you also have to talk about colonialism. The fact that the Global North has been exploiting the Global South for a really long time, where’s it’s mainly the capitalist exploitation by Global North companies, is not really treated as an issue. So, a big part of the discussion is being left out. We very easily celebrate an act of advocacy or activism when the Global North comes to the Global South to plant a tree for example. But we do not highlight that the people in the Global South, who are directly and physically affected by climate change, are fighting climate change every day. For people living in the Global South it’s a matter of survival, so it’s seen as normal and it won’t be labelled as activism or advocacy work by Global North actors. It’s important that in the Global North there’s a balance between being an ally and an advocate but at the same time not to take too much space, so we should make the local initiatives in the Global South visible as well and not just focus on the one time planting of a tree.

And how is the attitude towards racism evolving in Germany, for example, did you notice a change after the Black Lives Matter protests?
“I do believe the protests from last year made a difference in German society, but it’s now when white people hear about racism all they think of is Black Lives Matter in the US. But the thing is that before the murder of George Floyd we had several Nazi terror attacks in Germany where people got killed and white people didn’t go on the streets. So, people still don’t link  racism with Germany. An example of this is when there was a demand for a study on racial profiling in the police the Minister of Interior Affairs said that the study wouldn’t be necessary because racial profiling isn’t allowed. But by that logic we could also get rid of the police, because no one would commit any crime considering it isn’t allowed. It shows that German politicians and the society in general do not really have an awareness of Germany as a former colonial power. One reason is definitely that it’s not taught in school. Sigmar Gabriel, a former foreign minister even said during a conference that Germany never was a colonial power. And even though Germany did not have a colonial power as powerful as some others, they definitely had colonies. So, when we deny this link with a colonial history, we also do not see the link between racism, Nazism and our society today.”

In the end, what we really need is for a society to be able to reflect on its own history, learn from it and create a present where all voices are heard so we can work towards a sustainable future. That is what ecofeminism looks like.