“Carolyn and I had become friends, and about a year ago, she came to Moab to visit. At that time, the questions about the crucial issues that give rise to the emergent body of thought about perpetual care for the commons were well in place, and we thought it would be great to hold a congress to support that,” Williams said. “We started having phone conversations, and people started hopping on board and the congress grew legs.”
Raffensperger has been working with the “precautionary principle” for 15 years. She said the principle is based on the idea that everyone must take steps to protect future generations against actions or policies that may be harmful.
“Everything we do, from mining to automobile production and resource use, has vast consequences and uncertainties about how they are affecting the world. We see it playing out in climate change and rising ocean levels,” Raffensperger said. “We are talking about the care of a place that is being destroyed and leaving hazards for future generations. Everywhere we turn, human health is declining, and there are increased cancers, birth defects, and things are getting worse. There is something sick about knowing we could have prevented this.”
Raffensperger described the congress as the beginning of a civil rights movement for future generations.
“The question we asked was whether there was something unique that women have to contribute alongside of men in the environmental dialogue. So much of the great environmental work has been done by men, and at the same time, women’s voices have been missing,” said Raffensperger. “We are adding our voices to the choir. We’re not telling other people to stop singing... We need the tenors and basses because we are incomplete without them, but we are making space for women to sing their part.”
The four-day event will include group conversations, music, art, and drafting a declaration and bill of rights for future generations to be released into the world, organizers said.
Although the event is intended as a space for women to find a collective voice for developing new environmental policies and laws, some local men and others invited by Raffensperger will also be participating.
“Will we know if we are successful with our movement the next day? No,” Raffensperger said. “But in 16 years, we will see the change and we will talk again, and I will say ‘you were there and were witness to the beginning of this movement and you are the voice that made this movement public.”
Williams said she expects approximately 150 people to participate. The event will also include music, readings, and film screenings that are free and open to the public. Williams said the closing event on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. at Swanny City Park will be an opportunity for the community to learn about what the congress has accomplished.
“We will share, declare, and release our work into the world. The precautionary principle is indigenous. It’s an idea whose time has come. Our task is to try to find out how to apply it to the energy crisis, climate change, domestic energy, and what it all really means,” said Williams.
For more information about the women’s congress, how to register, or the schedule of events, visit www.wcffg.org.