As the great Beyoncé once said, who runs the world? Girls. Are women and girls also going to save the world?
This year, International Women’s Day has me reflecting on how many inspiring women are leading the charge on protecting our planet and building a sustainable, healthy, and climate-safe future for all.
The mother of environmentalism
Women have been at the forefront of environmental protection from the beginning. In the 1940s ecologist, marine scientist and all-round inspiration Rachel Carson began publishing books on interactions with birds, fish and eels. In 1962 she went on to author the environmental classic Silent Spring which served as a societal wake-up call to the impacts of chemical pesticides such as DDT.
Today, women-powered environmental leadership and activism can be found in every province, and on every environmental issue from plastic pollution, to climate change, to water protection.
Here are just a few of the amazing women in the environmental movement who have inspired me personally.
Walking to protect our water
As the Water Programs Manager and a water activist, I have to start with Grandmother Josephine Mandamin. Grandmother Josephine was an exceptional advocate and water protector, and the founder of the Mother Earth Water Walks movement. She walked the shoreline of every one of the Great Lakes – more than 25,000km – to raise awareness for water protection. She has inspired thousands to stand up for water, and was a highly respected leader of the Great Lakes Guardian Council.
Grandmother Josephine Mandamin
Grandmother Josephine passed away on February 22 of this year, and is mourned by all who were impacted by her inspiring leadership and activism. Her recent passing has prompted the community to reflect on her profound impact, and it seems fitting that on International Women’s Day we recognize a leader in our own back yard, protecting our precious Great Lakes and freshwater across Canada.
Young women speaking truth to power
From the local scale to the global outlook, young women are leading the way on the climate movement as well. Greta Thunberg, just 16 years old, is a Swedish climate activist that has inspired a worldwide movement of student strikes for climate action called Fridays for the Future. The climate crisis is going to impact Greta’s generation in a serious way, and she has added fuel to a fire that has been growing among youth to push for governments around the world to act on climate change. Her leadership on school strikes have inspired an international movement, and Greta has addressed audiences such as the United Nations and World Economic Forum in defence of the planet.
In Davos earlier this year, Greta did not mince words when she proclaimed: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) March 5, 2019
This direct calling out of political leaders is refreshing and even more inspiring from a young activist. Greta is proof that women of all ages are making an impact, and are breathing new life into the climate fight at a time where it is more critical than ever.
Everyday role models
And on a final personal note, I feel lucky to be working in the environmental field during a time where I have been overwhelmed with examples of inspiring women I could have written about this year.
There is no shortage of exemplary female activists doing amazing things, but I also think it’s important to reflect on are the women in our everyday life who are taking charge, standing up, and making a difference. I feel overwhelmed with admiration for the women on staff at Environmental Defence Canada who I am privileged to work with every day in our effort to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.