The Female Environmentalists That Inspire Our Work Every Day

Here at Wearth, we know power and innovation when we see it, and we know where (and, more specifically, who) it comes from – no reminders needed. Do we believe that women are a massive and truly incredible force within the environmental movement?

Um, are our sustainable shelves stocked to the hilt with 80% female-led brands?

… Yes, that’s a yes!

So, with March 8th right around the corner, and International Women’s Day oiling its gears, we thought what better way to celebrate (in true Wearth fashion) than to turn all attention to some of the powerhouses of environmentalism – the women that inspire us every day to do what we can with the life we are given.

Margaret Thomas Murie (b. 1902 – d. 2003)

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‘I hope the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by, or so poor she cannot afford to keep them.’

Named ‘the grandmother of the Conservation Movement’ by the Wilderness Society, ‘Mardy’ Murie was a naturalist and adventurer, and the first woman to lead the way for America’s conservation movement. She’s received several awards for her lifetime of dedication to environmentalism, including the Audubon Medal (which her husband, Olaus Murie, had also received) and most impressively, the Presidential Medal of Freedom – awarded to her by Bill Clinton.

Jane Goodall (b. 1934)

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‘Until we have peace and harmony with the environment, we will never live in a world of peace.’

Our world’s leading primatologist and way-maker when it comes to the conservation of chimpanzees. Her field research, spanning from 1960 through to today, redefined how we understand the species and their unique genetic kinship to us. By breaking down more traditional approaches, Goodall involved herself with the primates, immersed fully in their environment, and later helped to rebuild the bond between the locals of Gombe and their responsibility to protecting their home and the animals they share it with. Before she made her impact, the field of primatology was almost completely devoid of women. Now, mostly thanks to her, women are leading the field.

Sylvia Earle (b. 1935)

‘Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.’

One of the world’s most renowned oceanographers, who for over 40 years has been exploring the ocean floor, bringing us fascinating research on marine algae and raising awareness of the devastating effects overfishing has on our oceans. Earle still, to this day, holds the world record for the deepest untethered dive, walking the sea floor at a depth of 1,250 feet (381 metres), and is a pioneer in the use of modern SCUBA gear and the development of deep-sea submersibles. Earle is a powerhouse of progress and success, in 1970 leading the first all-female team of aquanauts into the deep sea, and in 1998 becoming the National Geographic Society’s first female Explorer in Residence.

Wangari Maathai (b. 1940 – d. 2011)

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‘When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and the seeds of hope.’

It wouldn’t be possible to complete this list without including Wangari Maatha – the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree and the first to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She was made most famous by her grass-roots movement in 1977, aimed at combatting deforestation at its roots and promoting the cultivation of new forests. The movement went on to inspire other women to plant trees in their local areas, and was later officially named the Green Belt Movement – responsible for the planting of over thirty million trees across Africa.

Vandana Shiva (b. 1952)

‘In nature’s economy the currency is not money, it is life.’

Founder of Navdanya, a movement that protects biological and cultural diversity in agriculture. Shiva stands for the rights of farmers, and her movement holds great respect for indigenous women and their history and relationship with farming. She has gone on to help in the writing of laws that recognise the land and its animals were never human-made, and must be honoured and treated fairly. Dubbed an ‘environmental hero’ by Time magazine in 2003, Shiva is known across Asia as one of the five most powerful voices standing for agriculture and food.

Winona LaDuke (b. 1959)

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‘But people either relate to you as an Indian or as a woman. They relate to you as a category. A lot of people don’t realise that I am not that different from everyone else.’

Based in the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota, LaDuke is a renowned environmentalist best known for her work on the preservation of indigenous land and sustainable developments. In 1989 she founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP), which has since helped to develop renewable energy sources, promote indigenous farming, and improve sanitation measures – using funds provided by the native people, and their traditional craftwork, jewellery, and food. And even alongside this grand-scale project, she still managed to find time to continue her advocacy work with the Indigenous Women’s Network.

Isatou Ceesay (b. 1972)

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‘People thought I was too young and that women couldn’t be leaders. I took these things as challenges; they gave me more power. I didn’t call out the problems – I called out solutions.’

In 1997, Ceesay, alongside four other women, created the Recycling Centre of N’Jau – with the aim to educate and spread awareness about the immense amount of waste that was gathering around the community, and the importance of recycling that plastic waste. Then, inspired by her sister who taught her crochet as a girl, she had the idea to upcycle discarded plastic bags – and, again in collaboration with local women, created woven purses that could be sold. Since then, she has been known as Gambia’s queen of recycling.

Greta Thunberg (b.2003)

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‘I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.’

An inspiration to youth activism worldwide. Her name is known to pretty much anyone you stop on the street. Her famous speech at the 2019 UN climate event in New York City spurred on millions of protestors to march in climate strikes across 163 countries. Time Magazine, who awarded her Person of the Year in 2019, likened her speeches to gut punches, and with that aggressive force she has held world leaders accountable, and wastes no time (because there is little left) in educating the people on the dangers of our climate crisis, before it’s too late to solve.

Autumn Peltier (b. 2004)

‘Keep going, don’t look back, and if you have an idea, just do it; no one is going to wait for you or tell you what to do.’

Though only young, Peltier is already a world-renowned environmental activist who champions indigenous peoples’ right to clean water. She has already been nominated 3 times for an International Children’s Peace Prize, mostly for her work in providing clean drinking water to people on Canadian reservations and across the developing world. Steep achievements for someone so young, and think of all she is still yet to accomplish!

Looking back and looking forward, the way to conservation and ecological health has been paved by the strength and resilience of women across the world. Those that dared to care.

Let’s keep celebrating, from March 8th and beyond! Join the Wearth London community and conversation on Instagram at @wearthlondon.