To celebrate this Earth Day, I wanted to tell you about five environmental heroes that have inspired me over the years. After you have read about them, let me know who inspires you in the environmental community or go one step better and submit them to the Gallery of Heroes.
Hauge, a Norwegian environmental activist (or more accurately environmentalist pragmatist), has lead the charge on collaborating with heavy industry rather than attacking it. Hauge understands that with the right direction and advice, heavy industry has the power to make change in this era of environmentalism. Hauge’s work has been facilitated by founding the Oslo-based NGO, Bellona. Bellona has been working with oil giants such as Shell and StatoilHydro. I think my greatest appreciation for Hauge comes from his belief that apathy is the greatest problem that we are all facing. This is a message that rings true in a number of areas that we have looked at through our study of heroes. As a bystander, we are part of the problem and not devoid of responsibility.
I told a friend I was writing a post on this topic and his instant reaction was to mention this man. Strong memories as an 8 year old watching cartoons on Saturday mornings flooded back to me. Captain Planet, fictional or not, has played his part in empowering youth to take a collective responsibility for protecting the environment. Not just tackling environmental issues, the TV show was the first to openly discuss AIDS and HIV. This was a very progressive and potentially risky move for a studio to take in the early 90s. His tag-line of “The power is yours” epitomizes what we are trying to achieve. We all have choices, it is what we do when faced by a choice that is important. Captain Planet has gone beyond fiction and through the Captain Planet Foundation is still empowering youth today in becoming environmental stewards.
Jane is best known for her studies of chimpanzees, showing us that they are a far more complex species than once thought. The chimpanzees offer humanity a great insight into our own evolutionary development. Jane’s studies paved the way for a greater understanding of conservation and how it affects the global community. Her passion and dedication has reached children and adults on a global level. She has encouraged civic and environmental responsibility simultaneously – not an easy task. It is hard to find a more inspiring woman than Jane, as she helps understand the greater issues and how we can work together to overcome them.
Time Magazine has Rachel Carson as one of the top 100 most influential people of the last century; “Before there was an environmental movement, there was one brave woman and her very brave book.” This references Rachel’s book ‘Silent Spring’. It highlighted the danger of synthetic pesticides on the environment. The Kennedy Administration ordered a study on the effects of DDT and other synthetic pesticides and their effect on the environment. After 7 years of inquiry, the Environmental Protection Agency was born. Rachel was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was ahead of her time in thinking and although did not create a generation of activists she will always be looked to as woman of inspiration for modern scientists and researchers to continue the fight for a better environment.
Von, a native of the Philippines, was instrumental in his country becoming the first nation in the world to ban waste incineration. Until Von’s activism, the Philippines was importing global waste for incineration. The primary by-product, dioxin, was a massive health concern, specifically know to cause birth defects. The problem could be even greater if the chemicals reached groundwater supplies, potentially harming future generations. Although successful in the Philippines, Von’s cause has not stopped. He wants to see the rest of Asia follow suit and not be lured away by the money being offered by the West. Von shows us that it only takes one person to make a difference and in this case he has safeguarded the lives of countless Filipinos.