Earth Day was created back in the 1970’s to organize a nationwide demonstration so large it would get the attention of politicians and force issues of the environment into the nation’s dialogue. Today, more than one billion people around the world will take part in the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day to voice their concerns for the planet, and take action to protect it.
Over the decades, many women have been visible leaders of the environmental movement. And although Gaylord Nelson, former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, is credited for creating Earth Day in 1970, it is scientist, environmentalist and Woman You Should Know Rachel Carson that inspired the movement with her book Silent Spring, first published in 1962.
Silent Spring documented the dangers of pesticides and herbicides and showed the long-lasting presence of toxic chemicals in water and on land, and the presence of the insecticide DDT in mother’s milk.
The evidence presented in the book initiated an attack on Carson from the agricultural chemical industry, calling the book everything from “sinister” and “hysterical” to “bland,” but the public’s concern was raised. President John F. Kennedy read Silent Spring and initiated a presidential advisory committee to explore Carson’s thesis, and in 1963, the US Senate opened an investigation of pesticides.
Unfortunately, Carson passed away from cancer the following year, before seeing the changes that became her legacy, including a reversal in national pesticide policy, leading to the ban on the use of DDT.
According to Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the US State Department, studies show it is women who are often most affected by the frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change. It is women who often spend half their days trekking long distances to collect water. It is women who represent the majority of the world’s small-holder farmers and who face the disproportionate burden of food insecurity. Women clearly have a stake in the future of the environment and are taking action.
Whether promoting conservation, sourcing and using natural resources, or finding solutions to make living a greener life easier, women continue to be at the forefront of protecting Mother Earth. Here are a few Women You Should Know we have previously highlighted who are doing just that.
LuminAID – by Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta uses solar-powered light in the form of a lightweight, waterproof “lantern”, proven to be as useful in global crises and natural disasters.
Nicolette Stanley – environmentalist educating her community in the oil and gas industry.
EcoEnterprises Fund – an all-women investment team providing venture financing to community-based businesses integral to ecological well-being.
LilaMae.com – an online shopping destination for non-toxic and environmentally friendly products, 100% made in America.
Chef Ann Cooper – founded the Food Family Farming Foundation (F3), a nonprofit organization designed to empower schools to serve nutritious whole food to all students.
Green Heron Tools – Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger offer high-quality agricultural and gardening tools and equipment designed to work specifically with women’s bodies.