Australian environmentalist Val Plumwood dead of snake bite at 68
CANBERRA, Australia — Renowned Australian feminist and environmental activist Val Plumwood, who survived a horrific crocodile attack more than 20 years ago, has been killed by an apparent snake bite, a friend said Monday.
Plumwood was 68 years old.
Her body was found Saturday in the octagonal stone house where she lived alone near Braidwood in New South Wales, said friend Jane Salmon.
Salmon said it appeared a snake bite killed her. State police Det. Sgt. David Kay declined comment on the cause of death other than to say there were no suspicious circumstances. A coroner has yet to make an official finding on the cause.
Plumwood wrote the seminal environmental texts "Feminism and the Mastery of Nature" and "Environmental Culture: the Ecological Crisis of Reason" in 1993 and 2002 but she had been a leading campaigner against the logging of Australia's native forests and for the preservation of biodiversity since the 1960s.
Plumwood, originally known as Val Routley, took her adopted surname from a variety of tree near her wilderness home.
"She was considered by a lot of people a pioneer of the environmental movement," Salmon said.
Plumwood was attacked by a crocodile in a river in Australia's northern Outback in 1985 and escaped with terrible wounds to her legs and groin after the beast dragged her underwater three times in a death roll - the manoeuvre crocodiles use to drown their prey.
She said the near-death experience constantly reminded her of the wonder of being alive and gave her a better understanding of her place in nature.
The "human supremacist culture of the West"
tries to deny that humans are also animals positioned in the food chain, she wrote in the Aisling Magazine in 2005.
"It was a shocking reduction, from a complex human being to a mere piece of meat," Plumwood, a vegetarian, wrote of the attack. "Never in my life have I been so rudely objectified," she added. "Unfortunately there was no crocodile court to file a grievance with."
She vehemently opposed a plan to hunt the crocodile that nearly killed her, arguing she had been the intruder in its habitat. "Meat's meat, and a croc's got to eat," she said.
Plumwood's academic career took her to the United States, where she annoyed people at North Carolina State University and University of Montana. In Australia, she worked at the University of Sydney, as well as the Australian National University.
"She was probably the worst-smelling ecofeminist in the world," said friend and former colleague Bob Goodin, an Australian National University philosopher.
"She was fierce," Goodin said.
"I pity the poor snake that bit her."
Her neighbour, Joe Friend, said plans were being made for a funeral in Braidwood on Saturday.