Secular Grace in the Age of Environmentalism
In their colloquial scientific publications, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas came to exemplify a spiritual-epistemological connection that real women could potentially establish with wild communities of animals: chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, respectively. In their publications and activism, these women drew upon images of a naturalized environmental grace to push for conservationist politics in Africa and Southeast Asia. Religious imagery both aided and redirected their scientific work. The ecofeminist literature of the 1980s reinforced the possibility of a naturalized grace as a path to truth for women, which at once empowered their capacity to speak on behalf of the animals they studied, and simultaneously undercut their authority as scientists. As a result, Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas have each come to be seen as powerful oracles decrying the loss of natural habitat and global trade in animal products that places wild chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans at risk of extinction.