Environment Spotlight: Women in the Environment

Over the past decade, many educational institutions around the United States have implemented programs encouraging young girls to become involved in STEM fields—like the National Girls Collaborative Project, National Math and Science Initiative, and Women in Engineering Proactive Network, to name a few—but there is still a surprising amount of discrimination that makes it difficult for women to be taken seriously in the sciences. As a result, the accomplishments of these five women are extremely inspiring, and, in addition to being role models for the rest of the world in terms of environmental consciousness, they are also role models for young girls and other groups that face discrimination too often in the workplace. These women’s ability to thrive in a consistently male-dominated field is an inspiration for all and is a lesson in teaching that passion, focus, and dedication can overcome adversity. Their accomplishments are also a hopeful nudge in the right direction towards universal realization of the truly impressive capabilities of women in STEM.

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, PhD  

Ayana Johnson speaks at TED Resident’s Salon, July 12, 2016, New York, NY. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

“It’s not just about the ocean. It’s not just about marine life—even though I’m madly in love with octopuses. It’s about connecting the dots and helping people to understand how ocean conservation is actually related to the issues they care about. We all need healthy oceans.”

Ayana Johnson in an interview with the Ocean Conservancy

Dr. Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, and conservation strategist who has held policy positions in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She is the Founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice, and Founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank focused on coastal cities. In addition, she has served as Executive Director of the Watt Institute where she co-founded the Blue Halo Initiative to zone one-third of the Caribbean island of Barbuda’s coastal waters as marine preserves. In collaboration with the ocean experts she surrounds herself with at the Collectiv and in partnership with the governments and stakeholders, Johnson has also been able to launch the initiative on Curaçao and Montserrat, as well.

Want to stay up to date with Dr. Johnson? Follow her on Instagram and Twitter!

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, PhD

Image via Dr. Hayhoe’s Website 

“I don’t think there are any churches that have ‘Thou shalt not believe in climate change’ written in their actual statement of faith.”

Katharine Hayhoe

Dr. Hayhoe is a climate scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and a principal investigator for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s South-Central Climate Adaptation Science Center. Her current research focuses on establishing a scientific basis for assessing the regional to local-scale impacts of climate change on human systems and the natural environment. She is also the Founder and CEO of a consulting and research group, Atmos Research, that provides non-profits and government agencies with scientists to help them manage their interests while also being mindful of their impact on the environment. In addition, Dr. Hayhoe is working to prove that science and religion can work together, spreading the word by writing and producing the PBS digital short series called Global Weirding: Climate, Politics, and Religion that runs from October to March every year.

Follow her on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest with this amazing scientist!

Varshini Prakash

Photo via Elle

But to me and to Sunrise, when we talk about a Green New Deal, we’re talking about the massive transformation of our society and our economy that we will need to stop the climate crisis and act in accordance with what science and justice demand over the next 10 years.

Varshini Prakash in an interview with E&E News

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Prakash became involved in the climate movement by joining (and eventually leading) the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign for two years, which won in 2016 after a two-week-long mass escalation that involved over 700 students, faculty, and alumni. Currently, Prakash is Cofounder, Executive Director, and Lead Spokeswoman of the Sunrise Movement. Their aim is to put pressure on politicians to support the Green New Deal and to be more progressive on climate initiatives. This group occupied Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office joined by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. They also released a video confronting Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Find out more about the amazing things Varshini Prakash is accomplishing on Twitter and Instagram.

Nicole Horseherder

Photo of Nicole Horseherder in her cornfields via Sierra

Having had the privilege of seeing the land as the Creator left it for us, I know that the wise management of the basic elements of life — land, air, water and the sun — is necessary if we are to fulfill our responsibility to ensure a decent quality of life for the next generation. It’s time for the U.S. government to divest from the Navajo Generating Station and start building commercial-scale renewable energy projects on Navajo land. Prosperity for some should no longer come from draining the livelihoods of others.

Nicole Horseherder via Navajo Truth

Nicole Horseherder is the Executive Director of “Tó Nizhóní Ání” (TNA), which is Navajo for “Sacred Water Speaks”. They are helping to draft a bill that will shift the Navajo Nation in the Black Mesa region of Arizona from relying on coal to relying fully on renewable energy sources. This organization was founded in 2001 in response to Peabody Coal Company’s excessive use and waste of the only portable water source the Navajo people have in the Black Mesa region. TNA is currently working on educating Black Mesa youth about the harmful environmental effects of coal and developing solar projects at multiple sites in the region.

Sandra Bessudo

Photo by Guy Drollet via La Voix du Nord

After the first dives, I saw the incredible natural beauty of the island, but also understood all the problems facing the site. At that time, several fishing boats were anchored directly on the coral, with their decks full of dead sharks. Once you dive with sharks, it’s very painful to see them lying dead on deck. At that moment I realized something had to be done to protect Malpelo, to preserve these magnificent species.

Sandra Bessudo in an interview with Fondation Tara Océan

Sandra Bessudo is a French Columbian marine biologist, diver, and former Columbian Minister of the Environment. She founded the Malpelo Foundation, an NGO that promotes marine and coastal ecosystem protection and conservation in Columbia while encouraging the sustainable development of natural resources. One of the Malpelo Foundation’s main projects is protecting the Malpelo Marine Sanctuary off the Pacific Coast of Columbia. This sanctuary is responsible for protecting thousands of at-risk deep-water sharks and other marine animals. As a result of their efforts, in 2006 UNESCO declared the Malpelo Marine Sanctuary a World Heritage Site. In addition to her work with the Malpelo Foundation, Bessudo has also acted as High Presidential Counselor for environmental management, biodiversity, water, and climate change, where she represents the nation at international sustainability forums.

Follow Sandra Bessudo on Twitter to stay up to date with her recent projects!

We are truly inspired by these women and the work they are accomplishing for our environment. This is just the tip of the iceberg in what women are doing to save our planet! See more about how they are revolutionizing how we protect our communities in this article by Elle Magazine. Check out their recent projects on their websites to show your support!

Elizabeth Bartzokis

As a native South Floridian, I grew up constantly outdoors. In Florida, I live just a five-minute drive from the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, where I love to watch turtle hatchings and enjoy the beauty of tropical Florida. During summers spent visiting family in Saronida, Greece, one of my favorite activities is participating in beach cleanups with the Saronikos County Volunteers in Action to help keep the beaches beautiful and clean!