5 Female Climate Action Leaders
by Yasmin Ajirniar
The connection between women’s rights and climate action has been recognized and is well understood. Achieving greater women’s rights and women’s equality will mitigate the impact of the climate crisis. And, vice versa, mitigating the deleterious effect of climate change will improve the state of affairs for women. (see Paul Hawken’s Drawdown for an excellent explanation of this relationship).
The effect of climate change serves to aggravate existing inequalities and, therefore, affects women differently than their male counterparts. So, it is all the more important to have representative climate leadership-here are five inspiring contemporary female climate activists.
By sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Greta Thunberg reinforced her stance as a proponent for climate action. Her intention and accomplishment grasped the attention of international news and propelled her into a public role. However, up to that point, she had been vocal against the negligence and complacency of industry and government to take climate action. She has organized youth-led protests at schools, protested at the Swedish government, and delivered speeches at the World Economic Forum, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24 and COP25), and the UN Climate Action Summit.
Through the judiciary system, Tessa Khan has taken a stand against governments to advocate for strong climate action policies. She has worked for the Urgenda Foundation and cofounded the Climate Litigation Network, two non-profit organizations that seek to uphold international environmental agreements and support environmental court cases which has had global impact. Notably, the Urgenda Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Netherland government. The ruling, the government was acting responsibly in response to climate change, triggered multibillion dollar spending to reduce emissions and significant cut-backs in fossil fuels in the country. In Ireland, a similar case and ruling was issued, known as the Friends of the Irish Environment, v Government of Ireland. In addition to her work for climate action and sustainability, she seeks to improve the human condition by providing counsel to government and intergovernmental organizations on human rights.
As a landscape architect, Kotchakorn Voraakhom designs public spaces that are appropriate for the region, geography, and climate. As the climate crisis accelerates, natural disasters such as tsunamis, floods, extreme heat, and droughts will occur more frequently. Considering Thailand is already prone to flooding, it is increasingly more important to create infrastructure that is resilient. Here is where Kotchakorn Voraakhom excels: for example, the parks which she has designed can capture runoff water and redirect the excess water to wetlands.
Dr. Inez Fung’s impressive background is undeniable: she received her B.S. and PhD from MIT. Currently as a professor of atmospheric science at University of California, Berkeley, she studies climate change, the carbon cycle, and hydrologic cycle. With her expertise, she has authored high impact climate reports and research publications and delivered talks at GoogleTechTalk and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.
Rhiana Gunn Wright
Rhiana Gunn-Wright’s deep understanding of the climate crisis stems not only from her formal education but also her personal experience. The effects of pollution on public health became immediately evident to her at a young age since she suffered from severe asthma. She went on to complete her undergraduate degree at Yale University and later studied at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. She has been credited for her major contribution to the Green New Deal and has been recognized by TIME Magazine for her fight against climate change.