Storified by 89.3 KPCC· Sat, Dec 29 2012 11:44:27
It was a freak accident on the day after Christmas. Friends of Rebecca Tarbotton posted an account on Facebook of what happened in San Pancho, a small coastal town north of Puerto Vallarta: "On the 26th, everyone woke up to a glorious andwarm day. Becky had tea andcookies by the pool and read her book. In early afternoon, she hiked down tothe beach with David Taylor and Justin Grant. They quickly jumped into the surfandsplashed and played. We all know how Beckycouldn’t resist playing in the water. The waves of the Pacific were strong,though, and Becky took in a considerable amount of water."
In this video, you can see why. She's a poised and compelling speaker who makes a key point early on by admitting that climate activists have already lost. "We have not stopped human induced climate change before itstarts," she says, matter-of-factly. "That’s true. We did lose." But then she keeps going.
The highest profile players in the environmental movement have heaped praise on Tarbotton.
“Becky reshaped Rainforest Action Network, andwas a force against deforestation and corporate greed,” said Michael Brune,former executive director of RAN and now executive director of the Sierra Club.“She was a rising star. We need more women to be leading environmentalorganizations, and losing a leader and friend like Becky is especiallypainful.”
“She was, among otherthings, one of the most spirited of environmentalists — no long-faceddoomsayer, and no too-careful D.C. tactician, but a fighter with a spring inher step and a bit of fire in her eye," said author Bill McKibben. "A true heir to giants like DavidBrower.”
You can't rightly measure a woman's worth through social media, or even the internet. But the depth of the outpouring of love for Tarbotton reminds me of what Robert F. Kennedy said, about sending forth a tiny ripple of hope: "[C]rossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance," he said in South Africa in 1966. We'll see, in the coming weeks and months, how this woman's work inspires others; whether it inspired them in the way Kennedy described.
I'll give her the final word: "The project of our time is bigger even thanclimate change. We need to be setting our sights higher and deeper. What we’rereally talking about, if we’re honest with ourselves, is transformingeverything about the way we live on this planet.”
Rainforest Action Network has set up a remembrance page for Rebecca Tarbottton. She was 39.
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