OBITUARY: Vancouver-born environmental activist dies in swimming accident

Published: January 3, 2013

VANCOUVER DESI

Rebecca Tarbotton worked in the Ladakh region of India from 1996 to 2004 to protect traditional food and farming systems. Submitted photo

Vancouver-born Rebecca Tarbotton, an environmental activist, who worked in the remote Ladakh region of India to protect traditional food and farming systems, died on Dec. 26 in a swimming accident in Mexico. She was 39 and lived in Oakland, Calif.

Tarbotten, during her career, helped persuade big banks to stop financing mountaintop removal mining as well as convince Disney to reduce its use of paper made from trees cut down in rainforests, said an article by the New York Times.

Tarbotton had been swimming in rough surf in the Pacific Ocean about a half-hour north of Puerto Vallarta while vacationing with her husband and friends and collapsed after making it back to shore, according to the Rainforest Action Network, of which she had been executive director since 2010. A coroner determined the cause as asphyxiation from water, the organization said.

The Rainforest Action Network, known as RAN, focuses on climate change and rain forest protection by challenging the practices of big corporations — a tactic it calls “environmental corporate campaigning” — rather than through legislative or legal campaigns. Although the network, which is based in San Francisco, is not as familiar a name as environmental groups like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, it was regarded as particularly effective while Ms. Tarbotton worked there.

The New York Times said Tarbotton joined the network in 2007 as director of its global finance campaign. In her first years, she helped lead an effort that persuaded some major banks to stop lending money to companies that mine coal by blasting off the tops of mountains in Appalachia.

Tarbotton was born on July 30, 1973, in Vancouver, B.C. She earned a bachelor’s degree from McGill University in Montreal and a master’s from the University of British Columbia.

From 1996 to 2004, she worked in the Ladakh region of India with Helena Norberg-Hodge, the writer and linguist, to protect traditional food and farming systems.

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