Women in the Environment

Earthx2020 Presents EarthxWomen: Women in the Environment

Women Light The Way For Change and Share The Torch With A New Generation

EarthxWomen brought together youth climate leaders, creative activists, and seasoned advocates in a series of online discussions for Earthx2020. The virtual conference, held in partnership with the National Geographic Society, commemorated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

EarthxWomen brought together youth climate leaders, creative activists, and seasoned advocates in a series of online discussions for Earthx2020. The virtual conference, held in partnership with the National Geographic Society, commemorated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

The programming for EarthxWomen introduced us to women and girls leading from the frontlines of the climate crisis, in some of the most vulnerable communities, turning from fear to being more fearless, and fighting for solutions and actions that will shift the power paradigms that led us to these dangerous times. Guest curators of the conference included the following leading women in their fields:

  • Pat Mitchell, one of the most accomplished women in media and author of Becoming a Dangerous Women: Embracing Risk to Change the World
  • Karenna Gore, founder and director of the Center for Earth Ethics (CEE) at Union Theological Seminary
  • Kathy Eldon, founder of Creative Visions, which has supported hundreds of projects and productions by creative activists that ignite positive change
  • Sarah Johnson, member of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and President and found of the Lozen Foundation presented the concept of Biomimicry -Nature Does It Best!
  • Sally Ranney, a lifelong environmental activist who is currently President of American Renewable Energy Institute and President/Co-Founder of Global Choices

Panelists drew parallels between the current health crisis and the climate change emergency, and discussed how communities and leaders can learn from the pandemic. “If the industry knows how to shift from building a car to building a ventilator, they can also shift from building a power plant to renewable energy,” said Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, founder of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad. “And if the government knows how to take decisions to inject billions into the economy, they can inject these billions to Sustainable Development Goals.” Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed the importance of collective action in solving global problems and the need to uphold scientific evidence. “Science matters. We listen to the health experts and we believe them. We need to listen to the climate experts and believe them,” she said.

Indigenous knowledge should help guide decisions both after today’s “Great Pause” and for building climate resilience. “We are realizing that the Earth is healing in the absence of our presence,” said Lyla June, an environmental scientist and musician of Diné (Navajo) and Cheyenne lineages. “But a lot of indigenous peoples created a way of interacting with the land that was so good that, if we were to leave, the Earth would actually miss us.” Tara Houska, who is Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe and founder of the Giniw Collective, noted a return to mutual aid. “For Indian Country and our sustainability, and for all of us, it’s strengthening our local governance systems, our relationships with each other, our relationships to the Earth, and looking horizontally, instead of always vertically, for our liberation,” she said.

In conversations with long-time activists, including Jane Fonda, youth climate leaders discussed how their movement is evolving. Xiye Bastida, a climate activist and member of the Mexican Otomi-Tolmec Nation, said she hopes to grow the narrative beyond blaming fossil fuel companies and adults to foster more collaboration. “We started the movement saying, ‘You are stealing our future.’ That’s what got people’s attention,” said Bastida, who is a leader of the Fridays for Future climate strike campaign. “Now that we have the world’s attention…we need to reimagine what the future will actually look like so we can get there.”

Creative activism can help develop such visions, artists and storytellers explained. The renowned playwright V, formerly known as Eve Ensler, read her letter “Losing the Birds,” which laments the loss of 2.9 billion birds in North America and ends with a pledge to protect Mother Earth. Erika Woolsey, a marine biologist and CEO of The Hydrous, said she uses virtual reality to “bring the ocean to everybody” and encourage empathy. Megha Agrawal Sood and Jess Search, co-founders of Climate Story Lab, shared how they’re working with women, girls, indigenous communities, and people of color — groups on the frontlines of the climate emergency — to transform the climate documentary genre. Agrawal Sood called for moving beyond well-worn messages of fear and hope to those of “ferocious love, inclusivity, and positivity.”

Film Director Ellen van den Honert discussed her film “There is a Place on Earth,” and presented an interview with Sibylle Szaggars Redford. Sibylle shared her creative process of incorporating rain into her paintings which then led to the creation of her magnificent multi-media show The Way of the Rain. 

Three generations of the Turner family also took the virtual stage at EarthxWomen. Ted Turner changed our world with CNN and 30 years ago was producing and funding environmental documentaries and conservation work. The work of his daughter Laura Turner Seydel and granddaughter Vasser Seydel embraces his concern for the planet. Laura serves as a director for the Turner Foundation, Chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation, co-founder of Mothers and Others for Clean Air, board member of the Children and Nature Network, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and the United Nations Foundation. Vasser, at the age of 27, is the campaign director of the Oxygen Project and serves as an Arctic Angel with Global Choices.

EarthxWomen also featured climate scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Maureen Raymo took viewers inside a vast archive of deep-sea core samples, which document the Earth’s climate history. Chia-Ying Lee discussed her research on hurricanes and their connection to the changing climate. Galen McKinley described her work to understand how oceans absorb carbon dioxide, and how CO2 affects marine ecosystems. She encouraged young people to consider careers in science. “One of the ways you can help to promote a cleaner planet would be to…join us in creating these studies and lead the next generation,” she said.

Sylvia Earle, the esteemed marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer in Residence, spoke about the threat of deep-sea mining. Over half the Earth’s surface is deep international water, and companies are eager to dig for rare-earth minerals to make consumer electronics, batteries, and other devices. In July, the International Seabed Authority is set to vote on a Mining Code to facilitate such practices. Earle and Vasser Seydel, campaign director for the Oxygen Project, urged the audience to call for a 10-year moratorium on any decision-making.

“We can continue doing what we’ve been doing: taking, taking, taking from the natural world,” Earle said. “Or, we have the moment in time right now to move in a different direction.”

“What we do to take care of the planet means what we’re doing to take care of ourselves,” she added.

EarthX convenes the world’s largest environmental expo, conference and film festival, and is a member of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature. Founded in 2011 by environmentalist and businessman Trammell S. Crow, the Texas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization promotes environmental awareness and impact through conscious business, nonpartisan collaboration and community-driven sustainable solutions. In 2019, the event drew over 177,000 attendees, 2,000 environmental leaders, 700 exhibitors, 450 speakers, 63 films and 49 Eco-virtual reality experiences. Earthx2020 was held virtually on April 16-26, 2020. Visit www.EarthX.org or follow us @earthxorg on InstagramTwitterLinkedIn and Facebook.

ABOUT The National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.


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