It’s old news that our natural world is under great pressure, that it’s suffering from numerous problems: pollution, deforestation, climate change, global warming, overpopulation, acid rain, ozone layer depletion and the complications of extended urban sprawl.

Here are just a small collection of women whose incredible devotion to the environment has contributed to greater understanding of the environmental issues our planet faces.

Rachel Carson, 1907 – 1964

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.

As a marine biologist, Rachel was a devoted environmentalist most known for her book, ‘Silent Spring’. ‘Silent Spring’ raised awareness about DDT pesticide contamination and resulted in national policy changes on pesticide in the US. A key figure in the environmental and eco-feminist movements, her writings laid the groundwork for the development of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Marjora Carter

Environmental justice [means that] no community should be saddled with more environmental burdens and less environmental benefits than any other.

Known for her work in New York’s the Bronx, Marjora is a master of sustainable restoration. She founded SSBx (Sustainable South Bronx), which instituted a number of projects on the waterfront and runs one of America’s first green-collar, urban training programs. Her work has earned her a MacArthur Fellowship and Rachel Carson Award.

Rosalie Edge, 1877 – 1962

While the old dream dreams, progress will come as always before, through the courage of the young who see visions.

The founder of the Emergency Conservation Committee, Rosalie was instrumental in the creation of Olympic and Kings Canyon National Park, as well as Congress’s purchase of 8000 acres on the edge of Yosemite National Park. She was described by The New Yorker as, “the only honest, unselfish, indomitable hellcat in the history of conservation.”

Eileen Kampakuta Brown and Eileen Wani Wingfield

Do not waste our country, do not waste our future.

From 1953 to 1963, a dozen nuclear weapon tests were conducted in Southern Australia. Both of these women lived through the horrible after-effects of these tests – so when the government announced, decades later, that they were considering building a nuclear waste site in the South Australian desert, these aboriginal women were determined not to let that happen. Despite being in their seventies and in failing health, they launched a tireless campaign. They succeeded in blocking the plans for the dump and were awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for their efforts.

Wangari Maathai, 1940 – 2011

It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.

The first woman in East Africa to earn a PhD, and the first to become a professor at Nairobi University, Wangari was the definition of a pioneer. She is most known for her Nobel Peace Prize winning work with the Greenbelt Movement, which employed roughly 30,000 women in Kenya and planted more than 30 million trees. You can read more about Wangari here.

Vandana Shiva

You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to
remember that the planet is carrying you.

An Indian physicist and ecologist, Vandana is a crusader in the fight for biodiversity. Dubbed the “Ghandi of Grain,” she founded Navdanya, an organization that focuses on supporting local organic food growers and seed-saving. She is a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, considered by many to be the alternative Nobel Prize.

Marina Silva

There is no longer a way of thinking about growth for growth’s sake. Growth is important, but it needs to be growth with development and sustainability, in all of its senses: social, environmental, economic, cultural.

Known for her work in the Amazon, for which she has been dubbed an “Amazonian Legend,” Marina is fighting to protect the Brazilian Rainforest. In 2007, she was recognized by the United Nations as a Champion of the Earth. She also served as Brazil’s Minister of the Environment.

References include The United Nations Environmental Programme, TED, Green Economy Post, Treehugger, The New Yorker and

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Amber Karlins

Written by Amber Karlins

Amber works as a professor in Florida, teaching writing, literature, and theatre. Her first book, a work of creative non-fiction, was published in 2011. She also enjoys academic writing and has published papers in such places as the African American National Biography and the Journal for the Society of Armenian Studies.

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