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WOMEN Environmentalists

Each seasonal exhibit of the Women Soaring Project (WSP) seeks to focus on a particular theme celebrating women. This year, WSP elected to focus on "Women Environmentalists".

Current Project

Spring 2023
Women Environmentalists


Women Environmentalists - Quote.png


Climate change is perhaps the most pressing issue for humankind today. The increasing temperature of the planet has resulted in extreme weather patterns and a more hostile environment in which we have begun to see the disastrous consequences of man-made pollution. Mitigating this climate catastrophe is so great of a challenge that it requires a collective effort and cooperation on a global scale. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recently declared that the current global response is insufficient and that "transformative changes" are needed to restore and protect nature. The IPBES unprecedented report was compiled by 145 experts from 50 countries around the world relying on more than 15,000 scientific and government sources that included indigenous and local knowledge. This report was the world's first comprehensive and evidence-based study assessing the changes to the environment over the past five decades. The United Nations cited the following key findings from the IPBES report:

  1. Human activities and natural trends have converged to severely alter our natural world. Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history. The report shows that 75% of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. On average, these trends have been less severe — or avoided — in areas held or managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

  2. Nearly 1 million species are at risk of extinction from human activities. The loss of clean air, drinkable water, pollinating insects, forests, and species pose as big a threat to species survival as climate change. Many experts already believe a so-called “mass extinction event” – only the sixth in the last half-billion years – is already under way.

  3. The loss of biodiversity increases the challenge of limiting climate change. If we fail to protect the natural world, we lose our biggest asset in the fight against climate change because healthy ecosystems naturally absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Many of the “least regrets” solutions to the climate crisis (such as protecting and restoring natural carbon sinks and sustainable land management) also improve biodiversity, water, soil, as well as people’s health.

  4. Climate change is intensifying biodiversity loss. In areas where ecosystems are already in a vulnerable state, the impacts of climate change will be even more significant. It’s more difficult for degraded ecosystems to adapt to climate change, making impacts, such as flooding and wildfires, more damaging. Watch the video below to learn more about the causes and effects of climate change.




These key findings from the IPBES report emphasize the need for "transformative changes" in order to rescue the environment from further destruction, especially in the most vulnerable places around the world. Environmental racism and classicism have led to greater levels of pollution and poorer health in areas that already suffer from extreme poverty, political marginalization, and the lack resources to combat as well as remedy environmental destruction.


In the face of ongoing climate change and environmental destruction, climate activism seeks to increase awareness, demand answers from world leaders, and find solutions. Women environmentalists, in particular, have made it their life's mission to undo the damage that has been done to the earth from decades of immense development and conspicuous consumption without much consideration to the environment. As stewards of the earth, these women both past and present have fought fearlessly to protect the environment in a myriad of ways. Some of notable contemporaries include:

  • Vanda Shiva - Shiva founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy in India to find more sustainable ways to farm. She is also known for the establishment of numerous seed banks to preserve biodiversity.

  • Severn Cullis Suzuki - Suzuki rocketed to world fame at the age of 12 when she spoke at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, even before Greta Thunberg entered the global stage. She has been called "the girl who silenced the world for six minutes."

  • Sunita Narain - Narain is the director-general of the Center for Science and Environment. She has spearheaded campaigns such as rainwater harvesting and saving tiger populations, but most well known for her efforts in promoting sustainable development.

  • Isatou Ceesay - Ceesay has earned the titles as "Queen of Plastic Recycling". In Gambia, she founded the Women's Initiative Gambia that empowers women by helping them collect plastics and recycle them into goods that can provide a reliable income.

  • Ann Makosinski - Makosinski is among the new generation of environmentalists who made Forbes' 30 under 30 list in 2017 at the age of 17 for her invention of a flashlight that is charged by human body heat rather than environmentally damaging batteries.

  • Purnima Barman - Barman won the Whitley Award back in 2017. The award is considered the Nobel Peace Prize in environmentalism. She created the grassroots women's collective known as the Hargila Army, which has successfully preserved the wetland habitats in India.

  • Deepika Kurup - Kurup is a young environmentalist currently studying at Harvard University. She invented a water purification system using solar energy in her teens that has led to numerous awards, a TED talk, and a very promising future in science as environmentalist.

  • Mari Copeny - Copeny, also known as "Little Miss Flint", has spent years advocating for a response to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The 15-year-old activist was been named a Women's March Ambassador for her work raising awareness to the crisis.

As we face an increasingly volatile climate, the possible extinction of 1,000,000+ million species in the next several years, and ongoing racism and classism of marginalized populations throughout the globe, environmental justice creates a pathway toward a viable earth for future generations. While the current climate data can be disheartening and overwhelming, environmental activists, scholars, and leaders around the world are making strides to slow, and hopefully one day, reverse climate change. As individuals, we can also lead within our own local communities and be inspired by the environmental activists who came before us.

WSP’s upcoming Spring 2023 exhibit, Women Environmentalists, commemorates eight notable women who have fervently fought environmental destruction. As a project, we continue to focus on lesser-known women in history in an effort to expand societal awareness of women's achievements beyond the few who are most commonly cited. Please learn more by reading the eight women environmentalist biographies below. We also invite individuals to submit 2-D artwork that honor women environmentalists. Please click HERE to see our juried art exhibit.

Women Environmentalist


Learn more about each of these important women environmentalists in history by clicking on their profile below. 

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