The Queen of My Self

Olya Melen, Ukraine
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.

Satomi Oba, Japan
Anti-nuclear activist

Satomi Oba was long-time campaigner against nuclear proliferation with particular concerns for human rights and justice. After the Chernobyl accident in 1986, she fought against nuclear power plants. She was the Director of Plutonium Action Hiroshima, and an active participant in the Rainbow Serpent Network (of women throughout Asia and the Pacific working to end nuclear weapons and power). She also worked for the No Nukes Asia Forum, the Abolition 2000 Global Council, and the Global Network for Peace in Spacer.

Dai Qing, China
Journalist and environmental activist

Dai Qing reported on a conference in 1989 about the impending Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. Her subsequent research led to the publication of the book Yangtze! Yangtze! In which she denounced the dam as “the most environmentally and socially destructive project in the world.” Dai claimed that there was a potential risk for the Yangtze River and the Yellow River to dry up, leading to sandstorms in Inner Mongolia and environmental influence on Korea, Japan and even the west coast of the United States. After Tiananmen Square, the book was banned and she was jailed.

Dame Anita Roddick, England (1943-2007)
Entrepeneur and environmental visionary

Anita Roddick was the founder of the now world famous Body Shop boutique in 1976 in Brighton, England, long before fair trade and Earth-friendly businesses were fashionable. The Body Shop opposed product testing on animals and tried to encourage development by purchasing materials from small communities in the Third World. It also invested in a wind farm in Wales as part of its campaign to support renewable energy, and it set up its own human rights award. Roddick’s last struggles were against globalization and sweatshop economies.

Vandana Shiva, India
Physicist, eco-feminist, and author

Vandana Shiva is a champion for women’s rights and the global food supply. She fights for intellectual property rights, biodiversity, biotechnology, and bioethics through her intellectual contributions and her activist campaigns. She got her start as an environmentalist by participating in the nonviolent Chipko movement during the 1970s. The movement, whose main participants were women, adopted the tactic of hugging trees to prevent their felling. She is one of the leaders of the International Forum on Globalization and a spokesperson for the global solidarity movement.


Marina Silva,
Brazil Defender of Brazilian rainforests and human rights

Marina Silva, a former rubber tapper was frequently at odds with development interests, including powerful farmers and ranchers who are seeking to turn the Amazon into Brazil’s agricultural breadbasket. In 1994 she was the first rubber tapper ever elected to Brazil’s federal senate. There she built support for environmental protection of the reserves as well as for social justice and sustainable development in the Amazon region. Deforestation decreased by 59% from 2004 to 2007, during her implementation of an integrated government policy. In May 2008 she was forced to resign due to her oppositional views on hydroelectric dams, biofuels, and genetically modified crops.

Celsa Valdovinos, Mexico
Rural environmental activist

Celsa Valdovinos began her environmentalist career by organizing youths and women for clean-up efforts to remove the garbage that their neighbors dumped in the fields, and she continued her work from there. Because of Valdovinos’s efforts, some rural communities in the impoverished state of Guerrero have recovered forests, obtained water services and developed gardens, but these advances were paid for with military harassment, forced displacement, threats and the imprisonment of her husband, who, like her, is a local environmental leader. Today Amnesty International fears for her safety.

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


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

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

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