By Christa Adams
It is called Mother Nature, after all. From pioneering primatologists to grassroots activists, women have been at the forefront of the fight for sustainability for decades. And there’s no better time to recognize and celebrate the profound contributions women have made to society — including to the environment — than on March 8, which is International Women's Day. Remember, too, that women worldwide are more vulnerable than men to the consequences of climate change. They comprise the majority of the world’s poor and therefore have less access to resources that could help them adapt. It’s estimated about 70% of people living in poverty around the globe are women.
At SaltyLama, we believe in shining a spotlight on some of the empowered women who have led the fight toward conservation. These remarkable women have inspired countless others to join the environmental movement for a more sustainable future by making significant impacts in local communities, jungles, oceans, and even in their own backyards. If you want to get involved in some of these initiatives, check out what you need to know about conserving the world’s wetlands and plastic pollution in our environment. And remember, small acts can create positive change — even in your own household. An act as simple as switching from traditional laundry detergents to an eco-friendly alternative can help reduce plastic waste, cut the amount of chemicals being flushed into waterways, and limit the toxins your own family is exposed to.
Sylvia Earle: marine biologist and oceanographer
Our oceans are vital to our planet’s health, and no woman understands this better than Sylvia Earle, an American marine biologist and oceanographer who has dedicated her career to exploring and protecting the world's oceans. Earle holds the world record for the deepest walk on the seafloor and is a world-renowned expert on all things marine biology. She has been a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence since 1998 and has led more than 100 expeditions, logging more than 7,000 hours underwater, resulting in immeasurable achievements in marine science and conservation.
Plus, she is the founder of Mission Blue, a global initiative to protect and restore the oceans. She has worked tirelessly to promote the importance of marine conservation and ocean literacy. Thanks to Earle's passion for the ocean, she has inspired people around the world to take action for the sake of our planet's most vital resource.
Earle's accomplishments are numerous, and she has received awards and honors for her work, including the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science, and the TED Prize. She is also a member of the prestigious National Women's Hall of Fame.
She is also relentless in her commitment to protecting our planet's oceans. She has spent her career fighting for the health and well-being of marine life and their inhabitants. Her passion and determination have inspired a new generation of ocean activists and conservationists. Earle's legacy is one of hope, inspiration, and action, and she serves as an example of what one person can achieve.
Jane Goodall: British primatologist and anthropologist
Jane Goodall is a true icon of conservation. A London-born primatologist and anthropologist, she is best known for groundbreaking work on the behavior of chimpanzees in Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park. Her work has revolutionized our understanding of animal behavior and led the way for a new era of conservation science.
Goodall's contributions to conservation extend far beyond her research on chimpanzees. She is a passionate advocate for environmental conservation, animal welfare, and human rights. She has dedicated her life to educating the world about the importance of protecting our planet's natural resources and inspiring others to take action. In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute, which works to protect chimpanzees and their habitats and promote sustainable development in communities around the world.
Goodall’s tireless efforts have not gone unnoticed. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the Kyoto Prize, the Gandhi Peace Prize, and the UN Messenger of Peace. Her influence and impact on the conservation movement continues to inspire new generations of conservationists to this day. Her groundbreaking research, dedication to conservation, and tireless efforts to inspire action will continue to inspire and guide generations to come.
Vandana Shiva: Indian advocator for sustainable agriculture
How we grow food is not only important for our own health but for our planet’s, too. An Indian environmental activist, scholar, ecofeminist, and advocator for sustainable agriculture, Shiva has led a passionate life advocating for sustainability at all levels. She has fought tirelessly as a food sovereignty advocate, believing that organic farming that is free of harmful chemicals and pesticides should be the norm, while simultaneously fighting against the forces of corporate globalization.
Shiva's work has had a profound impact on the environmental movement, and she has been recognized as one of the most influential women in the world. She is the founder of Navdanya, a movement for seed sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, and has worked to promote the importance of traditional farming methods and the protection of biodiversity.
Shiva's contributions to the environmental movement are numerous, and they have not gone unnoticed. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work, including the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize", and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize. Having dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of farmers and the protection of our planet's natural resources, she has had a profound impact on the environmental movement.
Lois Gibbs: American environmental activist
Lois Gibbs is a noteworthy woman who has revolutionized the environmental movement through her inspiring activism and advocacy for environmental justice. An American environmental activist, she is best known for her leadership in the grassroots movement that successfully fought to relocate families living on the toxic waste site at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York in the late 1970s.
About 22,000 tons of chemical waste was dumped in the abandoned Love Canal by the Hooker Electrochemical Company (now Occidental Chemical Corporation, or OXY) in the 1940s. The land was later covered, and an elementary school and residential homes were built over it. During the 1960s and 70s, complaints about odors and residues began as the water levels rose, bringing contaminated groundwater to the surface. Gibbs owned one of the homes in the neighborhood.
Gibbs' courage and determination in fighting for the rights of the families affected by Love Canal sparked a national conversation about the dangers of toxic waste and the need for stronger environmental regulations. Her work paved the way for the creation of the Superfund Act, an initiative that funds the cleanup of hazardous waste sites throughout the US.
As a result of her diligent efforts for the environment — not just at Love Canal — she has received numerous awards and honors for her work, including the Goldman Environmental Prize and the John Gardner Leadership Award. She is also the founder of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization dedicated to building healthy and sustainable communities.
Gibbs has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of marginalized communities and ensuring that their voices are heard in the environmental decision-making process. She’s a woman worth celebrating on International Women’s Day and beyond.