Everyone has heard of Greta Thunburg and David Attenborough. But they aren’t the only ones speaking out about the importance of climate action.
Meet four activists the Fund supports who are working to address the climate crisis while also protecting the rights of vulnerable communities.
4 Climate Activists You Should Know
Supaporn Malailoy, Thailand
Environmental justice often requires legal action. In Thailand, Supaporn Malailoy and the environmental foundation she co-founded, EnLAW, are leading the way. EnLAW is a group of lawyers and activists that conducts litigation, training, and advocacy, developing with communities the vital tools and knowledge needed to protect their land and natural resources. Supaporn and her team have tackled legislation that eroded existing environmental protections and won landmark cases, including a $1.7 million settlement for a village whose water had been contaminated with lead. EnLAW’s work remains vital, with implementation of the court settlement the next stage of the struggle.
Philippe Ruvunangiza, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
To manufacture cell phones, electric cars, and other technologies, companies need minerals such as cobalt. That’s led to a mining boom in the DRC, along with environmental pollution and human rights abuses. Philippe Ruvunangiza is working to protect the DRC’s biodiversity along with the rights of mining communities. As the director of Bureau d’Etudes Scientifiques et Techniques (Office of Scientific and Technical Studies, or BEST), he helps miners receive education and organize to demand safer and more sustainable mining practices, fair compensation, and social responsibility commitments from mining companies and the Congolese government.
Juanita Toledo, Guatemala
Women, particularly Indigenous women, play a vital role in protecting their community’s land and natural resources from over-development. Juanita Toledo, a Mayan environmental justice leader, is one of them. Juanita works with Consejo Wuxhtaj, a coalition of Indigenous communities from six municipalities in Guatemala, to make sure that her people are heard when hydroelectric dams or mining projects threaten their communities and the environment. She also leads a women’s initiative to elevate more Indigenous women’s voices in the climate and land rights movements.
Zaybi Abdessalem, Tunisia
Zaybi Abdessalem and the organization he leads, Amal Association for the Environment, are based in Tunisia’s phosphate-rich Gafsa region. Phosphate mining is a critical source of employment. But the local community endures terrible pollution and phosphate workers often have little recourse when they experience abuse on the job. Zaybi and Amal provide legal aid and mediation for phosphate workers and conduct environmental studies to influence policies around reducing pollution. They’re also working to inspire the next generation of environmental defenders by creating environmental clubs in schools.