Environmentalism is a broad spectrum of green philosophy, ideology, and social movement. Environmentalism is a different way of thinking by which people are trying to care more about the Earth and the long-term survival of life.
Environmentalists are the father of nature who raises our consciousness to the universal law of nature. An environmentalist is that inspiring person who believes in green ideology and philosophy by heart & soul. He is a supporter of the environmental movement.
Environmentalists choose the world of Environmentalism to save nature. Here you can get to know about such five topmost inspiring Environmentalists. John Muir was the first Environmentalist.
He is mostly known for the “Father of National Park” and “John of the Mountain.” He was a dedicated naturalist plus environmental philosopher by heart. He was a brilliant and intuitive person, which led him to explore and write about nature.
Rachel Carson is the revolutionary scientist & the first green writer. She became famous for her revolutionary book named “Silence Spring.” There she story tells about the toxic effect of DDT on the environment and human health.
She was one of the finest biologist & conservationist writers who changed the world forever. To activate her movement and to educate people through her influential book, she faced lots of backlashes.
Honorable Sheikh Hasina is the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh who cares for the national natural beauty by heart. PM giving the leading voice to save the national resource – the environment.
She was conferred on the United Nation’s highest environmental accolade, “Champion of the Earth Award 2015” in the policy leadership category. She made a forefront role at home and abroad to face the adverse impacts of climate change.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan is a dedicated environmentalist and leading Bangladeshi Environmental attorney.
She is an enrolled lawyer with the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. Rizwana got involved in shipbreaking, first suing the breaking yards in Chittagong in 2003. In response, in March 2003, the court declared shipbreaking without an environmental clearance from the appropriate department illegal.
Wangari Mathai is a fearless child of nature known as an eco-fighter who risked her life to raise environmental consciousness.
She was the founder of the 1970s Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Environmentalists saw a dream to take us to the sacred path of nature. We should wake up with the way of their inspiring dreams – the simple aim of saving the world with many hardships.
Inspiring Personalities –
Leading Environmentalists who changed the way we think
Sometime, you can live the dreams of others.
Environmentalists are the father of nature who raises our consciousness to the universal law of nature. They saw a heavenly dream of bridging the Environment with humanity. Every decade the universe gifts us few personalities who came up with magical ideas to light up the world.
They transform and change the way we think, perceive, and see the world. They saw a dream of the paradise of love, bond, and harmony between the natural world and every inhabitant species, including us. And if you want, you can live the beautiful dreams of the Environmentalists seen decades ago!
What is Environmentalism?
If you somehow go to space, you can see the most beautiful, colorful, and spinning planet – the mother Earth. She is exceptionally magical, diverse, fragile, and uncertain by nature. Environmentalism is a green concept that thinks about the Earth and its varied species, including us!
Environmentalism is a unique way of thinking by which people care more about the Earth and the planet’s long-term survival. It means recognizing the planet’s environmental problems and coming up with solutions (individually and collectively) that try to put them right. (Woodford, 2018)
Therefore, Environmentalism is a broad spectrum of green philosophy, ideology, and Social Movement. It is an environmental right which aims to:
- Preserves, restore, and improves the natural world
- Preserves the ecology
- Protect and conserve the elements of planet’s ecosystem, including water, land, air, animals, and plants, along with entire habitats such as deserts, rainforests, and oceans (M. Lovelady)
- Brings the sustainability
- Conserves biodiversity
- Improves the overall health of the Environment
- Improves the living and lifestyle of all the species, including human
- Combats air-water-noise pollution and global warming
The effects of human development involve an activity that has harmed and altered the planet’s natural state. Environmentalism’s focus is to correct the damage as well as prevent future destruction. (M. Lovelady)
And what do you mean by Environmentalists?
Who are those divine people whose inspiring personality, aura, and dreams become our sustainable lifestyle reality? Who are those people who show us to see the Environment differently? Who are those angels to inspire us to think about the natural world and its symbiotic ecology? Who are those people who risk their lives to save the mother earth? They are known as environmentalists or environmental activists.
An environmentalist is that inspiring person who believes in green ideology and philosophy by heart & soul. He is a supporter of the Environmental Movement. His religion is Environmentalism.
He might be a scientist, professor, educator, engineer, architecture, lawyer, student, author, celebrity, social figure, political and ethical activist, or a simple farmer or an individual who is conscious & care about the natural world. They march towards the pathway to improve and protect the natural world and to protest the anthropogenic activities.
Environmental activism refers to working together of different groups of individuals and organizations that collaborate in scientific, social, political, and conservational fields. Their primary purpose is addressing environmental aspects. These people and organizations are jointly part of the green living, green Movement, or ecological sustainability. And they also have a common agenda on protecting and preserving the Environment. (Rinkesh, 2019)
Why are environmentalists influential?
Environmentalists are inspiring personalities or activists who adopt Environmentalism as a way of life. Tragically, they are referred to as alien due to their thought on saving the planet is considered as exaggerated.
But they are the stubborn soul who believes in establishing the truth even how critically they are criticized throughout the decades. Planet earth is under serious threat, and if we don’t play an active role in saving her, then we are all doomed (Brisebois, 2018).
The four reasons why environmentalists and their Environmentalism are essential:
Prevention has always been better than cure
Pollution causes most global diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive & neurological disorders. As the pollution of air, water sources, food, and so on are the recent detrimental concern. The easiest and cheapest solution is taking preventive action (Brisebois, 2018). The better care of our Environment.
Everyone is affected in equal measure.
Every country and every ecosystem will be affected by the domino effects of environmental crises. A noticeable example is global warming. It is created dominantly by the industrialization of the developed world. However, the impact of global warming is being felt by even non-industrialized nations (Brisebois, 2018).
Future generations need our help.
I firmly believe you don’t want to deliberately leave the Earth a worse place to be in for your children and grandchildren. If you don’t do anything to save the Earth, I can ensure that your children will be sufferers most of the consequences of your inaction. (Brisebois, 2018)
It’s your sole responsibility as a citizen of this planet
We usually take many things for granted, such as the fresh air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the ground we walk on, etc. All these are things that the planet earth gives us for free. It’s, therefore, very irresponsible of us not showing some gratitude to planet earth. You can show dignity by playing an active role in taking care of our Environment. It’s the virtue of being alive to be an environmentalist. (Brisebois, 2018)
Now let’s look at the crucial activities environmentalists are doing and why they are important?
- Awareness creation on environmental sustainability
- Role in legislation
- Impact on developers that they will face legal challenges if they cause any ecological pollution
- Educating the masses through Environmental activism champions
- Push companies towards Green and Lean Manufacturing
- Protection of communities from any devastating impacts of pollution
- Push towards the practice of using alternative forms of energy to curtail the buildup of greenhouse gases
- Some activists have influenced innovative conservation programs such as that of the National parks and advocating for eco-tourism.
- They support reuse and recycling campaigns for non-biodegradable products such as plastics, obsolete electrical equipment, and many others. (Rinkesh, 2019)
Now, let’s enter into the dreamy world of five global Environmentalists. You will be amazed by their journey and inspiring movements.
The First Environmentalist, John Muir – Father of National Park (1838–1914)
John Muir was a real child of nature – a naturalist icon. His spiritual odyssey toward Environment made him eternal and unique. He was a person who felt nature as not a separated soul but related at a deeper level. His powerful intuition believed that nature could rejuvenate and soothe an individual with its divine beauty. As he quoted-
Everybody needs beauty and bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. (Quotes, 2019)
John Muir was best known as the “Father of National Park” and “John of the Mountain.” He was a real naturalist and environmental philosopher by heart. He was an intelligent and intuitive person, which led him to explore and write about nature. He was one of the earliest environmentalists who wrote about the importance of preserving the environment at the edge of material industrialization. In early 1876, he urged the federal government to adopt a forest conservation policy through articles published in popular periodicals (Biography, 2019). He was a threat to the entire aggressive industrialist at that time.
(Source: National Park Serv
Background and Inventions
John Muir was born on April 21, 1838, in Dunbar, Scotland. He immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 11 years old. Settling in Wisconsin, Muir contended with a rigid, punishing father who made his son memorize the Bible and maintain a demanding schedule.
Yet, the boy had a significant inclination for learning and creativity. He never attended school but was self-educated and usually bright. Muir came up with various inventions such as a horse feeder, a table saw, the wooden thermometer, and a device that pushed the youngster out of bed in the early morning. (Biography, 2019)
After showing his inventions at the state Fair, Muir accepted into the University of Wisconsin during the early 1860s. He took up studying botany and geology and dropped out before earning his degree. Leaving school in 1863, he went to explore the natural world on foot while taking on odd jobs to support himself.
But in 1867, while working at a factory, a tragic accident happened (Biography, 2019). He lost his sight for a time and confined to a darkened room for several weeks. He has been in terror of fear and uncertainty that he might never see again. Fortunately, his eye healed and restored.
As he emerged from the darkness, he fully embraced his devotion to nature. Muir walked from Indiana to Florida, creating detailed sketches of the terrain. He eventually sailed to Cuba, New York, and Panama, ultimately making his way to San Francisco (Biography, 2019). Since then, Muir continued his walking explorations. He explored, studied, and documented plants, geology, and the sunshine of nature’s beauty.
Quick Facts to Know!
- Name: John Muir
- Occupation: Environmental Activist, Journalist
- Birth Date: April 21, 1838
- Dunbar, Scotland
- Death Date: December 24, 1914
- Los Angeles, California
- Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Wife. Louisa Wanda Strentzel
- Children: Wanda Muir Hanna, Helen Muir Funk (Biography, 2019)
- Odyssey towards Ecological Preservation
His many books (such as The Mountains of California and Our National Parks), articles, and speeches helped create many protected wilderness areas (Chandler & Steidl). Muir’s writings convinced the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and Mt. Rainier as national parks (National Park Service).
To Mr. Muir, the wilderness was a place to be respected and revered without humankind’s intrusion. He saw foresters and other conservationists as meddling intruders into nature’s world (Chandler & Steidl). Muir began having his ecology-oriented articles published via newspapers in the early 1870s.
His first printed essay appeared in the New York Tribune. After acute observations, he offered groundbreaking theories about Yosemite’s geological structures formed by glacial activity, countering previous scientific assertions. (Biography, 2019)
John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892 and helped establish Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks (Biography, 2019).
Today Sierra Club is the largest grassroots environmental group globally, with more than 1.3 million members. Over the years, the club helped establish several national parks.
Sierra Club also religiously found dozens of groundbreaking environmental laws, including clean air, clean water, and wilderness (Infinite Fire Inc., 2014). John Muir published a grouping of essays pushing for Yosemite National Park, established in 1890 (Biography, 2019).
Even 150 years ago, there was even no existence of a national park. But due to Muir’s power of writing raise the concept and vision of protecting wilderness by establishing national parks. Today, almost 7000 national parks worldwide in nearly 100 countries (Infinite Fire Inc., 2014).
He was a dedicated environmentalist whose brave and enthusiastic journey made him an eternal soul whose name will always be remembered by nature, even if not by humans!
Rachel Louise Carson, Scientist, and Author (1907 – 1964)
In nature nothing exists alone.
― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring.
When you talk about the environment, Rachel Carson is the first inseparable name. Rachel Carson is the revolutionary scientist & the first green writer. She made people rethink their relationship with the natural world.
She was the person who felt we all are part of nature and connected. Her mother nature towards the environment aware everyone sees the greener side. She was one of the finest biologist & conservationist writers who changed the world forever.
To activate her movement and to educate people through her influential book, she faced lots of backlashes. Besides struggling with her personal life & career direction, she faces threats from industries, corporations, bureaucrats, etc.
Launched the revolutionary roadmap towards environmental movement
Born in rural Pennsylvania, she went on to study biology at Johns Hopkins University and Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (Lallanilla, 2019). She was involved in the federal service as a scientist and editor in 1936 and rose to become Editor-in-Chief of all publications for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Lear, 2015).
In this fifteen-year career, she had written many artistic infused scientific articles and books on conservation & natural resources. Her first article was “Undersea” (1937, for the Atlantic Monthly).
Then she wrote several books like “Under the Sea-Wind” (1941). In 1952 she published “The Sea Around Us,” followed by “The Edge of the Sea” in 1955. These books constituted biography details of the deep ocean. These books made Carson famous as a naturalist and science writer for the public. Carson resigned from government service in 1952 to devote herself to her writing. (Lear, 2015)
She became famous for her revolutionary book named “Silence Spring.” There she story tells about the toxic effect of DDT on the environment and human health. She wrote such a sensational book in 1962, which was way ahead of her time (Lear, 2015).
She was disturbed by the intensive use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II. Carson reluctantly changed her focus to warn the public about the long-term effects of misusing pesticides. In Silent Spring (1962), she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government. She called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world. (Lear, 2015)
“Why should we tolerate a diet of weak poisons, a home in insipid surroundings, a circle of acquaintances who are not quite our enemies, the noise of motors with just enough relief to prevent insanity? Who would want to live in a world which is just not quite fatal?” ― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring.
Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and some in government as an alarmist. But she courageously spoke out to remind us that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem.
Testifying before Congress in 1963, Carson called for new policies to protect human health and the environment. Rachel Carson died in 1964 after a long battle against breast cancer. Her witness for the beauty and integrity of life inspires new generations to protect the living world and its creatures. (Lear, 2015)
Wangari Maathai (1940-2011), the founder of the Green Belt Movement
When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope.
– Wangari Maathai (AZ Quotes)
Wangari Mathai is a fearless child of nature. Mathai had deep and inseparable connections with trees. She is best known as an eco-fighter who risked her life to raise environmental consciousness. She shed blood to protect the environment, species, and poor people of her native land Nyeri of Kenya.
Dr. Wangari Maathai (1940-2011) is a Kenyan scholar, a passionate activist, and a politician. She was the founder of the 1970s Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (Green Belt Movement, 2019).
(Source: Khattab, 2016)
Let’s have a short story –
The Story of the Hummingbird
We are continually facing problems. And bombarded & overwhelmed by them completely.
The story of the hummingbird is about this huge forest consumed by fire. All the animals in the forest come out, and they are transfixed as they watch the forest burning, and they feel very overwhelmed, very powerless, except this little hummingbird. It says, ‘I’m going to do something about the fire!’ So it flies to the nearest stream and takes a drop of water. It puts it on the fire and goes up and down, up and down, up and down, as fast as it can.
In the meantime, all the other animals, much bigger animals like the elephant with a big trunk that could bring much more water, are standing there helpless. And they are saying to the hummingbird, ‘What do you think you can do? You are too little. This fire is too big. Your wings are too little, and your beak is so small that you can only bring a small drop of water at a time.’
But as they continue to discourage it, it turns to them without wasting any time, and it tells them, ‘I am doing the best I can.’
And that, to me, is what all of us should do. We should always be like a hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching the planet goes down the drain. I will be a hummingbird; I will do the best I can. (The Kid Should See This, 2011-2019)
In 1977, Professor Maathai founded The Greenbelt Movement (Kenya Environmental & Political News Weblog, 2009). It’s an organization that works to empower women through environmental conservation and educates communities about their political, economic, and ecological opportunities. (The Kid Should See This, 2011-2019). As Maathai said,
“One of the reasons why we started the Green Belt Movement is to work with these ordinary peasant farmers to educate them that, although they are poor, it is in their interest to protect the soil that they have, to protect the forest, to protect the land, because if they don’t do it, things can be only worse tomorrow for them and for their children.” (Kenya Environmental & Political News Weblog, 2009)
Some Quick Facts about Wangari Maathai
- Date of Birth: April 1, 1940
- Deceased: September 25, 2011
- Place of Birth: Nyeri, Kenya
- Nationality: Kenyan
- Family: Three children (Waweru, Wanjira, and Muta)
- Ph.D., Anatomy, University of Nairobi (1971)
- M.S., Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, USA (1966)
- B.S., Biology, Mount St. Scholastica College, USA (1964)
- Founder and Coordinator, the Green Belt Movement (1977–2002)
- Chair of the Board, the Green Belt Movement (2002-2011)
- U.N. Messenger of Peace (2009–2011)
- Co-Chair, Congo Basin Forest Fund (2007–2011)
- Goodwill Ambassador, Congo Basin Forest Initiative (2005–2011)
- Presiding Officer, Economic Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC) (2005–2007)
- Founding Chair, the Green Belt Movement International (2005)
- Assistant Minister, Environment, Republic of Kenya (2003–2005)
- Member of Parliament, Tetu Constituency, Republic of Kenya (2002–2007)
- Founding member, GROOTS International (1985)
- Director, Kenya Red Cross (1973–1980) (Green Belt Movement, 2019)
The Story & History behind the Greenbelt Movement (GBM)
Wangari Maathai was a little girl who was nurtured by her parents and the greenery of her rural land in Nyeri of Kenya. She has grown up seeing nature – the trees, the streams, the lakes, the forests, the birds, and her homeland’s native animals. However, after completing her education in America, Maathai returns to her homeland in the mid-1970s. There she saw a different picture – an ecological decline of her land! She saw watersheds drying up, streams disappearing, and the desert expanding south from the Sahara (MacDonald, 2005).
On visits to Nyeri, she found streams she had known as a child gone—dried up. Forests being cleared for farms or plantations of fast-growing exotic trees. That drained the ecosystem of water and degraded the soil (MacDonald, 2005). She talked to the rural Kenyan women who reported that their streams were drying up, and their food supply was less secure. They had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel and fencing. Such an ironic scenario brings fire from her deeper self to become an ecological hero!
In the dream of conserving Kenya’s natural beauty and resources, Wangari Maathai mobilized women across Kenya to plant trees. She organized a women community and paid them a small monetary token to do so. Wangari educates them about the simple concept of planting trees to save their resources, their environment, and their home! With the essence of her passion, she founded the Green Belt Movement (GBM) in 1977 under the auspices of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) (Green Belt Movement, 2019).
The Movement has since planted more than 30 million trees. Maathai has been a fearless activist and spokesperson for issues including women’s economic rights, poverty, and education. She was elected to Kenya’s parliament by an overwhelming majority vote in December 2002. She also served as Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources, and Wildlife from 2003 until 2007. (Kenya Environmental & Political News Weblog, 2009)
The GBM was a fight against the poor’s everyday hardships—environmental degradation, deforestation, and food insecurity. It fought against land grabbing and the encroachment of agriculture into the forests. Consequently, the Green Belt Movement began to advocate for more significant democratic space. It also achieved more accountability from national leaders. It contested the placement of a tower block in Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi. It leads to join others to call for the release of political prisoners. Her blood and rebellious notion raised GBM worldwide. And she winned the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 (Green Belt Movement, 2019).
Prof. Maathai was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the Congo Basin Forest Ecosystem, the world’s “second lung” after the Amazon Rainforest. Her four books (The Green Belt Movement, Unbowed, The Challenge for Africa, and Replenishing the Earth) and the documentary Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai expanded on and deepened the fundamental concepts behind the Green Belt Movement’s work and approach. (Green Belt Movement, 2019).
The Movement continues to expand its horizon to include community development work. Her work encompassed the arenas of environmental conservation, democracy, community empowerment, and conflict resolution (Green Belt Movement, 2019). Wangari is a genuine legacy proof that one person’s simple idea—that a community should come together to plant trees can make a difference.
Sheikh Hasina. Prime Minister of Bangladesh – Dreamer of Sustainable Bangladesh (1947 – Present)
Sheikh Hasina is a daughter’s name, who’s living the dream of her father to live in the independent nation of Bangladesh. With the extension of her father’s dream, she has also dreamt of a beautiful Bangladesh with –
- a poverty-free nation
- an educated future generation
- a digital Bangladesh
- a gender-equal nation
- And a sustainable national future.
She is the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh who cares for the nation’s natural beauty by heart. She’s giving leading voice to save the national resources – the environment.
Honorable Sheikh Hasina Wazed is the longest-serving Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She is the daughter of Bangladesh’s first President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the nation’s father.
- Hasina is one of the most powerful women globally, ranking 26th on Forbes’ list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” in 2018 (Forbes, 2018).
- Sheikh Hasina has also made a list of “top 100 Global Thinkers” of the present decade (Global Thinkers, 2019).
- She was on the United Nation’s highest environmental accolade. She honored as the “Champion of the Earth Award 2015” in the policy leadership category. She made a forefront role at home and abroad to face the adverse impacts of climate change. (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, 2018)
- The International Telecommunication Union gave her the ‘ICTs in Sustainable Development Award 2015’. She made outstanding contributions in spreading information technology in the country. (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, 2018)
An Environmental Leader
Most of the political figures and influential Bangladesh people perceive “environment” as a luxury where poverty is a significant concern. In contrast, Sheikh Hasina is one unique, meaningful name who is intuitive about the environment. She’s concerned about the irreversible crises of climate change and its devastating impact on the country. Instead of being the least developed nation and least emitter – she has made the environment a priority. Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated –
“We will never achieve the sustainable development goals and eradicate poverty if the adverse impacts of climate change are not stopped.” (The Daily Star, 2019)
She has taken massive initiatives to involve the current government to ensure ecological balance. In accordance, she has established a “Sustainable Development Plan.” She also formulated the “Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan.” It aims to raise funds towards preserving the valuable natural ecosystems of our nation’s landscape (Dhaka Tribune, 2019). Hasina also took the initiative for climate resilience. She planned the climate mitigation and adaptation program at the district level. Bangladesh is doing its best to enhance its resilience (The Daily Star, 2019).
“Domestically, we are the first LDC to establish a Climate Change Trust Fund. We have so far spent more than $415 million from our resources for mitigation and adaptation purposes. We have set to spend as much as $10 billion to make the country less vulnerable to natural disasters,” said Sheikh Hasina. (The Daily Star, 2019)
PM urges the international community to adopt an appropriate climate action plan. She discussed it recently, at the general roundtable at the COP25, the UN Climate Change Conference, in Madrid of Spain.
“As our people will be displaced at no fault of ours, we expect the international community to shoulder the responsibility of accommodating them and providing them with livelihood,” she said. (The Daily Star, 2019)
With her initiatives, Bangladesh has prepared a plan to achieve 30% of the total energy from renewable sources by 2041 (The Daily Star, 2019). She recently inaugurated the 7.4 MW facility in the Rangamati district. It was installed on 23 acres near the Karnaphuli hydropower plant. The installation lowered the cost of solar power in Bangladesh. It has hovered at $0.0749-0.101/kWh – as it will supply electricity for $0.065 (Islam, 2019). Although rooftop solar is making strides and asked public & private sectors to take the initiatives. She will also consider establishing an ADB-funded 50 MW floating solar project at the nearby hydropower facility in the future (Islam, 2019).
Sheikh Hasina also urges “localizing the SDGs” on SDG Summit at the Trusteeship Council in the UN Headquarters in New York. Because localization of SDG would transform goals into local realities and aspirations. (Dhaka Tribune, 2019). The PM has taken steps to introduce a waste management system wherever any industry is set up (Dhaka Tribune, 2018).
Sheikh Hasina’s leading words would trigger governmental and private enterprises to take necessary steps enforcing the greener policies. It will save the natural world in the long run from the aggression of short-term profit. Listening to her intuitive voice could save many rivers, water bodies, and forests like the World Heritage Sundarbans of beautiful Bangladesh.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan (1968 – Present) – Environmental Attorney
Syeda Rizwana Hasan is a dedicated environmentalist by heart and a leading Bangladeshi Environmental attorney. She’s the superwoman who will be remembered by the coastal world, nature, and the Chittagong’s deep ocean forever. Rizwana battled and risked her life to save the coastal environment. She bravely saved 20,000 innocent workforces (The Goldman Environmental Prize, 2009) from the aggression and toxicity of the shipbreaking industry. Her legal battle enforced regulation for the shipbreaking industry of Bangladesh. She also educates and heightened public awareness about the danger of shipbreaking.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan is an enrolled lawyer with the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. She is the Chief Executive of a reputed national NGO named Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA). Her main focus is to promote the notion of environmental justice in Bangladesh. As an environmental lawyer, Rizwana has led successful legal campaigns through PIL and legislative advocacy on almost all of Bangladesh’s major environmental problems. (Developing Environmental Law Champions, 2019)
Her Environmentalism and work
Bangladesh is one of the few developing countries where investors worldwide came to satisfy their desire for profit greed. International investors exploit the country’s labor market in the name of employment. Ironically the government owns a thriving ship breaking industry. This industry is famous. Decommissioned ships and vessels send to Bangladesh without any law and regulation. Those are dismantled and handled by the country’s unskilled workers to gather valuable steel and other scrap metals. Those are sold to shipbreaking yards. They are 20,000 workers, mostly malnourished young men, some as young as 14 (The Goldman Environmental Prize, 2009). They usually come from the northern parts of Bangladesh, where food is scarce for much of the year. They are paid very little, less than $1 per day, and housed in the most basic of shelters (The Goldman Environmental Prize, 2009).
The 20,000 workers come to work in this shipbreaking industry with great hope. Ironically they usually worked without any protective gear, tools, welfare, and medical facilities. The ships, laden with asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, arsenic, and other substances, leach toxic chemicals into the environment (The Goldman Environmental Prize, 2009). Ecosystems have heavily polluted. And hundreds of workers have been maimed or killed in the process (The Goldman Environmental Prize, 2009).
On average, one shipbreaking worker dies at the yards in Bangladesh every week, and every day one worker is injured. However, Bangladesh has laws for labor welfare and environmentally appropriate waste management. Ironically they are rarely enforced. (The Goldman Environmental Prize, 2009)
Developed nations, including the United States, send ships to Bangladesh for breaking purpose. However, the US has laws against sending ships to shipbreaking yards. However, many ships routed through other ports into this country. They change country-of-origin flags before docking in Bangladesh. (The Goldman Environmental Prize, 2009)
Rizwana got involved in the shipbreaking industry, first suing the breaking yards in Chittagong in 2003. In response, in March 2003, the court declared shipbreaking without an environmental clearance from the appropriate department illegal (Tritiyo Matra, 2019). She identified and represented the reasons for suing are:
- Bringing health hazards to the workers
- Poor working conditions
- Improper waste disposal.
Rizwana continues to strive for more labor rights and a safer working environment in the industry. She has also successfully sued organizations involved in –
- Filling lakes to build real estate
- Improper use of polythene
- Hill cutting, deforestation, and shrimp farming without environmental clearance
- Building illegal establishments on St. Martin’s Island. (Tritiyo Matra, 2019)
Awards and Achievement
- She is one of the first five South Asian women to receive the ‘Celebrating Womanhood’ award (2008). The award has given by the Creative Statement and South Asia Partnership based in Nepal.
- Rizwana has received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for the year 2009. She made an outstanding contribution to protecting and conserving the environment of the country.
- She has also named as one of the 40 Environmental Heroes of the World by TIME magazine. She recognized for passionate leadership, hard-driving skill, and uncompromising courage in the campaign of judicial activism.
- Her brave work demonstrated that the right to the environment is nothing less than a people’s right to dignity and life. Rizwana got Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2012. (Developing Environmental Law Champions, 2019)
In every decade, nature gifts us such impactful passionate angels in human history who change our notion to see the world according to nature’s law. All the living species and animals following the law of nature religiously, except us – the human! All the living animals, birds, insects, plants, and even underwater species are serving the planetary ecosystem. It is only us who is degrading the ecosystem irreversibly. We have been able to circumvent nature’s laws to satisfy our material needs. As Mahatma Gandhi once stated,
Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. (Zafar, 2017)
Today we are already facing the reality of climate crises, which will also eventually bring our extinction! It’s now high time to be environmentally conscious of using its resources. In such existential crises, we must have to choose Environmentalists‘ holly paths because we don’t have other options!
So, let’s wake up with the sacred notion, essence, and the passion of all environmentalists. Let’s wake up to live in natural beauty. Let’s wake up to be ecologically conscious. Let’s wake up to be aware of short-term materialism. Let’s wake up not to make the world into a junk box. Let’s wake up with the law and religion of nature. Let’s wake up with Leonardo DiCaprio, who recently stated,
Our planet’s alarm is going off, and it is time to wake up and take action! (Zafar, 2017)