Community Stunned by Loss of 'Rainforest Action Network' Executive Director

Rebecca Tarbotton was unstoppable in her ability to effect social and environmental change.

Becky Tarbotton Unexpectedly Passes Away at 39
On the right, Becky Tarbotton demonstrates what her friends characterize as her "willingness to enjoy a giggle." (Photo: Rainforest Action Network)

A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

The activist community was crushed yesterday when news was released that Rebecca “Becky” Tarbotton, the fearless leader of the Rainforest Action Network, unexpectedly passed away in a swimming accident in Mexico. She was just 39 years old.

Even if you didn’t know Tarbotton’s name, chances are you’ve benefitted from her work. Despite her young age, achieving an executive directorship of a major environmental organization was simply the latest in a list of achievements for the activist. As she said herself in a keynote address from earlier this year:

"We need to remember that the work of our time is bigger 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…"

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According to RAN’s memorial biography, Tarbotton demonstrated that sentiment through an extensive list of achievements:

  • In her previous position at RAN, she had a direct hand in the curtailing the construction of 200 new coal-burning plants.
  • In Northern India, she helped build a local women’s farming alliance, taking it from just seven women to over 4,000, allowing communities to maintain a self-supporting system of eco-friendly agriculture.
  • Tarbotton was one of the first activists championing local food in the 90s, long before anyone knew what “local food” meant.
  • She spearheaded efforts to ban GMOs in California, helping to create a mainstream awareness of their dangers.
  • Tarbotton became the first woman ever to lead the Rainforest Action Network, laying the groundwork for future generations of women activists.
  • She recently spearheaded a landmark agreement with entertainment monolith, Disney, which will radically transform the way the company purchases and uses paper

The list continues, but more than the things she accomplished, it’s evident from the comments left on her memorial page that it was the way Tarbotton made people feel that they’ll miss the most; many note her warmth and compassion as her most memorable qualities.

Andre Carothers, chairman of RAN’s Board of Directors, said in his own public statement, “The Board is reeling from this loss. Becky captured everything we planned for…RAN. Vision, brilliance, good cheer, selfless devotion and humility. All wrapped in a superhero's flowing cape. Her fierce determination to do right by us, and the world, will be missed.”

Did you know Becky Tarbotton, or are you familiar with her work? Feel free to leave your thoughts about her passing in the Comments.

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