While celebrating the Earth Day on April 22 this year, let us remember those who have been instrumental in transforming this event to a movement. Their initiation and determination went on to make it a huge success. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, their efforts have inspired over 500 million people across 175 countries to be a part of this mega event. So here, we present a full list of Eco-heroes who, through their incessant efforts, have sought to make this planet livable and are continuing to abide by their beliefs.
Shocked by the horrifying oil spill on the coasts of Santa Barbara in 1969, Mr. Gaylord Nelson, a United States Senator from Wisconsin and an environmental activist, designated April 22 as national day to celebrate the earth’s environment.
Being a master landscape planner, site designer, writer and orator, Randall Arendt has always advocated conservation planning. He owns a firm named Greener Prospects, a consulting firm that works to bridge the gap between land-use planning and land conservation. Conservation subdivisions is an effective land-use approach, which through a national campaign informs and helps people to conserve land such as forests, farmlands, lakeshores and natural lands. Arendt has designed these “Conservation subdivisions” for people in over 21 states. These designs are eco friendly as well as economical.
Wangari Muta Maathai, the first African woman to receive Noble peace prize, spearheaded the Green Belt Movement in Africa. Today, this movement is responsible for planting over 30 million trees across Africa, converting the deforested lands again into green. Her environmental concerns dates back to the year 1977, when she celebrated the World Environment Day by planting seven trees in her backyard. Wangari has won huge accolades for her efforts in preserving the environment. She was elected as one of the 100 persons in the world to make a difference in environmental arena, hosted by Earth Times in the year 1997.
Lois Marie Gibbs
Lois Marie Gibbs dedicated herself to environmental causes in 1976. She led to the formation of Love Canal Homeowners Association, helped to evacuate 833 families from the toxic dump and to clean up the Love Canal. Her efforts further led to the formation of Superfund – a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, which regulates locating and cleaning of toxic waste sites throughout the United States.
Robert (Bob) Lorne Hunter led the worlds’ first ever campaign against the commercial hunting of whales, against Russian and Australian whalers. He led a campaign leading to the ban of on-the sea whaling. He co-founded and was the first President of the Greenpeace foundation (founded in 1972). He has been entitled as one of the Eco Heroes’ of the 20th century by the Time magazine. This Canadian journalist, author and politician made some worthy contribution towards environment conservation including campaigns against nuclear testing and Canadian seal hunting. He also showed his concern on climate change through his book ‘Thermageddon: Countdown to 2030’.
David Suzuki is an active participant in addressing issues of global climate change. In 1990, he co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation, which works to find ways for the society to live in coherence with the nature. Seeking to curb the greenhouse gases, this foundation has set up “zero-carbon” program at its office. The programs run by The David Suzuki Foundation (The Foundation’s “David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge” and “David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge for Kids”) educate people about simple steps in environment conservation and improving life quality.
Rebecca Aldworth has been campaigning actively against seal hunting in Canada for the past ten years. Director of Canadian Wildlife Issues for the Humane Society of the United States, Alworth works to provide concrete solution to end the seal hunting through creating programs like compensation for the fishermen. She works towards stopping the trade of sealskins. Her efforts have received a boost as this year Greenland has stopped its trading in sealskins in contrast to the last two year when it traded 90,000 skins. Following the footsteps, other countries like Mexico, Belgium, Croatia and Luxembourg are also taking steps to ban such trading.
Carlos Alberto Ricardo is the founder of Center for Ecumenical Documentation and Information (CEDI), which is one of the most important social, environmental and human rights organization in Brazil. He founded this organization in Sao Paolo to gather and spread information about the activities in the Brazilian rainforests. Ricardo has been working as a vital link between human rights and environmental protection for the past 25 years. His major concerns have been to support and reserve the rights of indigenous people of the Amazon. His efforts were fruitful and indigenous people were given better prospects and assurance in the new constitution, which was drafted in 1988. His organization (CEDI) played a fundamental role in creating an alliance between the two groups (Indians and rubbertappers) who thrived in Brazilian rainforest and had severe enmity with each other.
Eha Kern, an elementary school teacher in Sweden along with one of her students, Roland Tiensuu organized a children’s crusade, which went on to raise $2.5 million in order to save the rainforests in Costa Rica, spread over 23000acres of land. A presentation by an American biologist on Costa Rica’s Monteverde Reserve left an everlasting impact on Eha Kerns’ students, especially nine-year-old Roland Tiensuu. Showing his concern for the rainforests, Tiensuu suggested his classmates to raise funds for purchasing land for the Monteverde Reserve. Their first attempt was a bake sail, which helped in raising money to purchase four more hectares of rainforest for the reserve. These organizations are now spread over the United States, Canada, Britain, Japan and Germany.
Wadja Egnankou has been making constant efforts to save the mangrove forests at the Ivory Coast. This West African country, which was once teeming with mangrove forestation, is facing grave deforestation dangers. He is the president of the NGO S.O.S Forests, started by him and his colleagues, at the National University in 1996. He also chairs a regional group concerned with the mangroves of the Gulf of Guinea. Presently, he is working on a three-year project, which intends to save the endangered aquatic vegetation. He tried to unite people at all levels (local people, international lending institutions and the Ivorian government) and helped them realize the value of mangrove forests.