Women's History Month: 18 female environmental activists that inspire us
It’s women’s history month so we’re paying tribute to the amazing female environmental activists that inspire us. From stronger action on climate change, fighting to preserve natural habitats and calling out big fossil fuel companies, these ladies are serious forces of nature.
Vandana Shiva is an Indian academic, environmental activist and food sovereignty advocate. Shiva promotes biodiversity in agriculture to increase productivity, nutrition and farmer's incomes. For this work she was recognised as an 'Environmental Hero' by Time magazine in 2003. She’s even taken on the likes of Bill Gates.
Autumn Peltier is a water-rights advocate and a global youth environmental activist from the Anishnabek Nation in Canada. Peltier has spoken extensively about the issue of contaminated water on Indigenous reserves in Canada at the United Nations. Autumn Peltier fights for the right of people to drink clean water all over the world. For her activism, she has been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Dr. Jane Goodall
Dr Jane Goodall is British ethologist, best known for her long-term research on the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. She co-founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation in 1977. The Institute focuses on a community approach to conservation by improving the lives of people and animals as well as the environment.
“When you live in a forest, it’s easy to see that everything is connected.” Jane Goodall
Prof. Wangari Maathai
Prof. Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan an activist and founder of the Green Belt movement, an NGO focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation and women's rights. These activities brought Maathai into direct conflict with the Kenyan government. She was harassed, threatened, beaten and jailed. But she persevered, eventually earning national and global recognition for her transformative work. Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize.
Winona LaDuke is an environmentalist, economist and indigenous activist from the the Ojibwe nation. At 18, she became the youngest person to speak to the United Nations about Indigenous American issues. The Anishinaabe prophecy influences much of LaDuke’s work. It claims that their people are living through a time where they must choose whether to continue treading on “the scorched path” as they are now or choose “the green path”. The green path is a fossil fuel-free, land-based economy which focuses on a harmonious intergenerational and interspecies co-existence.
Luisa Neubauer is a German climate activist, author and one of main organisers of the school strike for climate movement there. In fear of growing up in a world of rising global temperatures, Neubauer organises mass action to urge global governments to comply to the 2015 Paris Agreements and surpass the targets set.
You may recognise her name from the Julia Roberts film with the same name, based on her successful lawsuit against the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) of California despite her lack of law qualifications. In 1996, the utility giant was forced to pay out the largest toxic tort injury settlement in US history of US$333 million. As President of Brockovich Research & Consulting, she is currently involved in numerous environmental projects worldwide
Isatou Ceesay is a Gambian activist and social entrepreneur, also known as the Queen of Recycling. She initiated a recycling movement called One Plastic Bag in the Gambia, educating women to recycle plastic waste into sellable products that earned them income. The collective employs hundreds of West African women and provides them with income. Ceesay also works to educate citizens about recycling and reducing the amount of waste that is created.
Greta Thunberg ushered in a new generation of young climate activists. She is a Swedish environmental activist who is best known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action against climate change. Prior to the Swedish election in 2018, Thunberg missed school to sit outside the country’s parliament with a sign that read “School Strike for Climate”. This was the beginning of the “Fridays For Future” school climate strike movement that has had millions of participants worldwide.
Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist, author and conservationist. Her book Silent Spring warned of the dangers to all natural systems from the misuse of synthetic chemical pesticides. Evidence of the misuse of chemicals prompted Carson to reluctantly speak out about the immediate threat to humans and nature from chemical exposure, but also to question government and private science's assumption that human domination of nature was the correct course for the future.
Brianna Fruean is a Samoan environmental advocate. At just 11-years-old, she founded the Samoan chapter of 350, an international climate movement bringing an end to fossil fuels. In 2012, she spoke at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development as a Pacific Youth Ambassador.
“My people moulded me and made me who I am today.” - Brianna Fruean
Mari Copeny is an American clean water activist from Flint, Michigan known globally as Little Miss Flint. At age 8, she wrote a letter to Former US President Barrack Obama about the water crisis in Flint prompted him to visit the city and approve $100 million USD in relief for the city.
Anna Botsford Comstock
Anna Botsford Comstock was an American illustrator, writer and educator best known for her work in nature study. Comstock was the the first female professor at Cornell University. She was a proponent for conservationism by instilling a love and appreciation of the natural world around us and is one of the first teachers to bring her students and other teachers outdoors to study nature.
Amelia Telford is a young Indigenous woman from Bundjalung country in Australia. She’s the National Co-Director of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network; a grassroots movement of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people fighting for climate justice. She’s been recognised by National Geographic Australia as the 2015 Young Conservationist of the Year for creating an environmental network that gives a voice to Indigenous youth.
Helena Gualinga is an Indigenous environmental and human rights activist from the Kichwa Sarayaku community in Ecuador. She works to expose the conflict between her community and fossil fuel companies. Gualinga took part in the COP25 in Madrid where she used her platform to draw attention to the Ecuadorian government’s authorisation of oil extraction in indigenous land.
Source: Amazon Watch
India Logan-Riley (also Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga) has a background in archaeology and anthropology. India has been an activist in the climate justice space. She attened the UN climate talks in 2015 and 16, working in the Pacific team as a part of the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus. She highlights the power Indigenous people have when coming together to build climate solutions.
Dian Fossey was an American primatologist and conservationist known for studying mountain gorilla groups in Rwanda. She supported conservation efforts while spending 20 years in Rwanda. Fossey strongly opposed poaching and tourism in wildlife habitats. Following the killing of a gorilla by poachers and subsequent tensions, she was murdered in her cabin at a remote camp in Rwanda in December 1985. Her murder was never solved but it is widely believed she was murdered by an animal poacher.
Marinel Ubaldo is a Filipino climate activist who helped to organise the first youth climate strike in her country. Her village was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 and the government's response was shockingly poor. Marinel testified as a witness for the Philippines Commission on Human Rights investigation on corporate responsibility, and whether climate impacts can be considered violations of Filipinos’ human rights.
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