I only met Rainforest Action Network executive director Becky Tarbotton once. But once was enough to firmly shock me out of my holiday stupor when I heard the horrible news that she had died on December 26 at the age of 39 in a freak swimming accident in Mexico while on vacation.
Brilliant, young, dynamic, female environmental visionaries are hard to find so this loss is enormous. Tarbotton, a self-proclaimed “pragmatic idealist” was widely admired for her work protecting forests, articulating a clean-energy economy and defending human rights. She was the first female executive director of RAN and a strong female voice in a movement often dominated by men.
Under Tarbotton’s leadership since she took over in 2010, RAN achieved significant victories in preserving endangered rainforests and the rights of their indigenous inhabitants. Most recently, Tarbotton spearheaded the most significant agreement in the history of the organization: a landmark policy by entertainment giant, Disney, that’s set to transform everything about the way the company purchases and uses paper.
“Becky was an emerging star who was galvanizing an ever-growing movement of people demanding environment 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 the 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 bold, effective, and innovative environmental corporate campaigns.”
Tarbotton is survived by her husband, Mateo Williford; her brothers Jesse and Cameron Tarbotton, and her mother, Mary Tarbotton, of Vancouver, BC. Her ashes will be scattered off of Hornby Island in British Columbia where her family owns a cabin and where she spent much time. Public memorial services will be held in San Francisco and in Vancouver. Dates are still to be determined.
RAN has set up a tribute page to help memorialize their fallen leader. This is a place to celebrate Tarbotton’s enormous contributions and share memories and feelings. All voices are welcome. And for those who wish to support Tarbotton’s ongoing vision for RAN, consider a donation in her memory.