Nina Gualinga was born and raised in Sarayaku, Ecuador. She grew up in the Ecuadorian rainforest and has so far, spent her life trying to protect it. In 2002 the Ecuadorian army forced their way into her family’s territory to undertake seismic testing activities in search of oil. They deforested land and many Sarayaku leaders were threatened and harassed whilst trying to protect their homes.
Since then, Nina Gualinga has demanded that Ecuadorian governments acknowledge the importance of the amazon rainforest and for the governments to end contracts with major oil companies. At the age of 18, Gualinga represented the youth of Sarayaku at the final law case against the Ecuadorian government. It was a ten-year battle which they proceeded to win.
Gualinga recently set up a grassroots indigenous organisation called Hukhu. The organisation is helping to implement local programs and projects to mitigate the extraction of natural resources. Gualinga is a powerful voice for the indigenous people. She has shown how indigenous knowledge and their deep connection with the natural world is critical in the fight against climate change.
Madison Stewart, aka Shark Girl, was born and raised off Australia’s Gold Coast. Stewart grew up captivated by the ocean and spent almost every day of her childhood years diving off the Great Barrier Reef. When she was 14, Stewart left school to start home school. She used her school fees to buy an underwater video system. Since then, Stewart has been documenting all the mesmerising encounters she has with sharks.
However, Stewart recalls that after one particular dive, she found her call to action in life. On this dive Stewart realised that the sharks were afraid to come close to the boat. When she looked further into the situation, she discovered that shark finning was a colossal issue threatening the livelihood of sharks. The Great Barrier Reef harvests over 100,000 sharks a year, and Stewart has made her life’s mission to protect the sharks from finning. After travelling to Indonesia and seeing the devastation of shark trade first hand, Stewart was determined to find solutions.
Stewart founded Project Hui with the recognition that the very solution to saving sharks lay with the men raised to kill them. The Hui Project incentivises and hires small fisheries in Indonesia to choose Tourism over shark finning. The team have already saved over 73000 sharks from being killed.
Greta Thunberg has become the voice and the face of the climate crisis. At 11 years old, Greta was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, characterised by abnormalities in social interactions. People with Asperger’s often become fixated on one thing, and for Greta, this was the climate crisis. When she found out about all the human activities contributing to climate change, she dramatically transformed her lifestyle. Thunberg became vegan, she refused to fly anymore, and for three weeks, she skipped school to sit outside the Swedish Parliament with a sign that read “School Strike for the Climate."
With this powerful act of defiance, Thunberg started an international movement. Hundreds of thousands of young people striked across the globe, demanding that governments take more actions to fix the climate crisis. Following these events, Greta has spoken at UN climate summits, the European Parliament and the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Her determination and courage have shown the world how much change one person can create.
Dr Silvia Earle
Dr Silvia Earle is a highly recognised marine biologist who has dedicated her life to preserving the oceans. Dr Earle has always harboured an innate curiosity for the natural world. As a child Earle spent hours by the pond in her backyard, filling jars with fish and tadpoles, recording her observations in notebooks. Her love for the natural world led her to pursue a master’s in Botany and doctoral studies that focused on the photosynthesis of Algae.
Dr Earle was one of the first female scientists to lead a marine exhibition. The Tektite II Project involved a group of all-female scientists observing and recording aquatic activities submerged 50 ft underwater. For decades Earle has been a recognised voice amongst scientists and governments. Not only has she produced some of the most prestigious scientific findings to date, but she has also used her voice to spread awareness of the importance of our oceans.