Many studies have shown how the climate emergency disproportionately effects women. Most recently, the 2020 report ‘Gender-based violence and environment linkages’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature once again highlighted how the experience of climate crisis is highly gendered, as climate breakdown not only increases violence against women and girls, but efforts to challenge the crisis are impeded by gender inequality and discrimination.
International Women’s Day encourages all of us to call out gender bias and inequality, seek out and celebrate women’s achievements, and help create an inclusive world, collectively.
Throughout history, women have been fighting to heal the planet, through activism, science, communication, politics, education and beyond. Today, we celebrate just a handful of those women, by sharing with you some of their most inspirational and motivational quotes.
Read on and feel empowered to join them in our collective mission to save the planet and humanity.
Eugenie Clark, ichthyologist
“We ignore public understanding of science at our peril.”
– Eugenie Clark, aka the ‘Shark Lady’ (1922 – 2015)
Eugenie Clark was a respected American ichthyologist (a marine biologist who studies various species of fish classified as bony, cartilaginous, or jawless) most well-known for her research on the behaviour of sharks.
Clark used new and sometimes dangerous diving techniques to get up close and personal with sharks, at a time when there was little known about the species and they were thoughts of as mindless killers.
Clark campaigned tirelessly to change public perception of sharks, by focusing the discussion on their important role in the marine food chain. She completed her final dive at the age of 92, the year before she died.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT)
“If we put together all the knowledge systems that we have — science, technology, traditional knowledge — we can give the best of us to protect our peoples, to protect our planet, to restore the ecosystem that we are losing.”
– Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT)
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is a member of the Mbororo pastoralist people in Chad and an expert in the adaption and mitigation of indigenous peoples to climate change. In her role as President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), Ibrahim advocates for the greater inclusion of indigenous people, their knowledge and traditions in the global movement to fight the effects of climate change.
Indigenous communities are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but they can also offer solutions, says Ibrahim. “The traditional knowledge of indigenous people, that is centuries old, can help the world adapt.”
Ibrahim serves as a Member of the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues; Member of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC); Member of the Advisory Committee to the Secretary-General’s 2019 Climate Action Summit; and Conservation International Senior Indigenous Fellow. In 2019, she was listed by Time Magazine as one of 15 women championing action on climate change.
Rachel Carson, writer, scientist, and ecologist
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
– Rachel Carson, writer, scientist, and ecologist (1907 – 1964)
You may think climate change is something that has only been discussed by scientists in the last few decades, but Rachel Carson, who was born in 1907, was always aware of the impact that humans had on the natural world.
In the numerous best-selling books she authored throughout her life about the sea, Carson wrote about geologic discoveries from submarine technology and underwater research.
Carson challenged the notion that humans could obtain mastery over nature through the use of chemicals, bombs and space travel. Even in the 1950s, Carson was exploring how climate change, rising sea levels, melting Arctic glaciers, collapsing bird and animal populations and crumbling geological faults were all connected.
Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, primatologist
“One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference—all the difference in the world!”
— Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, primatologist
At just 26 years old, Jane Goodall travelled to what is now Tanzania and ventured into the then little-known world of wild chimpanzees. In nearly 60-years of groundbreaking work, Dr. Goodall showed just how closely linked chimpanzees, and other animals, are to humans and highlighted the urgent need to protect chimpanzees from extinction.
Understanding the important role local communities have to play in protecting animals, habitat and environment, Dr. Goodall redefined traditional conservation, saying: “It’s not really possible to think about conservation, unless you bring people into the picture. It’s where they live, after all.”
“We have found that after all, there isn’t a sharp line, dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom, as we find animals doing things that we, in our arrogance, used to think was just human.”
– Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, primatologist
And for some extra inspiration, please enjoy this Tribute to Dr. Goodall for her 80th birthday, from the Jane Goodall Institute.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Congresswoman
“The Plan for a Green New Deal shall recognize that a national, industrial, economic mobilization of this scope and scale is a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation.”
– Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Congresswoman
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (often referred to as AOC) is a third-generation Bronxite, educator, and organiser serving the 14th district of New York in the Bronx and Queens. AOC has experienced first hand both sides of laws and policy. Born in the Bronx, AOC went on to earn degrees in Economics and International Relations at Boston University, where she also handled foreign affairs and immigration casework for constituent families for the late Sen. Kennedy. When her father suddenly passed away from cancer at just 48 years old, AOC worked two jobs and 18-hour shifts in restaurants to help her family keep their home. Now, her mission in Congress is to create an America that works for the many, not just a wealthy few.
AOC strongly supports transitioning the United States to a carbon-free, 100% renewable energy system and a fully modernised electrical grid by 2035. She is a vocal supporter of a Green New Deal, launching a formal resolution for it alongside Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. As Naomi Klein puts it on her book ‘On Fire’: “The Green New Deal resolution begins with the terrifying science and short timelines in [The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report and calls for the United States to launch a moon shot approach to decarbonisation, attempting to reach net-zero emissions in just one decade, in line with getting the entire world there by mid-century”.
Miriam Miranda, a leader of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH)
“[I fight] so that future generations will have the resources and assets they need to survive on a planet that’s being destroyed every day.”
— Miriam Miranda, a leader of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH).
Miriam Miranda has dedicated her life to defending the cultural and land rights of the Garífuna people in Honduras. As a leader of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), Miranda defends indigenous land rights and natural resources.
Her decades of work within a country that has one of the most violent and repressive governments toward activists has seen Miranda thrown in jail, beaten, kidnapped, receive death threats and be attacked, simply for speaking out. Despite these risks, Miranda continues her fight for her own children and young people everywhere.
Miranda has received the Óscar Romero Human Rights Award and the US Food Sovereignty Alliance’s International Food Sovereignty Prize. In 2016, she was awarded the Carlos Escaleras environmental prize for 30 years of activist work.
Professor Wangari Maathai, activist, author and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
“You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”
– Professor Wangari Maathai, social, environmental, political activist and Nobel Prize winner (1940 – 2011)
Professor Wangari Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, the first female chair and the first female associate professor of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy at the University of Nairobi, and the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize.
In 1977, Professor Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organisation focused on the planting of trees with women’s groups, to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life. Through the Green Belt Movement, Professor Maathai has assisted women in planting more than 20 million trees on their farms and on schools and church compounds.
Professor Maathai has been internationally acknowledged for her struggle for democracy, human rights, and environmental conservation, and served on the board of many organisations. She has addressed the UN on a number of occasions and has spoken on behalf of women at special sessions of the General Assembly during the five-year review of the Earth Summit. Professor Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace.”