IWD: 12 female environmental activists you need to know

It’s women’s history month so I’m paying tribute to the amazing female environmental activists that inspire me. From stronger climate action, fighting to preserve natural habitats and calling out big fossil fuel companies, these ladies are serious forces of nature: 

Vandana Shiva

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. Time magazine recognised her as an ‘Environmental Hero’ in 2003. Subsequently, Shiva has taken on the likes of Bill Gates and his charitable foundation. 

Autumn Peltier

Autumn Peltier is a water-rights advocate and a global youth environmental activist from the Anishnabek Nation in Canada. Peltier has spoken about contaminated water on Indigenous reserves in Canada at the UN. Autumn Peltier fights for the right of people to drink clean water all over the world. Moreover, she’s been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2017, 18 and 19.

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Environmental Activism Conservation Quote Jane Goodall

Prof. Wangari Maathai 

Prof. Wangari Maathai was one of the world’s most accomplished female environmental activists. She was a Kenyan activist and founder of the Green Belt Movement, an NGO focused on planting trees, environmental conservation and women’s rights. Consequently, these activities brought Maathai into direct conflict with the Kenyan government and she was harassed, threatened, beaten and jailed. However, she persevered and eventually earned global recognition for her transformative work. As a result, Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize. 

Winona LaDuke

Winona LaDuke is an environmentalist, economist and indigenous activist from the Ojibwe nation. At 18, she became the youngest person to speak to the UN about Indigenous American issues. The Anishinaabe prophecy influences much of LaDuke’s work. To sum up, the prophecy 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 thought to be a fossil fuel-free future.

Erin Brockovich

You may recognise her name from the Julia Roberts film with the same name. The movie was 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 injury settlement in US history of US$333 million. These days, she’s involved in environmental projects worldwide as President of Brockovich Research & Consulting.

Brianna Fruean

Brianna Fruean is a Samoan environmental advocate. At just 11-years-old, she co-founded the Samoan chapter of 350, an international climate movement bringing an end to fossil fuels. As a result, she spoke at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development as a Pacific Youth Ambassador in 2012.

Mari Copeny

Mari Copeny is an American clean water activist from Flint, Michigan. Globally she’s known as Little Miss Flint. At 8, she wrote a letter to Former US President Barrack Obama about the water crisis in Flint. As a result, Obama visited the city and approved $100 million USD in relief for the city. 

Amelia Telford

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. As a result, National Geographic Australia recognised Telford as the 2015 Young Conservationist of the Year.

Helena Gualinga

Helena Gualinga is an Indigenous environmental and human rights activist from the Kichwa Sarayaku community in Ecuador. She works to expose the impact of fossil fuel companies on her community. Gualinga took part in the COP25 in Madrid. During the conference, she used her platform to bring attention to the Ecuadorian government’s authorisation of oil extraction from indigenous land.

Marinel Ubaldo

Marinel Ubaldo is a Filipino climate activist who helped organise the first youth climate strike in her country. Previously, Typhoon Yolanda had destroyed her village in 2013. Subsequently, the relief response from the Filipino government was shockingly poor. After that, Marinel testified as a witness for the Philippines Commission on Human Rights investigation on corporate responsibility.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg ushered in a new generation of young climate activists and challenges world leaders about the lack of climate action. Before the 2018 Swedish election, Thunberg missed school to sit outside the country’s parliament. She sat outside with a sign that read “School Strike for Climate” each day. After that, the “Fridays For Future” school climate strike movement began and has had millions of participants worldwide. That is to say, Thunberg is one of the most famous female environmental activists.

Dr Jane Goodall

Dr Jane Goodall is a British ethologist. Her long-term research on the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania is legendary. In addition, she co-founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation in 1977. Above all, the Institute focuses on a community approach to conservation by improving the lives of people and animals as well as the environment. 

Eco Action Step:

Go to my International Women’s Day post on Instagram. Next, comment the name/s of the female environmental activists who have helped spark and grow your love for protecting our planet. Whether that’s your mum, a primary school teacher or Greta Thunberg herself. Speak to you there!


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