Four Female Leaders in Intersectional Environmentalism

A woman with dark curly hair wearing gold hoop earrings smiles into the distance with a gray blurry background.

This March, in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we are featuring four women leading the intersectional environmentalism movement. Climate change disproportionately affects communities of color. These women are leading the charge to change the way we think about environmental and climate solutions!

1. Dr. Carolyn Finney

Carolyn Finney

Dr. Carolyn Finney authored the book Black Faces White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. In her book, Finney explores the histories of slavery, Jim Crow and racial violence in the United States and their continued relationship to present day perceptions of who should and can have access to the “great outdoors”. Finney utilizes her unique perspective as a cultural geographer and storyteller to address how privilege affects the course of environmental action, policy and leadership. Check out her 2020 TEDx talk at Middlebury College and her continued work in the environmental movement.

2. Sonrisa Lucero

Sonrisa Lucero is a Sustainability Engineer and expert with experience in the public and private sector, committed to climate justice. She works as the Sustainability Strategist in the Office of Sustainability for the City of Denver and owns and operates a sustainability firm Sustainnovations, LLC. Locally, Sonrisa serves as a board member for The Alliance Center and Conservation Colorado. Previously, she served as a board member with Groundwork Denver. Learn more about her climate justice work in her 2020 TEDx talk, “Stopping Climate Change Starts with Heart and Latinx Communities” and listen to her discuss the Paris Climate Agreement on our latest Climate Bridges podcast episode.

3. Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas is an environmentalist and the founder of the Intersectional Environmentalist Platform. The Intersectional Environmentalist platforms shares resources, information and actions to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement. In her 2020 Vogue article entitled “Why Every Environmentalist Should be Antiracist” she explained, “The systems of oppression that have led to the deaths of so many Black people were the same systems that perpetuated environmental injustice. This realization pointed me to the term ‘intersectional environmentalism,’ and compelled me to introduce it into environmentalist dialogue—to spark conversation and mobilize the environmental community to be anti-racist and not complicit.” Learn more about Leah here.

4. Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson speaks during the Unplugged Session at TED2019: Bigger Than Us. April 15 - 19, 2019, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, author and policy expert. She founded the think tank, Urban Ocean Lab and OceanCollectiv, a conservation consulting firm rooted in social justice. Johnson’s work centers on building community to create climate solutions. Her diverse body of work includes her podcast How to Save a Planet, academic publications, editorials and public speaking.