Praising Environmental Heroes During Women’s History Month
March is Women’s History Month, and CalRecycle would like to honor the many women who have strengthened our legacy of protecting the environment and encouraging others to do the same. Here are four women who have made an impact on the world by bringing environmental issues to the forefront and educating others on conservation.
Photo: Rolex Awards/Francois Schaer
Maritza Morales Casanova
Maritza Morales Casanova is the founder of the Mexican environmental organization Humanity United to Nature in Harmony for Beauty, Welfare, and Goodness (HUNAB). HUNAB is working toward the sustainable development of Mayan communities with environmental education. The organization focuses on developing educational materials, including an environmental education center and courses and workshops. Casanova is one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers, described by the organization as “those making discoveries, making a difference, and inspiring people to care about the planet.” She founded an environmental theme park called Ceiba Pentandra Park in Yucatan, which provides an environmental learning experience for children and teachers on climate change and resource conservation. The president of Mexico awarded her the National Youth Award for Environmental Protection in 1998, when she was only 13 years old. In 2012, she was distinguished as a Rolex Young Laureate for the Environment.
Elizabeth Kolbert is an American environmental writer whose books include Sixth Extinction and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. Her accolades include winning the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s magazine writing award, a Heinz Award and Guggenheim Fellowship, and two National Magazine awards. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker – check out some of her recent New Yorker articles.
Celia Hunter was an American Environmentalist who is most well known for her conservation efforts in Alaska. She was co-founder of the Alaska Conservation Foundation and fought to protect Alaska’s natural terrain. Already a trained pilot when World War II began, Hunter served as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) and flew U.S.-based missions to support training, supply, and personnel movements. Struck by the fact that the military confined female-piloted missions to the lower 48 states, Hunter and fellow WASP pilot Ginny Hill Wood flew to Fairbanks, Alaska on their own after the war. They fell in love with the Alaskan landscape and eventually opened Camp Denali, a simple campground for those who wanted to explore Alaska. Soon after, Hunter saw the need to protect the foothills of Alaska’s Brooks Range, and she eventually founded the Alaskan Conservation Society to protect all of Alaska’s wilderness. Hunter received several awards over her lifetime, including the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award, given to those who have demonstrated a lifetime of dedicated conservation work and a distinguished record of achievement in national conservation causes.
Susan D. Shaw
Susan D. Shaw is an American environmentalist known for her research on the health effects of chemical exposure on marine wildlife and humans. In 2010, Shaw worked with the Department of the Interior to assess the impact of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to make policy recommendations to the federal government. In an interview with Audubon Magazine, Shaw shared her alarming findings: the chemical dispersant that was used to break up the oil made it easier for oil to contaminate marine life and humans who come into contact with the oily water. To learn more about her work in the Gulf, check out her Ted Talk titled “The oil spill’s toxic trade-off.”