Women to inspire sustainable futures

I’ve been reflecting on what inspires people to commit to their working or private lives to help nudge sustainability along.

My daughters are curious about environmental protection – how can I feed their curiosity? What would have a chance of inspiring them?

I personally find the effort of individuals inspiring, especially if they have fascinating stories. But I doubt that the collection of crusty male characters from whom I took inspiration – Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, John Muir, Farley Mowat, Amory Lovins and so on – are likely to similarly inspire my GenY to Z girls.

History as a whole is flush with male figures and it’s disappointing we hear so little about prominent women. So, after a few moments thought, a few came to mind.

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) wrote the most famous book of emerging environmentalism, Silent Spring. It was quite scientific and a bit of a dirge to read, especially since the science has moved on. Really the best thing about it was its title: what an image it evokes. A spring without birdsongs because of one agricultural chemical. That title is packed with meaning.

My Dad always told me a story about Margaret Mead (1901-1978), who famously quipped, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ Dad said she once entered the United Nations dressed in some self-created tribal garb, carrying a long staff, and declaring herself a citizen of the world. I can’t verify that, but it sounds plausible, or at least amusing.

Our family visited the Jane Goodall exhibition at the Calgary Science Centre in 2003. It had a chimpanzee nest that we could sit in. I always scratched my head about the supposed insight that chimpanzees could use tools, but the key thing is that Jane connected so personally with a species that is so close to our own. It makes you think about our place in the world and whether we have overstepped somewhat.

Petra Kelly (1947-1992) was a cornerstone of Die Grűnen (the German Greens) who used political power assiduously in the Bundestag and forged ‘A new vision uniting ecological concerns with disarmament, social justice, and human rights.’ As the Cold War ended, it never made sense to me that we should no longer be concerned about the threat of nuclear war. The missiles are still there. Tragically, this nonviolent peace activist was shot, thought to have been murdered by her partner and political colleague.

I was sad to learn that local conservationist Felicity Wishart died this July. Though I didn’t know her well, we used to catch the bus together and chatted about saving the environment from time to time. In environmentalism and in professional practice, we are so fortunate to have so many wonderful women working with us. There should be many to inspire my girls.

Comments are closed.