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Wanjiku “Wawa”  Gatheru

Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru

Environmental Justice Warrior, Rhodes Scholar & Founder of Black Girl Environmentalist


For Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru, caring about the environment started early. While farming with her mom and grandmother as a child, the conversations would often turn to saving the earth. The first-generation American of Kenyan descent became even more invested when taking an environmental science class in high school when she learned that social justice and climate issues were deeply intertwined. Everything suddenly became personal. “It was in this call I learned that the environment had everything to do with me,” she says. Her passion soon turned into activism. Read More >

Today, Wawa is a climate justice storyteller motivated to uplift the voices of those most adversely impacted by the climate crisis. She has become a prominent voice of her generation, using the power of social media to share how communities of color and women have been adversely affected by climate change and the racist roots of the environmental movement.

Harnessing her academic background as a Rhodes Scholar and her work as a youth climate activist, Wawa’s life goal is to help create a climate movement made in the image of all of us. Online, Wawa combats climate nihilism and highlights the legacies of those traditionally sidelined from mainstream environmentalism to her audience of over 80,000-plus across platforms. In-person, Wawa is the founder and executive director of Black Girl Environmentalist, a Public Voices Fellow on the Climate Crisis at Yale University and a recent Revolutionary Power Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy, where she worked under the first-ever Deputy for Energy Justice to integrate energy justice in the federal landscape.

Passionate about bringing climate conversations into untraditional spaces, Wawa works collaboratively alongside other creatives, musicians and culture shapers to bring climate justice to the mainstream. In January 2023, Billie Eilish personally invited Wawa to join her on the first-ever digital cover of Vogue, alongside seven other climate activists.

Wawa sits on boards and advisory councils for the Environmental Media Association, Earthjustice, Climate Power, the National Parks Conservation Association, Good Energy and Sound Future.

Wawa has been recognized as a Young Futurist by The Root, a Grist 50 FIXER, a Glamour College Woman of the Year and a Victoria’s Secret PINK Purpose Project Winner. She was also named a Climate Creator to Watch by Pique Action and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and has spoken about her work across the country. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

How Generation Z Is Saving the Planet | The 2020 MAKERS Conference

One Planet, One Home

Radical Imagination

Future Earth "Climate Talk" with Kendall Jenner

Wawa Gatheru X Mark Ruffalo Instagram Live

Speech Topics

Environmental Justice & Racism

Study after study has shown that when it comes to the impact of climate change and other environmental hazards, communities of color are disproportionately affected because of the historic and continuing impacts of colonialism, racism and inequality. And yet, these are the same people who are almost always left out of the conversations on how to help. Environmental warrior Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru, founder of the Black Girl Environmentalist organization, means to change all of that. Her mission, she says, is to ensure the environmental movement is as inclusive as possible. In this talk, Gatheru addresses the effects of climate change on marginalized communities and the racist roots of the environmental movement. She also unveils the decades-long contributions communities of color have had in the environmental movement. Sharing the stories of communities of color fighting for a just climate future, she speaks on the need for a new climate agenda that can develop a climate movement made in the image of all of us.

Food Insecurity & How We Can Help

For Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru, founder of the Black Girl Environmentalist organization, her interest in food insecurity started early. She grew up farming with her mother and grandmother and conversations while they worked centered a lot around food justice and agriculture. It’s a subject that is truly dear to her heart. When she headed to college at The University of Connecticut, that concern continued. As co-founder of the UConn Access to Food Effort (UCAFE), Wawa created and distributed the first campus-wide food insecurity survey at any public college in the state. Her research has since been cited in U.S. Senator Chris Murphy’s “The Hidden Cost of College” report and referenced in the creation of both state and federal policy. As part of her grant, she also created pop-up food closets across campus that offered free, healthy groceries. In this talk, Gatheru shares how and why food insecurity continues to be a problem—more than 42 million Americans, including 13 million children, experienced food insecurity in 2021. And she discusses solutions to reduce food insecurity, increase access and how we can all easily help.

Everyone Can Be an Environmentalist

Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru has one main mission when it comes to her climate justice activism: to ensure the environmental movement is as inclusive as possible. She’s passionate about the interaction between climate justice, racial justice, antiracism and gender equality. And she continues to work on it every day. That’s why she created Black Girl Environmentalist, an online community for underrepresented voices in the environmental movement. “I founded my organization Black Girl Environmentalist because I’d like to see more people of color cultivate intentional communities around themselves,” she said in an interview with Green Matters. In this talk, Gatheru shares the story of how she created the Black Girl Environmentalist organization and why it matters, how she works with other environmental organizations and the opportunity we all have to help the earth—no matter how young or old—starting with our relationships and communities.