Women in the Outdoors: Giving new meaning to “mama earth”

Today is International Women’s Day to honor women and promote gender equality, fairness and advancement.

Author and teacher Debbie Miller
Author and teacher Debbie Miller

The environmental and outdoors communities have a tremendous and rich history of female leadership and innovation.  HuffPo Green posted this slideshow but here’s a warning, it includes celebs like Lucy Lawless.

Mother Earth News Network published this list of “5 women who made eco-history;” the United Nations Environment Programme has this list of who’s who in the women’s environmental movement; Adventure Journal often posts installments of “My Heroes” which features great answers and lists of heroes by the likes of skier and environmentalist Alison Gannett; eco-hero Bill Mckibben (though there’s not so much a specific woman on his list as there are massive groupings, like “the Occupy people”); and environmentalist Alexandra Cousteau.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service keenly marked the day by posting this piece on refuges named for women like the Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge in New York and the Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge – the first refuge set aside to protect the bald eagle — in Virginia.

Everyone has a list of incredible people making an impact in the environmental arena, the outdoor world.  I know far too little about the movement as a whole to know what’s going on in every corner of the world to provide an accurate or even comprehensive list. But here are five folks I personally find inspiring.

Rachel Carson

1. Let’s get this one out of the way. Obviously the number one  person on said list is Rachel Carson, after all,  considered the mother of the environmental movement. I hail from by her hometown, and you can feel her spirit and presence hiking on the Rachel Carson Trail.  Carson was a teacher, biologist and author who focused on warning the public on the dangers of using pesticides.  She wrote one of the hallmarks of the environmental movement, Silent Spring. Pittsburgh loves her; there’s a conservancy, a trail, a bridge, a race and so much more named after her. And there should be.

2. Debbie S. Miller is a teacher, writer, explorer. She lives in the Arctic Bay of Alaska and has written books  for adults and children on Alaska and the natural world (I’m in the midst of reading her latest, On Arctic Ground, by Mountaineers Books.)  Her website is a treasure trove of her processes, how she’s gone about working on her books and her goals as a writer.

Shannon Gilpin
Shannon Gilpin

3.  In 2010, Shannon Gilpin became the first woman to ride a mountain bike across Afghanistan.But it wasn’t about an athletic feat, it was about challenging perceptions of gender barriers. Gilpin founded of Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit that works to empower women in conflict zones through educational and health programs. After five years, Mountain2Mountain recently launched the “Strength in Numbers” program in the U.S. that targets young women at-risk, female military veterans, and violence survivors. From its website: “Utilizing the bike as a vehicle for social justice, beyond traditional bike donations, instead considering mountain biking as a seed for cultural exchange and self-determination abroad and at home.”

Dr. Vandana Shiva
Dr. Vandana Shiva

4.  To Dr. Vandana Shiva, environmentalism and feminism go hand-and-hand. An Indian humanitarian, she’s active on multiple fronts: protecting biodiversity, defending farmers’ rights and promoting organic farming through her organization Navdanya. She fights for seed freedom, or protecting farmers’ rights to save, breed, and exchange seed freely.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg of her 30+ year body of work.

Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland

5. Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland is considered the mother of defining sustainable development.  Her pedigree is impressive: Harvard grad, physician, former leader of the World Health Organization, prime minister of Norway. She’s worked on climate change issues for the U.N. and she was one of the earliest to try to harness growth and development with appreciating and preserving the earth’s natural limitations.

Every day there are women out there fighting.  It doesn’t matter if its under the banner of Occupy, equal pay, same-sex marriage or conservation, it’s truly one cause that unites us all: a better life and a better world. Whose on your list? Email us at riseandtide@gmail.com and we’ll post the response.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Excellent! Go, ladies!

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