In the early 1970s, Yolanda Kakabadse was unfamiliar with the meaning of “conservation”. Investigating the term as a young woman, she discovered the beaches of Ecuador being piled high with garbage; lush forests being razed to the ground; once-marvelous rivers being defiled, their flows broken. She began to understand that the nature she had loved in her youth was in recession. The concept of conservation then made sense to her. It felt urgent that the rest of the world understand it too – and began taking action.
Since then, Yolanda has not stopped rallying people to protect biodiversity. In 1979, she created Fundación Natura to conserve of Ecuador’s biodiversity, working as its executive director for more than a decade. In 1992, she became part of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development organizing team in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A year later, to promote Latin America’s sustainable development, she created Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano. In 1998, she was named Ecuador’s Minister of Environment, and shortly thereafter, traveled to the United States to co-direct the UN Millennium Project. She gained even more prominence by leading, during a 7 year period the WWF International (World Wide Fund for Nature), the world’s largest environmental organization.
On June 10, Yolanda spoke with the EARTH University community about what our global society must do to preserve our planet’s life-giving ecosystems while safeguarding people’s well-being. She views the COVID-19 pandemic as a sobering opportunity for everyone to fully acknowledge the deficiencies inherent in the world’s current food, economic, and social systems. It is also a global alert about the worsening impacts of climate change. If humanity’s systems are not intelligently restructured, more devastation with manifest in the form of intensified floods, droughts, and more.
“Caring for nature is not an eccentricity of ecologists; rather, a necessity for human survival. We have to reverse and curb, as much as possible, these current threats that reveal our vulnerability as a species,” said Yolanda. She shared several daily life and policymaking goals with us:
To EARTH students, Yolanda Kakabadse is a bona fide role model – someone who has been consistent in her actions and bravely raising her voice to fight for the environment.
Yolanda was featured in the EARTH Speaker Series – a virtual meeting space where leaders and experts share their global perspectives and we, as an EARTH community, have the opportunity to reflect on our role as human beings and agents of change.
We invite you to listen to her wisdom in this video.