Climate Change is intimidating.
No matter which way you look at it, it is a big, complicated, multilateral problem. There’s even a psychological term that explains why we can’t seem to comprehend its entire complexity. Which is all the more reason why we owe the phenomenally intelligent people who are working to find solutions, a huge round of applause.
These 10 people are but a few of the many amazing people who work for the future of the planet. In the words of Wendell Berry, ” I am speaking of the life of a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children; who has undertaken to cherish it and do it no damage, not because he is duty-bound, but because he love the world and loves his children.” These people exemplify just this.
Among this list of AMAZING environmental leaders, you will find writers, scientists, philosophers, actors, and architects, everyone adding a unique perspective and expertise to the elephantine crises our planet is experiencing.
What unites this list of people is an undeniable dedication to work, that will benefit people for generations to come. These people are individuals working for the betterment of the whole. Inspiration is contagious, so drink in some inspiration and go out in the world and make a difference. We all have the ability to make an impact and there is no act that is too small!
1. David Orr
David Orr is an environmental pioneer in every sense. Orr has written several books and given talks across the country promoting practical and tangible solutions to our country’s climate crisis. The current Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, Orr’s vision for a sustainable future has come to life in the Oberlin Project. Expanding outside of the confines of Oberlin’s campus, the Oberlin Project aims to transform the college and town into a sustainable and environmentally friendly community. Orr plans to achieve carbon neutrality for greater Oberlin and has recruited hundreds of other colleges and universities to adopt similar plans.
(I had the pleasure of hearing David Orr speak at Dickinson College — you can stream the video here.)
2. James Hansen
As a NASA scientist studying the greenhouse effect on Venus, Dr. James Hansen began to consider how this warming effect might impact Earth. In 1988, Hansen stood before Congress and described his findings on human induced climate change on Earth. Met with indifference and disbelief, Hansen has devoted his life to climate science, advocating that our collective future relies on making drastic cuts to our current outputs of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Hansen is currently an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Columbia University and the Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Click here to watch Dr. Hansen’s latest TED talk – it’s a must watch.
3. Bill McKibben
Author, educator, and advocate, Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org. McKibben was one of the first authors to write on the topic of global warming for a general audience, publishing “The End of Nature” in 1989 ( one year after Hansen’s Congressional appeal). McKibben is the current scholar in residence at Middlebury College and is fighting to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline and leading fossil fuel divestment efforts in the U.S.
4. Vandana Shiva
Dr. Vandana Shiva is the founder of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. Known for her work in environmental justice and food security, Shiva brings light to the many marginalized victims of climate change. Shiva’s work illustrates the importance of cultural and ecological diversity to the future resilience of our planet. Navdanya is currently working on the following campaigns: Soil Not Oil, GMO Free, Biopiracy, Women for Diversity, and many more that are definitely worth checking out.
5. William McDonough
Co-author of Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough is a leader in sustainable development and design. McDonough is working to remove the concept of “waste” from every aspect of human life. For McDonough, green building and innovation present viable solutions to current environmental crises while promoting economic growth. McDonough is the co-founder of the Make It Right Foundation and Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.
6. Ed Begley Jr.
Actor, director, and yes, environmentalist! Ed Begley Jr. has used his fame to promote his environmental views and encourage others to take action. Begley has been known to show up to Hollywood events riding a bicycle and most recently has taken on the challenge of building a Platinum LEED-certified home. You can watch the progress on the home at OnBegleyStreet.com.
7. Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry is an American poet, writer, environmental activist, and farmer who advocates against our current industrial agriculture system and fossil fuel addiction. Known as a “Modern Thoreau,” Berry currently lives on a small farm in Kentucky overseeing the work of the Berry Center, a foundation that works to preserve traditional agriculture by educating farmers and consumers on the importance of small scale, sustainable farming.
8. Sandra Steingraber
Sandra Steingraber is an ecologist turned environmental writer and advocate. Author of “Living Downstream,” Steingraber’s work explores the relationship between environmental pollutants and human health. A cancer survivor, Steingraber explores the connection between chemicals used in fracking and industrial agriculture that have been linked to higher rates of cancer in humans. Steingraber is currently campaigning against the expansion of fracking in the United States.
Click here to stream a video of Steingraber speaking on fracking and sustainable agriculture.
9. Al Gore
Former Vice President, Nobel Peace Price winner, and awesome environmental advocate: environmentalist everywhere are still wishing Al Gore had won the 2000 Presidential election. Despite his Presidential loss, Gore has fought tirelessly for the planet, writing novels and giving inspirational calls to action around the world. You probably know him from “An Inconvenient Truth” (which if you haven’t seen I highly recommend) but his most recent role is as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit devoted to solving the climate crisis.
10. Michael Braungart
Michael Braungart is a German chemist and the co-author of “Cradle to Cradle,” who studies the adverse environmental and pyshiological impact of industrially-produced consumer goods. Braungart works with companies to assess waste and energy balances and life cycle design for their products. Most recently, Braungart co-published “The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance,” a novel that imagines how we can use design as a tool for positive impact to improve our future.