Rebecca Tarbotton, Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network and one of the country’s most renowned environmental leaders, died suddenly over the holidays in a swimming accident while on vacation in Mexico.
A self-proclaimed ‘pragmatic idealist’, Becky was admired for her work fighting deforestation and corporate greed, and her commitment to working towards a clean energy economy. A native of Vancouver, B.C., Becky graduated college and interned with the David Suzuki Foundation where she was exposed to the range of challenges besetting our environment. She helped draft the first letter from Nobel Laureates warning of the dangers of inaction on global warming. She worked for Rainforest Action Network for several years in finance and as a program director before being named Executive Director in 2010.
“Becky was an emerging star who was galvanizing an ever-growing movement of people demanding environmental and social change. She believed that to protect forests and our communities we must protect our climate, and to protect our climate we must protect the forests,” said Nell Greenberg, spokesperson for Rainforest Action Network. “RAN is heartbroken by our loss of Becky, but we are committed to continuing the course that she set for us. Focusing on our core purpose of protecting forests, moving the country off of fossil fuels and defending human rights through effective, innovative and hard-hitting environmental corporate campaigns.”
Under her leadership, RAN achieved tremendous victories in preserving endangered rainforests and the rights of their indigenous inhabitants. Most recently, Becky helped to architect the most significant agreement in the history of the organization: a landmark policy by the Disney Corporation that transforms the way the company purchases and uses paper.
Becky spent much of her time thinking about how to inspire masses of people to work for transformational social and environmental change, and how to push the country’s biggest corporate polluters to reform their ways.
“The project of our time is bigger even than climate change. We need to be setting our sights higher and deeper. What we’re really talking about, if we’re honest with ourselves, is transforming everything about the way we live on this planet.”
The passing of such a charismatic leader is a setback for the environmental movement as well as a profound loss to family and friends at RAN. That she was able to accomplish so much in her 39 years, however, should remind us of what we can do as individuals to make a difference. Hopefully, Becky’s passing will ignite the spark in others who see her example as a path to positive change. We honor Becky and her values with each act of environmental stewardship, each contribution to forest protection, and by teaching our children about the relationship between forest protection and climate change.
Thank you Becky for your leadership and example.