Studying the world’s injustices is nothing new for Riane Eisler. As a young child, the Vienna-born social scientist, author, attorney, and macro-historian watched a gang of Gestapo men break into her home and capture her father. Bravely, her mother defied convention and stood up to save him, and the family escaped to Cuba with one of the last ships allowed to land there.
The Nazis had taken everything they owned; Eisler’s family lived in the slums of Havana. Her determined parents sent her to the best schools. Each day on her streetcar commute, Eisler couldn’t help but notice the shocking disparity that existed between the neighborhoods where she lived and went to school.
Eisler wasn’t always treated as the extremely bright and capable student she was, even while attending the University of California. Like the disparity between the rich and poor in Havana, she noticed a gender disparity in the recognition students received.
Eisler’s personal witness to so many injustices ultimately became the basis of research that’s led to worldwide acclaim, including a spot alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King as one of 20 leaders for world peace in the book Great Peacemakers.
To understand inequality, Eisler looked at how the concepts of “masculine” and “feminine” explain hierarchies in homes and societies. What she found is that a more peaceful, equitable world requires a change in the traditions of domination that exist between men and women, as well as parents and children.
How does sustainability tie into all of this? In Eisler’s latest book, The Real Wealth of Nations, she argues for a sustainable and equitable economy that gives value to caring for our greatest economic assets: people and the natural environment. Eisler writes that much of what ails us in modern day is largely fueled by economic systems with the wrong priorities. She points out that when basic human needs aren’t met, social tensions give way to major issues like war, poverty, and environmental ruin. By supporting traditionally female activities such as caring and care giving, we can transcend categories like “capitalist” and “socialist” to reap the benefits of a more humane — and more effective — economic model.
Eisler also believes that in raising the status of women across the globe, overpopulation rates will curb, easing the burden on the earth. In environmental meetings around the world, she explains how the “dominator” mentality that the land is something to plunder and conquer has led to degradation and depletion of our resources to crisis levels. “Caring economics,” as it’s called, not only means caring for ourselves and each other, but also for Mother Earth.
After all, we can’t make the world a better place — ridding it of atrocities like the kind Eisler faced during the Holocaust — if there’s no world on which to live.
For more information about Eisler and her work, visit www.rianeeisler.com.