Joanna Dowdell, 2016 Finalist

Joanna Dowdell, 2016 Finalist

AGE: 21

Joanna’s passion for environmentalism began at a young age. Her connection to nature was stimulated by the time she spent exploring the ecology of the Credit River in Mississauga, Ontario with her brothers.

While her mother imparted the moralities of injustice and the significance of ecological preservation, she also ensured that her kids would interact with nature by enforcing numerous hours spent bicycling by the river. Here, Joanna’s relationship with the environment developed, inspiring her future endeavors.

As Joanna became involved in environmental movements, she began to recognize the significant social impacts of climate change. As an environmental health researcher and an activist through her work with the Keepers of the Athabasca in Alberta, she realized the disproportionate effects of environmental issues on marginalized communities.

Intersecting the fields of social justice and environmental science, she aims to ensure equal accessibility to clean water, particularly for indigenous communities. Spawning from her ability to see environmental relationships at a young age, Joanna has an ability to recognize the connection between environmental change and human health, particularly in communities that are often neglected but most affected.

As a true activist, Joanna will continue to pursue environmental equality through a Masters of Public and Environmental Health, concentrating on the interactions between gender, environmental contamination and health. She has just returned from  travelling to Sri Lanka and Pakistan to study water quality and accessibility in rural communities, and hopes to integrate her knowledge with Canadian communities that face water insecurity.

Joanna is an inspiring individual that can create connections between socioeconomic and inequality issues with environmental degradation. Not only is she vastly capable of educating and researching these environmental issues, she is able to bring an environmental lens to others of various fields.

Forging these connections between people and our environments is a unique skill that Joanna transfers to all that she does. She encourages everyone to understand the unique environmental and social injustices faced by groups marginalized by race, class, gender, indigeneity, and more. As a strong leader, Joanna is able to unite fields and people to realize our common relationship to our earth, particularly water.

Joanna would like to thank the many people who inspired movements before her and those who are still on the frontlines of activism and organizing, particularly Indigenous peoples and women who have been fighting for environmental justice. She emphasizes the significant work of marginalized communities and people of colour in their oppositions of injustice, which enabled the activism of those who fight without risk of persecution. She is grateful to her mother for instilling values of respect and selflessness.


  • Toronto350 executive and campaign involvement for divestment of fossil fuel holdings of the University of Toronto, as well as to respect the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous communities for all energy investments that use extraction techniques, which was ultimately included in the university’s recommendations.
  • Joanna started an environmental advocacy campaign in high school called "Eco-Dreamers" which connected over 300 students with green innovations to scholarships and grants.
  • Canadian representative at the United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York, to discuss youth implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • National board member of the First Nations non-profit, Keepers of the Water, which promotes clean water accessibility.

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