Women Environmental Leaders

March is Women’s’ History Month. Here are some of women who are making a difference

Wangari Maathai, is a woman of many firsts: not only is she the first African woman and first environmentalist to bring home a Nobel Peace Prize, she was also the first Eastern African woman to receive a Ph.D. in 1971 and the first woman to hold a professorship at one of the universities in Nairobi, Kenya. Her inspiring story is one of incredible tenacity and purpose. Maathai is also famous for being the frontwoman of the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign.

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson

As a well-known modern environmental heroine, Rachel Carson is credited with bringing ill-managed DDT pesticide contamination under national attention with her 1960s ground-breaking book, Silent Spring. The book helped to crystallize the beginnings of an American environmental movement, and was a catalyst for changing national pesticide policies. Her work provided formative inspiration for the deep ecology and eco-feminist movements, in addition to laying the groundwork for organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Indian environmental and activist Vandana Shiva is an outspoken campaigner for protecting seed biodiversity against biotech-profiteering and genetic engineering. Her grassroots approach has helped to redefine food security and the green revolution as a movement that empowers local food growers, rather than big agribusiness. She is the founder of Navdanya, a NGO based in Dehradun, India that promotes organic farming and seed-saving.

Recently named as the U.N Senior Advisor on Water Issues, Maude Barlow is a Canadian activist and author whose work deals primarily with the unsustainable practices that are wasting this precious gift. For Barlow, water is a public trust that must be preserved in our culture and laws, and must be delivered as a public service, not a profitable commodity. Her so-called blue covenant boldly calls for access to clean, affordable to be recognized as a fundamental human right.

An environmental justice advocate and consultant, Majora Carter is the founder of Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx), which has been instrumental in leading a number of sustainable restoration projects along the Bronx waterfront, including Hunt Point Riverside Park. SSBx also runs the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training (BEST) program, one of the first urban, green-collar job training programs in the country. Carter has won a number of awards for her pioneering work, including the MacArthur Fellowship and the Rachel Carson Award from the National Audubon Society.

Safia Minney. In the mid-1990s, before ethical fashion became a uber-trendy catchphrase, innovative fair trade clothing company People Tree was already using eco-textiles and helping skilled, local artisans gain access to markets. Known as one of the world’s foremost social entrepreneurs, establishing World Fair Trade Day (observed every second Saturday of May). Minney’s work strives to change the fashion business by addressing integral issues of fair wages, gender equity, transparency, accountability, capacity building, improved working conditions and environmentally sound practices.

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