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Whether it’s struggling to prevent deforestation, creating conservation areas, or defending animal rights, these women have devoted part of their lives to protecting the environment. On this International Women’s Day, we want to share their stories and highlight their work.
This American entrepreneur and conservationist is above all a lover of nature. In 1993, she married businessman Douglas Tompkins and together, they set out to create a network of National Parks in Patagonia, both in Chile and Argentina, pushing forward environmental conservation in the area.
After Douglas’ death in 2015, she has continued both their legacies, leading “Tompkins Conservation.” On January 29, 2018, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, realized a promise they had made the year before: the donation of more than 400,000 hectares of preserved and restored Tompkin’s land in exchange for the government adding extra lands to create new parks. With this, Chilean National Park areas increased by almost 40%, thus expanding protected areas for pumas, condors, flamingos and endangered deer species.
Together with the existing parks, a network of 4.5 million hectares was established in the Chilean Patagonia, more than three times larger than the area of the American parks Yosemite and Yellowstone combined.
Of Kenyan origin, Maathai was a political and environmental activist who devoted her life to protecting African forests and women’s rights. In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement which, since its creation, has managed to plant more than 50 million trees and trained thousands of women to make a living out of forestry and beekeeping. For this foundation and its impact, she won the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1986, also known as the Right Livelihood Award. In 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”
Englishwoman Jane Goodall is considered the leading chimpanzee expert in the world. We owe her the discovery of the existence of war, cultural differences, and use of tools in these primates. This woman has devoted more than 55 years to the study and protection of chimpanzees, which has earned her more than 50 honorary titles and recognition. In 2002, she was named a messenger of peace by the United Nations and in 2004, she was recognized as a Dame of the British Empire. Today, she has distanced herself from fieldwork; however, her activism in favor of a more tolerant attitude towards animals and the environment is still alive in her and in her foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute.
This American biologist and conservationist’s work contributed to the development of modern environmental awareness. In 1962, she published her most famous work, “Silent Spring”, through which she sought to raise awareness about the harmful effects of pesticides on wildlife and ecosystems. Her book became a benchmark for further studies and encouraged the creation of the environmental movement. Such was the impact of her work that many have even said that “without Rachel Carson’s book, Greenpeace would not exist today.”