9 Women Who Are Saving the Planet

What happens when a group of intelligent, educated, optimistic and driven women put their talents to work? They save the planet, that’s what.

Meet the women who are at the forefront of the animal rights and environmental movements, changing the world for the better every single day like a girl a boss.

1. Jane Goodall

In the early 60s when the idea of a woman’s career was to have a secretary job, Jane Goodall packed her things and moved to a tent in Africa to observe chimpanzees in the wild. She had no college degree or credentials but she was committed and in just a few months she was able to make new findings that changed anthropology. She also bonded deeply with the primates to which she would dedicate most of her life.

Today, at 81-years-old, Goodall travels 300 days out of the year doing talks and speeches to spread her message about the importance of conservation and emphasizing personal responsibility to get others to care and do their part. Meanwhile, her nonprofit, the Jane Goodall Institute, which she founded in the 70s, has 19 offices worldwide and works nonstop to conserve and protect natural habitats all over the world.

2. The Black Mambas

A group of 26 young local women called The Black Mambas patrol Greater Kruger national park in Africa to protect the wildlife living there from poachers.

In a place where there was a clear divide between the rich trophy hunters in the park and the poverty outside its boundaries, the women got the community surrounding the park involved in conservation instead of having to contribute to poaching to earn enough to put food on the table.

It may sound like a dangerous job but the women are up to it.

“I am a lady, I am going to have a baby. I want my baby to see a rhino, that’s why I am protecting it,” said Leitah Michabela who’s been a Black Mamba the last two years. “Lots of people said, how can you work in the bush when you are a lady? But I can do anything I want.”

3. Dr. Sylvia Earle

Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle is also known as ‘Her Deepness’ for her accomplishment holding the deepest-dive record for her 1250-foot free dive. The Library of Congress calls her ‘A Living Legend’ but her actual current job title is National Geographic Explorer in Residence.

Earle has spent over 60,000 hours underwater, spoken before Congress about defending our oceans and even though she was named chief scientist for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in 1990, she abdicated the title after one meeting so she could get more accomplished as a private citizen.

The documentary ‘Mission Blue’ on Netflix chronicles her story and her desire to make everyone understand that “the ocean is dying. No ocean, no life. No ocean, no us.”

4. Gabriella Cowperwaith

Gabriela Cowperwaith doesn’t consider herself an animal activist but through her work directing ‘Blackfish’ she has unintentionally led one of the biggest animal rights campaigns of the last five years.

The documentary filmmaker has directed, produced and written a number of movies in her 12 year career and started her work with ‘Blackfish’ “as a mother who had just taken her kids to SeaWorld” and was curious on why the whales were showing violent behavior towards their trainers.

Her film exposed the cruelty inflicted upon the whales by the theme park and since its release in 2013, SeaWorld’s attendance has plummeted, along with its stock, revenue and public image. Still, Cowperwaith says her goal is never to change people’s minds.

“I trust that once audiences are armed with the truth, they will make the best decisions by themselves and their families,” she told CNN.

5. Cindy Lowry

Cindy Lowry has dedicated more than 25 years as an environmental activist to protecting and saving marine wildlife and the marine environment. She is most known for being the driving force in saving the lives of three whales that got caught in the Alaskan ice in 1988.

The ordeal, which recently was retold in the feature film ‘Big Miracle’ with Drew Barrymore playing Lowry, changed the then executive director of Greenpeace in Alaska’s life and put her in the national spotlight.

“There were these two holes [in the ice] and even the larger of the two was only just large enough for two [of the three] whales to breathe,” Lowry recalled to Discovery News. “[We] walked over there and my immediate thought was, ‘God, this is when you wish you were Superman and could just go in and scoop them out of there.’”

In a time before smart phones when a picture of the whales could have gone viral, Lowry had to call everyone from the Governor’s office to the U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard to get someone to cut the ice so the whales could swim back into the ocean.

After the whales were set free, one of them came up to her and blew on her face as a form of thank you. She still thinks of those whales but today Lowry, a self proclaimed eternal optimist, works to protect marine ecosystems from the installation of offshore developments for renewable energy, as well as oil and gas.”

6. Stella McCartney

When you grow up as the child of Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney, it’s no surprise you’ll be a vegetarian and an animal lover.

The now super successful fashion designer grew up in an organic farm in Sussex with sheep, horses and a vegetable garden. She was raised “to respect animals and to be aware of nature, to understand that we share this planet with other creatures” as she told in a 2009 interview with The Guardian, and she kept those values in adulthood.

Leather and fur are completely verboten at the Stella McCartney brand, making it a favorite of eco-conscious celebrities like Anne Hathway. The brand’s boutiques are eco-friendly, with wood flooring taken from sustainably managed forests, repurposed vintage furniture, and powered by renewable energy sources.

McCartney also worked with her family to launch the Meatless Monday initiative that encourages meat eaters and specially schools to ditch the meat once a week for the environment.

7. Kinessa Johnson

Poachers may try to illegally hunt wildlife, specially rhinos, but Kinessa Johnson is making their plans a lot harder. The Afghanistan veteran from Yelm, Wash., hunts poachers before they can strike and kill animals.

Her hunting is not violent, though. Even though she is very much armed, as her Instagram account shows, her work with Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VEPAW) consists or spotting and detaining poachers, not hurting them. She is also part of a group that trains other park rangers to catch and detain the wildlife killers.

8. Carol Buckley

Carol Buckley has been working with elephants in captivity for more than 30 years.

As the co-founder of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, the first natural habitat refuge for sick, old and needy elephants, she has saved 24 elephants. As the president and CEO of Elephant Aid International, she works with governmental agencies and private organizations to develop stronger regulations protecting the welfare of elephants in captivity.

Since 2013 Buckley has been traveling to Asia installing chain free fences that allow elephants to roam instead of living their lives in captivity.

“There’s an incredible shift in their posture and in their eyes when they go chain-free,” Buckley told Care2 earlier this year. “Most of them are present during construction so they know what’s going on. One of the ways they survive in chains is that they check out. They’re not there mentally but when they’re freed they lighten up and their heads lift up higher. They play!”

9. Suzy Amis Cameron

Suzy Amis Cameron is all about decreasing our carbon footprint to save the environment.

“For 25 years, I’ve dedicated myself to learning all I can about the environment and its health. The more I discover, the more I realize that my health and actions are intimately, intricately, intertwined with the biosphere,” she explains in her website. “This has led me to want to do everything in my power to understand and champion sustainable values, from what we wear, to how we teach our children, to the food we eat.”

The environmental advocate is vegan and got her very famous husband, James Cameron, to make the diet switch as well. Nine years ago, she cofounded MUSE School in California, the first school in the country to have a 100 percent plant-based lunch program and that puts great emphasis on environmental consciousness.

In New Zealand, she’s founded Food Forest Organics, a vegan marketplace and cafe. In the U.S. she started the Red Carpet Green Dress challenge that urges designers to create eco-friendly fashion.

Photo Credit: Jane Goodall Institute

300 comments

Margaret M. F.
Margaret M. F.6 months ago

Thank goodness for women like these who help to make the world a better place. Thank you for posting.

Margaret M. F.
Margaret M. F.6 months ago

Thank goodness for women like these who help to make the world a better place. Thank you for posting.

Valentina R.
Valentina R.6 months ago

Girl power!

Debbie Hartman
DEBORAH Hartman6 months ago

Great info. Thanks

Elizabeth O.
Elizabeth O.6 months ago

Thanks for the article.

Karen C.
Karen C.6 months ago

They are all great people! Some people in the article should receive more recognition for all the wonderful things they've done

Arild Warud
Arild Warud6 months ago

ty

Iona Kentwell
Iona Kentwell6 months ago

What a fantastic kick arse bunch of women! Some I had never heard about before. We need to celebrate, promote and talk about those who inspire us, make them the talk of the planet rather than the empty celebs that many idolize.

Jennifer Grant
Jennifer Grant6 months ago

Amazing women! Excellent article and thank you for sharing.

S J.
S J.6 months ago

thanks