Women’s history month is an opportunity to celebrate these iconic women who will go down in history for their contributions towards environmental science and climate change activism. The past decade has been notably one of the most significant turning points in climate change awareness history, with an increasing number of activists storming social media all with the aim to influence climate change awareness. We recognise key female individuals in the sustainability field, whether they are socially famous or are more centralised to a business, laboratory or workplace. They are all making a difference and should be celebrated for their work.
Eunice Foote, American scientist 1819 – 1888
Most will be familiar with the term ‘green house gas effect’, which refers to the earth warming effect caused by the layers of gases in Earth’s atmosphere that trap the Sun’s heat. Earth is currently warming due to the increase of greenhouse gases, caused by human activity and resulting in climate change. This scientific breakthrough was initially discovered by an American woman called Eunice Foote. Foote was born in July 1819 and later became a climate scientist which led up to her discovery, in which she even theorised that global warming was possible. However the theory of global warming was originally attributed to John Tyndall, even though he discovered the effect three years after Foote. It was only in 2011 that Foote’s ground breaking work has been recognised and she is now celebrated as a pioneering scientist.
Elinor Ostrom, American economist 1933-2012
Ostrom was the first female to win a Nobel Memorial Prize in economic services, for her revolutionary theory that the key to tackling the climate crisis is local, rather than global. Ostrom concluded that rather than relying on global solutions for climate change mitigation, local / communal action was proven to be more effective in the protection of natural resources. Ostrom’s breakthrough was essential in economics since her research highlighted the flaws associated with ‘The tragedy of the commons’, whereby environmental impact mitigation collectively world- wide is difficult concerning the large variety of laws, and cross-over aspects or areas such as oceans where no government officially ‘owns’. Her research showed that empowering communities and local governments can be more effective in encouraging sustainable practices.
Greta Thunberg – climate change activist 2003- present
Greta Thunberg is undoubtably one of, if not the most famous female climate protestor of our time. Her story started when she was just 15 in 2018, when she frequently protested outside the Swedish parliament building and demanded that law makers addressed climate change. Greta had first learned about climate change when she was just 8 years old and wanted to do something more worthwhile than just changing her lifestyle, and so from that initial passion later became her campaign ‘Fridays for future’ where she would skip school on Fridays to protest. Greta’s campaign ‘Fridays for future’ is internationally held in several countries with thousands of people joining her and Greta is now internationally recognised as the global face of climate activism.
Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez – American Politician and activist 1989- present
Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, also known as AOC, is the youngest member of US parliament to have ever been elected. AOC was previously a bartender and waitress, but it was her activism that led to her election success. Today she is one of the most influential female figures in the climate crisis movement and a national figure of the Democratic party. She supports today’s climate activists by sharing her opinions through social media, and she has championed a long running campaign to drive the US government to address climate change.
“Unless carbon emissions are greatly reduced over the next 12 years, the effect of the climate crisis will be both irreversible and deadly.” – AOC
Naomi Klein – Author, Journalist, professor and climate activist 1970- Present
Canadian born climate crisis author, Naomi Klein has published various critically acclaimed books and articles that highlight the climate crisis and possible solutions from a political viewpoint. Klein is most well known for her in depth analyses on the climate crisis political movement and eco-feminism. Klein rejects corporate globalisation, fascism, eco-fascism and capitalism. Klein is also a university professor at The University of British Columbia where she teaches climate justice to inspire future generations. Her most recent book ‘How to change everything: the young humans guide to protecting the earth and each other’ (2021) explains how to tackle the climate crisis in the future and is a great example of inspirational literature.
Julia Cope, Sustainability Services