8 Female Environmentalists Reshaping the Earth

You don’t know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer. You don’t know how to bring the salmon back up in a dead stream. You don’t know how to bring back an animal now extinct. And you can’t bring back the forests that once grew where there is now a desert. If you don’t know how to fix it, please stop breaking it.

These are the powerful words delivered by 12-year-old Severn Suzuki in 1992 at UN’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which silenced the world for 5 minutes. This charismatic speech made the world leaders think about the real-world problem of climate change.  

There are innumerable numbers of women fighting for the environment. They have sacrificed their lives for Mother Earth to make our planet a good place to live. Women fought for their rights, won, and now fight for the greater good for the world. Here are some who dedicate their lives to the environment.  

Here we present eight women environmentalists who are revolutionizing the present world. One cannot deny how inspiring and motivating it is to see women of all generations, ranging from eleven to over a hundred years old, continuously pursuing the mission of preserving Earth’s resources.

1. Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle (born 1935) is an American Oceanographer and National Geographic explorer-in-residence. She was rejected to hold research underwater even after having the experience of more than 1,000 hours underwater. A year later, she led the first all-female team of aquanauts in Tektite II. She was among the first underwater explorers who used modern SCUBA gear. With a mask and carrying the oxygen cylinder with her, Earle was one of the first researchers to observe the various forms of animal and plant habitats beneath the ocean, identifying many new species of each. She is the founder of the organization Mission Blue, which aims at the preservation of the natural state of oceans. Mission Blue’s vision is to achieve 30% protection of the ocean by 2030, and over 200 organizations have supported them in this mission till date. With Mission Blue and its partners, Earle leads expeditions to Hope Spots around the globe. Mission Blue has created 94 Hope Spots around the world and the work continues. 

2. Isatou Caesay

Isatou is an activist and a social entrepreneur residing in The Gambia. She is often referred to as the “Queen of Recycling”. She was forced to drop out of school at an early age but that didn’t stop her from working towards the betterment of her people. She sowed the seeds of plastic recycling in The Gambia. Being a woman, she faced a lot of resistance to come out and earn her living. She started working secretly to recycle plastic and make them into useful products like wallets, bags, etc. which were sold for some monetary value. She involved many dependent women in The Gambia to work and earn a living for themselves and also taught them to manage their own finances. Today, more than 2000 women are working in the program Njau Recycling and Income Generation Group (NRIGG) divided into 40 groups. She feels humbled that a book is named after her.

3. Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg (born 2003) is a Swedish environmental activist. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice (2019 and 2020). She began with a “strike from school” board in front of the Swedish parliament, demanding her country to take more aggressive actions for climate change. She started the strike alone but soon she was accompanied by thousands of people. It hit the global media and students from different parts of the world started raising their voices to encourage leaders to take action for climate change. The movement got the name “Fridays for Future”. The count has reached over 100,000 school students across the world who are part of the movement. She is the youngest to be awarded TIME person of the year 2019. She is plain-spoken and her speeches are directly targeted towards the defaulters, which she thinks, are responsible for the current climate change. She got the support of her parents too, who gave up flying to inspire her. 

4. Briann Fruean

Born in 1998, Briann is an Activist and Environmental Advocate for the country Samoa. At the age of 11, she was one of the founding members of 350.Samoa and became the Leader of Environmental Group “Future Rush” and inspired people around her to join in her efforts to combat climate change. They started by setting up a composting system, recycling bins and asking people to carpool. They divided the people into groups, making carpooling more efficient. At the age of 16, she became the youngest person to win the Commonwealth Youth Award 2015 for her contribution to environmental activities.  

5. Marinel Ubaldo

In 2013, a typhoon hit the lands of the Philippines, which took over more than 6000 lives. Marinel, who was 16 at that time, survived the storm but she lost her home. The typhoon made her realize the real problem that the world is facing and she took the path of an environmental activist. She has spent years tirelessly pushing for environmental rights and is demanding justice for her community, which lost everything because of the natural calamity. The President of France invited her to talk on the first day at cop21, Paris, making her vocal on one of the biggest platforms. She brings the voice of the native and deprived of the world, demanding a change in the practices of the developed nations. 

6. Saalumarada Thimmakka

Born in 1910/1911, she is the oldest in this list. She is known for planting 354 Banyan trees, throughout 5 KMS, along with 8000 other trees, with the help of her husband in the state of Karnataka, India. She, along with her husband, used to carry four pails of water to plant the samplings and used to guard them against cattle by putting thorny shrubs. In 2019, there was a proposal to construct a highway that required the removal of those trees but upon the request of her, the government reconsidered the plan and thus preserved the trees. She takes part in afforestation movements and was also instrumental in the construction of a rainwater harvesting tank in her village. After recognizing her work, she was awarded Padma Shri in 2019, which is India’s prestigious award for the service of the nation.

7. Julia “Butterfly” Hill

Back in 1996, she was thrashed in a car accident, which was a near-death experience for her. Post her recovery, she set out to find the meaning of her life. During her road trip, she came across the group of environmentalists, who were protesting against the cutting of redwood forest in California. She decided to join the group and to protect the hundreds of years old trees, she lived in 180-foot tall and approx. 1500-year-old California redwood tree for 738 days, to protect it from getting it uprooted. She was involved in various resistance movements and became a motivational speaker, positively transforming people’s lives. Inspired by her act of activism, many documentaries have been produced and some musicians have written songs about her courage.

8. Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke is a renowned activist, working on renewable energy projects, issues of sustainable development and food systems. She has been twice in the race for the vice president with Ralph Nader for the Green Party. After graduation, she became involved in a lawsuit to recover lands that were promised to the Anishinaabeg people in accordance with an 1867 federal treaty. After four years of dispute, the case was dismissed which prompted LaDuke to establish the White Earth Land Recovery Project. The major objectives of the project involve the restoration of traditional practices, land recovery and preservation and the strengthening of spiritual and cultural heritage. In 1985, she built a group named Indigenous Women’s Network, which aimed at bringing Native Women closer to the outside world and empowering them to participate in social, political and cultural processes. 

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