Environmental Heroes

In Memorium

Some dedicated environmentalists returned to the Earth in the 1990s, after sowing a legacy of green activism. Majory Stoneman Douglas, the founder of Florida's environmental movement, passed away last year. Her seminal book, The Everglades, led to the designation of the wetlands as a national park in 1947, and she unfailingly defended the beloved swamp until her death at the age of 108.

Former Congresswoman Bella Abzug also continued to make a difference later in life when, to enhance women's roles in environmental decision-making, she created the Women's Environment Defense and Development Organization eight years before her death in 1998.

Seventy-year-old grandmother Aurora Castillo fought for green causes in her twilight years when she founded The Mothers of East Los Angeles, a community organization dedicated to protecting East L.A. from environmental and public health threats. She was 84 when she died.

Ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, another lifelong activist, passed away in 1997 at age 87. Best known for his TV series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, the veteran diver also founded The Cousteau Society, which now boasts 300,000 members dedicated to the preservation of ocean life.

Celebrity singer-songwriter John Deutschendorf, better known as John Denver, died in a plane crash last year at age 53 after championing wilderness in his ballad, “Rocky Mountain High,” and backing up his convictions through efforts on behalf of his own Windstar Foundation and Plant-It 2000.

Last year marked the loss of three key figures in the animal rights movement: Linda McCartney, the wife of Beatle Paul, used her celebrity status to promote vegetarianism, and published several meat-free cookbooks.

Journalist, activist and author Cleveland Amory, 81, founder of the Fund for Animals, was buried next to his beloved cat, Polar Bear, the subject of a popular trilogy of books.

Henry Spira, the founder of Animal Rights International, 71, used his skill for negotiation to help curtail face branding of cattle and the blinding of rabbits in cosmetic safely trials.

Animal advocate Michael Werinke walked the African and North American continents to raise international awareness about the plight of five endangered rhino species. He died this year in Kenya, where he was working on a rhino conservation project in Tsavo National Park.

Ugandan journalist Ndykira Amooti also passed away recently. His exposés had encouraged the government to create a new national park and crack down on the illegal trade in endangered species.

Another activist who leaves a living legacy is High Chief Fuino Senio of the Savai'i Island of Western Samoa. Senio persuaded his fellow village chiefs to sign an historic accord which saved 30,000 acres of locally-owned land from logging and turned the area into the Falealupo Rainforest Preserve.

U.S. Senator John Chafee (R-RI) was a forthright friend of the environment, and a leader in defending the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

Lawmaker and activist Petra Kelly became an influential politician when she founded Germany's Green Party. The Greens' political victories distinguished Germany as the first parliamentary system to elect an environmental contingent. In 1992, Kelly, then only 45, died in a tragic suicide-murder case.

Earth First!er Judi Bari, had, like Kelly, received death threats for protesting liquidation logging of California redwood forests. When a motion-triggered pipe bomb exploded under the driver's seat of her car in 1990 she survived, but she died seven years later at age 48 from breast cancer.

In 1998, another Earth First!er, David “Gypsy” Chain, 24, never had a second chance after a tree felled by an angry logger crushed him during a peaceful Earth First! anti-logging protest in California's Grizzly Creek State Park.

Chain was one of several environmental activists who died on duty in the 1990s. Indian activist K.A. Rahman protested against a factory accused of releasing carcinogens into his community. He was himself a cancer victim this year, and his name was added to the list of pollution-related deaths he helped to create.

Another cancer victim, Jeton Anjain, fought for the rights of his fellow residents on Rongelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where radiation was pervasive from the largest nuclear detonation ever conducted by the U.S.

In Colombia, conservation biologist and policy analyst Terrence Freitas was murdered while on a mission to protect the traditional lands of the U'wa people from exploitation by Occidental Petroleum.

A courageous symbol of the battle against oil companies, Ken Saro-Wiwa, fought to save the land of the Ogoni people from further exploitation by Shell in Nigeria. Just before the Nigerian government hung him on murder charges, he spoke his final words, “Lord take my soul, but the struggle continues.”