Meet 5 incredible women pioneering the sustainability movement

This International Women’s Day we are giving a big shout out to some remarkable women across the world who are taking the fight for a more equitable and sustainable future to the streets, courts, parliaments and board rooms. These women have become advocates for change and pioneers for a kinder, more sustainable world. 

Livia Firth 

image of Livia Firth
Photography: Guardian

This Italian has a passion to see fashion do better. Livia Firth is Co-Founder and Co-Director at Eco-Age, a specialist sustainability consultancy agency that combines technical expertise in supply chains with marketing, communications and PR. Eco-Age is helping create a culture that celebrates sustainability in fashion as exemplified through their Green Challenge initiative. A movement designed to inspire celebrities to wear sustainable fashion as a way of proving that ethics and aesthetics can co-exist.

And she certainly knows a thing or two about celebrities. She is married to none other than Mr Darcy himself aka Colin Firth and co-produced a little doco you may have heard of, The True Cost.  Firth has also created the Green Awards, a fashion award show designed to celebrate the people involved in the supply chain. From the seamstresses to the cobblers and everyone in between.

Mary Robinson

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Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, has been making waves in her fight against climate change for years now. Let’s face it, climate change can be a bit of a depressing topic. The temptation to run and bury our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening is often a natural inclination. Robinson has therefore devised a rather ingenious solution to combat apathy by incorporating humour. Called Mothers of Invention, her newly launched podcast is refreshingly positive and optimistic in tone. Robinson has paired with Irish born comedian Meave Higgins and together the two showcase the work of grassroots climate activists.

Scientists and politicians are featured alongside international human rights lawyers, teenage activists and indigenous community leaders from Europe, South America, India, Australia and the US. As former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Robinson saw first-hand how vulnerable women in particular are to the effects of climate change. Especially those in the developing world whose lives and survival are already precarious.

“Climate change is a man-made problem that requires a feminist solution,” she said ahead of the podcast launch. “What we are hoping to do is create a movement. Climate change is not gender-neutral – it affects women far more. So, this is not about climate change, it is about climate justice.”

Tessa Khan

image of Tessa Khan
Source: YouTube

An international human rights lawyer helping citizens take their governments to court over climate change, this Bangladeshi- Australian is a force to be reckoned with. Khan is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Climate Litigation Network, an organisation dedicated to helping citizens pursue legal action against their governments for insufficient climate policy. Khan was inspired to create the Climate Litigation Network after hearing how Dutch citizens has sued their country to force them to reduce emissions.

Katharine Wilkinson

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Photography: Sewanee

Environmentalist, author and Ted Talk sensation Dr Katharine Wilkinson, has argued that global women’s empowerment could directly help the fight against climate change. On stage recently at TEDWomen in Palm Desert California, she stated that “to address climate change, we must make gender equity a reality. And in the face of a seemingly impossible challenge, women and girls are a fierce source of possibility.” Wilkinson and her team at the non-profit Project Drawdown have been studying the real-world steps people can take to fix climate change, resulting in a best-selling 2017 book highlighting the top 100 solutions to reversing warming.

Central to Wilkinson’s argument is the idea that if women and girls have greater access to education they will have less children thus curbing the problem of overpopulation.

She also argues for the removal of discrimination in agriculture. Contrary to what some may believe, women are the primary farmers in the world. But institutional inequalities often hamper their ability to succeed. Wilkinson has been advocating for the removal of barriers which inhibit female farmers from maximising their yields. This would in turn reduce the need for deforestation which exacerbates climate change.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

Image of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez

This 29-year-old former bartender from the Bronx has propelled to international stardom after becoming the youngest woman ever to serve in the US Congress in November 2018. “People like me aren’t supposed to run for office” was a line from her original campaign video. And Ocasio-Cortez was right. As a working-class daughter of an immigrant and a woman of colour the odds were mostly stacked against her.

The social media sensation has been championing progressive causes and has become one of the most vocal advocates for the need to address the climate emergency. In February 2019, Ocasio-Cortez co-sponsored a resolution for a Green New Deal, a drastic plan to tackle climate change and make the US carbon neutral by 2030. Some have called the proposal a pipe dream with no chance of being made into law but at the very least it symbolises the most radical attempt by a US elected official to combat climate change and speaks to the fierce desire of young people to see drastic, comprehensive climate policy.