9 Women Who Are Saving the Planet

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on November 5, 2015. Enjoy!

What happens when a group of intelligent, educated, optimistic and driven women put their talents to work? Well, they save the planet.

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 boss.

1. Jane Goodall

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

Today, at age 83, Goodall travels 300 days out of the year to spread her message about the importance of conservation. Meanwhile, her nonprofit, the Jane Goodall Institute 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 Kruger National Park in South Africa to protect wildlife from poachers.

In a place with a clear divide between rich trophy hunters and the poverty outside the park’s boundaries, the women involved the local community in conservation instead of having to rely on poaching for income.

It may sound like a dangerous job, but these 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 Black Mamba Leitah Michabela. “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 in 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 and spoken before Congress about defending our oceans. Even though she was named chief scientist for NOAA in 1990, she abdicated the title after one meeting so she could get more accomplished as a private citizen.

The documentary “Mission Blue” chronicles Earle’s 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 decade.

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

Her film exposed the shocking cruelty inflicted upon orcas by the theme park. Since its release in 2013, SeaWorld’s attendance has plummeted, along with its stock, revenue and public image. Still, Cowperwaith maintains that 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 to defending marine biodiversity. She is most well-known for being the driving force in rescuing three whales caught in the Alaskan ice in 1988.

The ordeal, recently retold in the feature film “Big Miracle,” put the then-executive director of Greenpeace 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 convince someone to cut the ice and allow the whales to escape.

After the whales were set free, one of them came up to Lowry 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 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 that you’d be a vegetarian and an animal lover.

The uber-successful fashion designer was raised on an organic farm in Sussex with sheep, horses and a vegetable garden. She learned “to respect animals and to be aware of nature, to understand that we share this planet with other creatures” as McCartney explained to The Guardian. She’s certainly 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 Hathaway. The brand’s boutiques are eco-friendly — with wood flooring taken from sustainably managed forests and 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 meat once a week for the environment.

7. Kinessa Johnson

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

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

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 more than 24 elephants. And as the president and CEO of Elephant Aid International, Buckley 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 to install 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. “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 on 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 vegan environmental advocate got her 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.

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

Photo Credit: Urban Explorer Hamburg/Flickr

656 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R26 days ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R26 days ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R26 days ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R26 days ago

ty

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I29 days ago

When their ambitions are applied, woman can be, and are, strong and brilliant! Thanks for sharing.

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Stephanie s
Stephanie sabout a month ago

Thank you

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Stephanie s
Stephanie sabout a month ago

Thank you

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Jessica whitfield
Jessica whitfieldabout a month ago

Also Dr. Birute Galdikas

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Carol S
Carol Sabout a month ago

Kudos to these wonderful women!

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Patricia D
Patricia Dabout a month ago

Wonderful work being done by these women!

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