In celebration of International Women’s Day
In all the 118 years of the Nobel Peace Prize, only 15 women have ever been honored. The first woman to win the prize for environmental reasons, as a result of stunningly successful tree planting projects in Kenya was Wangari Muta Maathai. The second person to receive the Nobel for environmental work was Al Gore.
World renowned primatologist and conservationist Jan Goodall has been nominated this year. Ms. Goodall is certainly an outstanding choice as she is considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees after her 55-year-long study on the wild chimpanzees in Tanzania, but she’s also a dedicated advocate and activist on behalf of animal welfare and conservation causes. Her discovery of tool manufacture and use among the chimps led her to argue that “we’re not as different from the rest of the animal kingdom as we used to think.” Today, the Jane Goodall Institute works with people around the world to develop a greater understanding of how we can help humanity while still protecting the natural world. Ms. Goodall’s Roots and Shoots project funded environmental education in the Columbia Gorge.
I also would like the Nobel Committee to consider Dr. Jean Cypher who created and tirelessly works at the Rowena Wildlife clinic. The Rowena Wildlife Clinic in Mosier, Oregon was founded in 2000 by Jean Cypher. Dr. Cypher, a 1991 graduate of Washington State University, envisioned a charitable organization along the Columbia River Gorge that could aid wild and domestic animals and foster friendly relations between the human community and their animal neighbors. No injured wild or domestic animals are ever turned away and Dr. Cypher never charges for her surgery and post operative care.
Have you heard of Sylvia Earle? This groundbreaking American marine biologist and oceanographer, who was Time Magazine’s first Hero of the Planet in 1998, is known by her fans as the Sturgeon General! Sylvia Earle set a women’s depth record for suit diving and has helped design research submarines, but she is most well known for her advocacy for protecting Earth’s oceans. In 2009, she used money from a TED Prize to found Mission Blue, a non-profit dedicated to creating protected marine preserves around the world. Earle is also a best-selling author whose writing is increasing public awareness of the ecological importance of the ocean, which she calls “the blue heart of the planet”. And to the delight of her fans both young and old, last year LEGO created deep sea exploration building kits that are inspired by her work — and will inspire the next generation of ocean protectors.
Winona LaDuke learned early in her life about the challenges facing Native Americans: her father, an Objibwe man from Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation, had a long history of activism relating to the loss of treaty lands. Within her tribe’s traditional connection to the land, she also saw the potential for a new model of sustainable development and locally-based, environmentally conscious production of everything from food to energy. Her non-profit the White Earth Land Recovery Project has revived the cultivation of wild rice in Minnesota, and sells traditional foods under its label Native Harvest. She’s also the co-founder of Honor the Earth that provides grants to Native-run environmental initiatives. “Power,” she says, “is in the earth; it is in your relationship to the earth.”
Like many girls in Gambia, Isatou Ceesay was forced to drop out of school at a young age — but that didn’t mean she was oblivious to the environmental challenges around her. The colorful plastic bags that she used to admire were now gathering as trash all over her village, injuring livestock, helping mosquitoes breed, and strangling plants… and unlike the woven baskets her community was used to, they never decomposed. So in 1997, Ceesay founded the Njau Recycling and Income Generation Group. This revolutionary community recycling initiative turns waste into wealth: women collect the recyclable materials and bring them to a center where they separate out the plastics and upcycle them into bags, mats, purses, and more. Today, she is known as the “Queen of Recycling in The Gambia” and over 100 women gain income thanks to Ceesay’s organization. You can learn more about her program or buy a bag at One PlasticBag.com
And the winner is….