10 Woman Environmentalists You Should Know
By Natalie Barth
All over the world, women are at the forefront of promoting the environmental revolution. Whether it be exploring the world’s oceans or protecting the Amazon, fearless women are leading the charge against the status-quo. Here are some of the most inspiring women of all time, all fighting for environmental justice.
1. Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall is most well-known for her love of chimpanzees and her extensive years of field research on the species. In July 1960, she traveled from England to Tanzania and set out to discover the secrets of the chimpanzee species. Her unconventional approach to her research transformed relationships between humans and animals. In 1977, Jane founded the Jane Goodall Institute, which continues her research all over the world. She also established Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots to empower youth of all ages to mobilize their peers and pursue their passion. Currently, Jane travels the world speaking about environmental concerns while encouraging young people to get active about the future of the planet.
2. Sylvia Earle
Sylvia Earle pioneered the movement for ocean exploration. Earle has spent more than 6,000 hours underwater and was among the first underwater explorers to make use of SCUBA gear. After winning the 2009 TED Prize, Earle launched Mission Blue, an organization working to establish marine-protected areas, otherwise known as Hope Spots. Earle’s continuous research is leading to a deeper understanding of the world’s oceans and how they must be protected.
3. Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai worked tirelessly for both land conservation and women’s rights. She was the founder of the Green Belt movement, which focused on environmental conservation and women’s rights, in her native country of Kenya. In addition to being honored by many world leaders for her efforts, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her approach to sustainable development, democracy and peace.
4. Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson wrote the now-famous Silent Spring, an expose on the misinformation spread by the chemical industry and the use of synthetic pesticides, specifically DDT. This book spurred the environmental revolution. The overall theme of the book is the commanding- and overwhelmingly negative- effect that humans have on the natural world. Carson’s lasting legacy led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States under the Nixon administration and started the conversation regarding the human impact on the environment.
“Hold up a mirror and ask yourself what you are capable of doing, and what you really care about. Then take the initiative- don’t wait for someone else to ask you to act.” -Sylvia Earle
5. Vandana Shiva
Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmentalist who has spent much of her life in defense of biodiversity. In 1991, she founded Navdanya, a research institute that aims to protect the diversity and integrity of native seeds while also promoting fair trade practices. Her research institute is dedicated to addressing the most significant environmental and social justice issues of the current era.
6. Isatou Ceesay
Isatou Ceesay, dubbed “Queen of Recycling,” is a Gambian activist who started the recycling movement called One Plastic Bag in the Gambia. Ceesay works to educate citizens about recycling and reducing the amount of waste that is created. She founded a project that creates plastic yarn and forms bags out of the upcycled waste. Not only has her project dramatically reduced the amount of waste in her village, but it is also employing hundreds of West African women and providing them with monthly revenue.
7. May Boeve
May Boeve is co-founder of the website, 350.org, a organization dedicated to working against climate change by connecting leaders across the world. The aim of the organization is to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to a point where global warming will not be as dangerous as predicted. Her organization is going straight to the source: the fossil fuel industry. By limiting the power of the industry itself, they hope to then confront the government about limiting carbon dioxide emissions.
8. Marina Silva
Marina Silva is a warrior for the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. Silva was a colleague of Chico Mendes, who was assassinated for defending the rainforest in 1988. She and Mendes led demonstrations in the 1980s to protect the rainforest from government control. After Mendes’ assassination, Silva became a politician and fought for environmental protection, sustainable development, and social justice. Deforestation decreased by 59% from 2004 to 2007, during her political career.
9. Gretha Thunberg
Greta Thunberg is the 17-year-old environmental activist from Sweden that took the world by storm with her Fridays for Future movement. Gretha is known for her activism around the global climate crisis. She has addressed world leaders at the World Economic Forum, United Nations Climate Conference and at the US House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. “The Greta Effect” has inspired young environmentalists across the world, and has brought the global climate crisis to the public’s attention.
10. Vanessa Nakate
Vanessa Nakate is a 23-year-old environmental activist from Uganda. Vanessa is known for her protests outside of the Ugandan Parliament – to draw attention towards the rising temperatures in her country. She attended the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos along with other environmental youth activists. After being cropped out of a photo with other activists, Vanessa spoke out – bringing attention to the importance of amplifying voices from the global south and African continent in climate activism.
The underlying connection between all of these awe-inspiring women is that they believed in their cause. Never underestimate the power you have as a citizen to create change within your community. Be fearless, be courageous, be passionate. Stand on the shoulders of all of the powerful women that came before us.
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