The Queen of My Self

Wherever I travel there is always some sort of local environmental nightmare, be it chemical waste, medical waste, nuclear waste or garbage waste. And wherever I travel there is always a women, usually a woman of a certain age, who has organized her community and fought the good fight for environmental preservation and protection.

These women usually think of themselves as regular people, never before thinking of themselves as environmentalists or feminists, yet they they walk the walk of both. They see that there is a problem and they roll up their sleeves and set out to solve it.

Winona LaDuke, United States-Anishinaabeg  (1959-2010)
Activist, environmentalist, economist, and writer 

Winona LaDuke was an ardent representative of indigenous perspectives. At the age of seventeen she spoke at the UN on behalf of Native Americans. She was a founding member of Women of All Red Nations and director of the Land Recovery Project on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. An inspiring speaker, she was the 1996 and 2000 vice-presidential candidate of the Green Party, the first Native American to run for national office. The author of All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life, she was most recently the Executive Director of Honor the Earth, an organization she co-founded with the Indigo Girls in 1993.

Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, India, (1960- and 1956-)
Grassroots environmental activists

Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, two illiterate village women took it upon themselves to seek justice for the survivors of the poisonous gas leak from a storage tank at a Union Carbide pesticide factory into the heart of Bhopal city, which killed 8,000 people instantly. More than 20,000 deaths in the years since have been attributed to the disaster. Since 1984, the two women have tirelessly continued their efforts to exact justice from the giant chemical companies responsible. They have inspired support from all over the world.

Erin Brockovich, United States (1960-)
Legal clerk and environmental activist

Erin Brockovich was instrumental in constructing a successful case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California in 1993, despite the lack of a formal law school education, The case alleged contamination of drinking water with hexavalent chromium in the southern California town of Hinkley. Brockovich went on to participate in other anti-pollution lawsuits. After experiencing problems with mold contamination in her own home in the Conejo Valley, Brockovich became a prominent activist and educator in this area as well.

Julia Butterfly Hill, American (Born 1974)
Environmental activist and writer

In December of 1997, Julia Hill climbed into a 1,000-year-old California coast redwood tree to save it from loggers. She lived in a 6’x8′ tree house 180 feet above the ground for 738 days. Julia descended only after Pacific Lumber Co. agreed to let the tree and a 3-acre buffer zone around it stand. She subsequently, wrote  The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods and helped found the Circle of Life Foundation to promote the sustainability, restoration, and preservation of life.

Olya Melen, Ukraine  (1980)  
Environmental attorney

Olya Melen is a firebrand attorney who used legal channels to halt construction of a massive canal that would have cut through the heart of the Danube Delta, one of the world’s most valuable wetlands, a World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve. The organization Environment-People-Law (EPL) filed lawsuits to prevent construction and Melen tried the case. She was denounced by the notoriously corrupt and lawless pre-Orange Revolution government, but the judge ruled that the canal development flouted environmental laws and could adversely affect the Danube Delta’s biodiversity.

We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.
 – Rachel Carson

There is still a chance. And we are that chance!

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to


Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus