Rainforest Action Network Mourns the Unexpected Loss of Our Visionary Executive Director, Rebecca Tarbotton

Written by Nell Greenberg

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Becky in Borneo

Becky in Borneo in 2012.

Our organization, and the community that has grown around it for more than 25 years, are mourning the loss of Rebecca Tarbotton, who died unexpectedly on Wednesday while vacationing in Mexico with her husband and close friends.

Rebecca Tarbotton, known to friends as Becky, was a profound thinker and leader. She was dedicated to merging environmental and social justice movements, and building campaigns that inspire transformational changes in forest protection, climate change and human rights. A self-proclaimed “pragmatic idealist,” Becky was deeply admired by a whole movement of activists for her boldness and clarity of vision.The RAN staff, her friends and family remember a “force of nature” with an infectious laugh, adventurous spirit, and a heart bursting with love.

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 entertainment giant, Disney, that is set to transform everything about 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.

As she said during a keynote address in October 2012: “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…We don’t always know exactly what it is that creates social change. It takes everything from science all the way to faith, and it’s that fertile place right in the middle where really exceptional campaigning happens—and that is where I strive to be.”

Rainforest Action Network is committed to continuing the course that Becky set. We will continue to focus 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—campaigns powered by people like you.

Tarbotton died on Wednesday on a beach in Mexico north of Puerto Vallarta while vacationing with her husband and friends. The coroner ruled cause of death as asphyxiation from water she breathed in while swimming. She was thirty nine years old.

Her ashes will be scattered off of Hornby Island in British Columbia where her family owns a cabin and where she spent much time with family and friends. Public memorial services will be held in San Francisco, CA and in Vancouver. Dates are still to be determined.

We’ve set up ran.org/becky as a place for Becky’s whole community to memorialize her, celebrate her, share memories, images, feelings. We welcome your voices.

For those who would like to send condolences to her family, please send them to the RAN office, 425 Bush Street, Ste 300, San Francisco, CA 94108. We will ensure they are delivered.

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  1. The Last Message Becky Wrote To You » Rainforest Action Network Blog

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