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5 Earth Conscious Women to Honor on International Women's Day

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The Women's March, Jan. 19, 2019. The Washington Post / Contributor / Getty Images

Today women and their allies celebrate International Women's Day. This year, the theme for the day—and the campaign that will run all year—is promoting a gender balanced world. "A balanced world is a better world," the day's organizers write. They are asking people around the world to take a picture of themselves making the #BallanceforBeter pose and post it on social medial to promote the cause of gender equality. Here is one example:


When it comes to the environment, a balanced world really does seem to be better. A 2016 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) review found that countries with more female members of parliament were more likely to ratify environmental treaties. In recent years, women of all ages and backgrounds have been at the forefront of fight to protect our common home. Here, then, are five female environmental leaders to celebrate this International Women's Day.

jayk7 / Moment / Getty Images

1. Greta Thunberg

When Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg decided to go on strike from school to protest lack of global action on climate change last August, she was just one person handing out flyers in front of the Swedish parliament. She has since inspired students from Australia to Brussels to join her weekly strikes as part of the #FridaysforFuture movement, building towards a worldwide strike on March 15.

The movement she inspired pushed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to pledge a quarter of $1 trillion to fighting climate change over the next seven years.

"I realized no one is doing anything to prevent this from happening so then I have to do something," Thunberg told RollingStone of her decision to strike for climate action. "I can't vote, so this is one of the ways I can make my voice heard."

2. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated long-time New York Democratic Representative Joe Crowley in a surprise primary victory last June, she became the Democrat with the most ambitious platform on fighting climate change. The Green New Deal she has championed since taking office has caught the public imagination, with early polls suggesting that 81 percent of U.S. voters support it. At least five 2020 Democratic presidential contenders have also endorsed the plan.

The resolution that Ocasio-Cortez co-sponsored with Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey calls for a 10 year program to transition the U.S.away from fossil fuels while providing green jobs and greater equality.

"This is really about providing justice for communities and just transitions for communities," Ocasio-Cortez said of the deal.

3. Isatou Ceesay

Isatou Ceesay has been called the Queen of Recycling in the Gambia because of her efforts to help women collect plastic pollution and transform it into items like bags and wallets that they can sell to raise money for themselves and their communities. She began her efforts in 1997 with a group of four women in her village of N'Jau who worked to educate their community about the importance of reusing plastic and not simply dumping it behind their homes. She learned how to upcycle plastic waste from a Peace Corps volunteer, and turned the recycling project into a revenue stream for women. You can buy their products at One Plastic Bag.

Ceesay also counted it as a victory when the government of the Gambia consulted her group on a plan to ban the import of plastic bags, which they did in 2015.

"Throughout the world, women carry an incredible responsibility; they are by nature the engine of human development. I love them so much," Ceesay told Climate Heroes. "Their commitment and their strength are unrivalled. We have fallen behind in our development in Africa by not including them."

How to Recycle Plastic Bags into Purses: Isatou Ceesay - Njau, Gambia www.youtube.com

4. Katharine Hayhoe

Katharine Hayhoe is a U.S. climate scientist who is committed to spreading accurate information about climate change. Not only did she help write the Fourth National Climate Assessment report that scared the Trump administration so much they tried burying it by releasing it Thanksgiving weekend, she also wasn't afraid to call out cable news for giving more airtime to climate deniers than actual scientists.

In a Twitter thread last November, she explained how she taped a segment for Anderson Cooper on the assessment that did not make the final cut, while an interview with Rick Santorum spreading disinformation did. CNN later told The Daily Beast that her segment was bumped for breaking news about Paul Manafort, but her thread, in which she pointed out other incidents in which cable news canceled on her last minute, raised important questions about how climate change is covered.

In the un-aired segment, which was posted online, Hayhoe had a clear comeback for deniers like President Donald Trump.

"Unfortunately, facts aren't optional," she said. "We can say we don't believe them, but they're still true."

Hayhoe's dedication to spreading climate information isn't limited to government reports or TV interviews. She also speaks to groups across the country and runs the PBS series Global Weirding, which explains the science to children.

Pacific Northwest, Alaska & The Islands | Global Weirding www.youtube.com

5. Christina Figueres

Christina Figueres is a Costa Rican diplomat and former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) whose efforts led to the passage of the historic Paris agreement to limit global warming to well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels, as Quartz reported.

It was a major achievement, but Figureres is also honest about the fact that there is more to be done. Her next initiative is Mission 2020, which seeks to mobilize the globe to reverse the rise of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

In a article for Pacific Standard Friday, Figueres said she was inspired to be hopeful about humanity's chances of meeting the Paris goals because of other women leaders like Thunberg and Ocasio-Cortez, as well as female scientists she met on a recent trip to Antarctica.

"I see in the women I met working on the Paris Agreement, in the women currently leading a new conversation on climate change in the public and political spheres, and in the women I met in Antarctica, an inbuilt, stubborn optimism that will allow us to prevail even when a task can seem insurmountable," she wrote.

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