As part of our ongoing celebration of green women during women’s history month, we are spotlighting ten women environmentalists in the United States who work tirelessly to protect the environment. Help us make this list more comprehensive by adding additional women who you feel have made an enormous difference with their conservation work in the comments section. Also do not forget to check out our list of women working in sustainability and women working in the solar and wind industries.
by Tracey de Morsella, Green Economy Post
*Note: The Green Economy Post, is a site that is focused on addressing the unique sustainability issues of the US, so the women spotlighted in this issue are from the US. This does not discount the many accomplishments of female environmentalists from other countries around the world.
Frances Beinecke is the president of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). She has worked with NRDC for more than 30 years in various positions. Prior to becoming the president in 2006, Frances served as the organization’s executive director for eight years, during which time NRDC’s membership doubled and the staff grew to more than 300. She also worked as a member of NRDC’s water and coastal program, fighting to protect marine ecosystems from offshore oil and gas development and advocating for sound coastal land use. Under Frances’s leadership, the organization sharply focuses on curbing global warming, developing a clean energy future, reviving the world’s oceans, saving endangered wild places, stemming the tide of toxic chemicals and accelerating the greening of China.
She currently serves on the boards of the World Resources Institute, the and Energy Future Coalition, and Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business. Ms, Beinecke has received the Rachel Carson Award from the National Audubon Society, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the Annual Conservation Award from the Adirondack Council and the Robert Marshall Award from the Wilderness Society. With Bob Deans, Frances recently co-authored the book Clean Energy Common Sense: An American Call to Action on Global Climate Change, which shows how we can secure a clean and sustainable energy future. Read Ms. Frances’ Blog.
Majora Carter is the founder of the Majora Carter Group, which builds efficient relationships between across sectors – helping civic, business and nonprofit organizations meet their individual interests via green economic projects. Among the projects the Majora Carter Group working on is the development of new business opportunities for urban agriculture entrepreneurs in Detroit, Michigan and they are also consulting with Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation to build a green collar jobs program in the 9th ward of New Orleans. She is a co-host on Sundance Channel’s The Green, and host of a new special public radio series called, The Promised Land.
Before going into the private sector, she founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 after writing a $1.25M Federal Transportation grant to design the South Bronx Greenway with 11 miles of alternative transport, local economic development, low-impact storm-water management, and recreational space. She has brought riverfront parks, green roofs, dramatically expanded the urban forest, created a community market,and successfully implemented the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training program – seeding her community with a skilled green-collar workforce that has both a personal & economic stake in our environment. It was one of the nation’s first urban green collar training and placement systems. She is a National Audubon Society Rachel Carson Award winner,Her work has earned numerous awards including a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Most Influential African-Americans. Follow The Majora Carter Group at Twitter.com/MajoraCarter or connect with fellow supporters on the Majora Carter Facebook page.
Laurie David has produced numerous high profile projects that bring the issue of global warming into mainstream popular culture. She founded the Stop Global Warming Virtual March at www.stopglobalwarming.org to engage Americans to address global warming. Laurie launched the Stop Global Warming College Tour with Sheryl Crow, where they visited college campuses on a biodiesel tour bus to inspire students to work to stop global warming. As a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a founding member of the Detroit Project, Ms. David has spear-headed numerous public education and action campaigns urging Congress and auto-makers to raise fuel efficiency standards and make higher mileage cars. She has authored the bestselling book, Stop Global Warming (EasyRead Large Edition): The Solution is You! An Activist’s Guide and co-authored Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming, written for kids, which received the prestigious Green Earth Book Award.
She is a producer of the Academy Award winner An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary film based on former Vice President Al Gore’s thirty years of research on global warming. She executive produced the comedy special, Earth to America! for TBS, which featured Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell, Steve Martin and Jack Black among many others. She also executive produced the HBO documentary Too Hot Not to Handle on the effects of global warming in the United States. Laurie has received numerous awards for her work against global warning, including the U.S. EPA Climate Protection Award, Feminist Majority’s Eleanor Roosevelt Award, Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award and National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Achievement Award Special Achievement, and NRDC’s 2006 Forces for Nature award. Laurie is a regular blogger on the Huffington Post.
Sylvia A. Earle
Sylvia A. Earle is a leading American oceanographer. In 1970, Sylvia led the first team of women oceanographers (aquanauts) in the Tektite Project in which they lived in an underwater chamber for fourteen days to study undersea habitats. There after, she began to write for National Geographic and to produce books and films. Besides trying to arouse greater public interest in the sea, she hoped to raise public awareness of the damage being done to the aquasphere by pollution and environmental degradation. In 1979, she made an open-ocean JIM suit dive, setting a women’s depth record of 1250 feet (381m). Sylvia Earle walked untethered on the sea floor at a lower depth than any living human being before or since. She holds the women’s record for a solo dive in a deep submersible (3280 feet, 1000m) achieved in a Deep Rover that she designed with her husband.
In the early 1990s she serve as Chief Scientist of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration where she was responsible for monitoring the health of the nation’s waters. From 1998 to 2002 she led the Sustainable Seas Expeditions, a five year program to study the United States National Marine Sanctuary. An expert on the impact of oil spills, she was called upon to lead several research trips during the Gulf War and following the spills of the ships, Exxon Valdez and Mega Borg. Recently, she led the Google Ocean Advisory Council, a team of 30 marine scientists providing content and scientific oversight for the “Ocean in Google Earth.” She is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, sometimes called “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General. She is the author of more than 125 publications concerning marine science and technology including Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans and, most recently,Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas (National Geographic Atlas), with Linda K. Glover. Among the more than 100 national and international honors she has received is the 2009 TED Prize for her proposal to establish a global network of marine protected areas.
Lois Gibbs’ involvement in environmental causes began in 1978 when she discovered that her son’s elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York was built on a toxic waste dump. Subsequent investigation revealed that her entire neighborhood, Love Canal, had been built on top of this dump. Gibbs organized her neighbors and formed the Love Canal Homeowners Association. She led her community in a battle against the local, state, and federal governments. The families were eventually evacuated, and cleanup of Love Canal began. Her efforts also led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or Superfund, which is used to locate and clean up toxic waste sites throughout the United States.
In 1980, Gibbs founded Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), formerly the Citizens’ Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, where she currently serves as Executive Director. CHEJ is a grassroots environmental crisis center that provides information, resources, technical assistance and training to community groups around the nation. CHEJ seeks to form strong local organizations in order to protect neighborhoods from exposure to hazardous wastes. Lois is the author of Love Canal: The Story Continues…. CBS produced a 2 hour prime-time movie about Lois’s life entitled “Lois Gibbs: The Love Canal Story” starring Marsha Mason. She has received many awards for her environmental activism including, the Goldman Environmental Prize, Outside Magazine’s “Top Ten Who Made A Difference Honor Roll, the Heinz Award, the John Gardner Leadership Award from the Independent Sector, and in 2003 Lois was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Julia Butterfly Hill
Julia Butterfly Hill brought international attention to the plight of the world’s last remaining ancient forests when she climbed 180 feet into the branches of a 1000 year-old redwood tree and refused to come down. Her historic protest to the environmental destruction caused by the clear-cutting of ancient redwoods culminated after 738 days with an agreement that provided permanent protection for the tree known as Luna and a 3 acre buffer-zone around it. Julia is a co-founder and the inspiration behind What’s Your Tree. What’s Your Tree builds on Julia’s story and asks the question: What calls YOU to be bigger and more powerful than you ever imagined? The What’s Your Tree Curriculum is designed for small groups (typically 6-12 people) that meet in living rooms, libraries, churches and coffee houses.
Julia co -founded the non-profit organization, the Engage Network, which has absorbed the work of her other organization called the Circle of Life. These organizations work to promote the sustainability, restoration and preservation of life. They work to train leaders to create self-replicating small groups that take both care of people and change the world at the same time. She is also helped organize We The Planet, an eco-friendly music tour. Since her tree sit, Julia also become a motivational speaker (holding some 250 events a year). She is the author of the national best seller The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods and the co-author of One Makes the Difference: Inspiring Actions that Change our World. Julia’s book, The Legacy of Luna, based on her personal account of the Luna tree-sit action, will soon be made into a major motion picture.
L. Hunter Lovins is President and founder of the Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS). NCS educates senior decision-makers in business, government and civil society to restore and enhance the natural and human capital. NCS creates innovative, practical tools and strategies to enable companies, communities and countries to become more sustainable. Hunter cofounded the California Conservation Project (Tree People), and Rocky Mountain Institute, which she led for 20 years. Lovins has consulted for scores of industries and governments worldwide. She has consulted with large and small companies including the International Finance Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell, and Wal-Mart. Governmental clients include the Pentagon, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and other agencies, numerous cities, and the governments of Jamaica, Australia, and the U.S. She also serves an advisor to the Energy Minister of the Government of Afghanistan.
Recipient of such honors as the Right Livelihood Award, Lindbergh Award and Leadership in Business, she was named Time Magazine 2000 Hero of the Planet. She has co-authored nine books and hundreds of papers, including Natural Capitalism and Climate Protection Manual for Cities. She developed the Economic Renewal Project and helped write many of its manuals on sustainable community economic development. She is currently a founding Professor of Business at Presidio Graduate School, one of the first accredited programs offering an MBA in Sustainable Management.
Peggy Shepard is executive director and co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Founded in 1988, WE ACT was New York’s first environmental justice organization created to improve environmental health and quality of life in communities of color. From January 2001-2003, Peggy served as the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and is co-chair of the Northeast Environmental Justice Network. She is a former member of the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council of the National Institutes of Health and a member of the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Peggy serves on the Institute of Medicine’s committee: Ethics of Housing-Related Health Hazard Research Involving Children, Youth, and Families.
Peggy is a co-investigator of the Columbia Children’s Environmental Health Center’s Community Outreach and Translational Research Core and community partner of the NIEHS Center for Environmental Health In Northern Manhattan at Columbia. She is Principal Investigator on an NIEHS grant to foster communications and partnerships between researchers, clinicians and community on environmental health education and outreach. She has received numerous awards for her environmental justice work, including the Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award, Heinz Award For the Environment,Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Achievement, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health Dean’s Distinguished Service Award,Earth Day Award For Excellence In Environmental Advocacy and the New York State Environmental Woman of Action Award.
Judy Wicks is owner and founder of Philadelphia’s 25-year-old White Dog Cafe, and is a national leader in the local, living economies movement. She is co-founder of the nationwide Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), and founder of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN). She is also president of White Dog Community Enterprises, a non-profit 501c3 dedicated to building a local living economy in the Philadelphia region. The Cafe sources all produce in season from local organic family farms. All meat and poultry is humanely raised, and fish and seafood are sourced from sustainable fisheries. One hundred percent of electricity is purchased from wind power sources, the first business in Pennsylvania to do so. Twenty percent of profits are contributed to White Dog Community Enterprises and other non-profits. Community Enterprise projects have included Fair Food, which connects local family farms with urban market
With a four-part mission of serving customers, community, employees, and the natural environment, the White Dog Cafe has created numerous educational and community-building programs which focus on topics such as economic & social justice, environmental protection, peace & non-violence, drug policy reform and community arts. Her adjacent gift store, the Black Cat, founded in 1989, features local and fair trade crafts. Judy has won numerous awards, including the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2005, and the Philadelphia Sustainability Awards Life Time Achievement in 2007. Other accolades include Oprah Magazine’s “5 Amazingly Gifted and Giving Food Professionals,” and Inc. Magazine’s 25 favorite entrepreneurs. She is currently working on a book about her business and the local living economy movement.
Help us make this list more comprehensive by adding additional women who you feel have made an enormous difference with their conservation work in the comments section below.
© 2010 – 2011, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.