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This week we returned from a walk on the beach and learned that a dear friend had died at only 39 years old. Rebecca Tarbotton, executive director at Rainforest Action Network, was lost in a tragic drowning accident on December 26. The world lost a fierce hero for the rights of communities and a sustainable environment this week.

Before coming to Earthworks, I worked closely with Becky at RAN, and as we both became directors of our organizations, we leaned on each other for support and advice. Becky was a leaders’ leader; she could hold her own in corporate boardrooms and dive bars; we worked side by side on issues large and small. Her tenure at RAN included remarkable success.

Becky courageously debunked the idea of clean coal by pointing out that capturing carbon and storing it was a great soundbite but would never be financially viable. She stood up to Wall Street banks, telling them that the world was turning against mountaintop removal coal mining. She sat in the kitchens of people affected by mining and worked out how to raise their voices to the highest levels of power. She helped negotiate and deliver a commitment from Disney to help protect Indonesian rainforests by eliminating fiber from logged-over rainforests from paper products. 

And most importantly, as an executive director, she managed a dynamic and effective team, successfully raised funds and developed alliances to make RAN strong, stable, and always fun.  Becky liked to play her fiddle. She was part of a small but memorably entertaining troupe of back up dancers. She liked cheese, especially runny smelly cheese, and martinis. In any room, any party, any place she was, Becky sought ought the most joyful experience. I am convinced that Becky’s spirit of loving fun provided the underpinning for her toughness; Becky was never shy about telling any of us exactly what we needed to do and how to do it, particularly corporations logging rainforests or blowing up mountains or funding climate change.

Becky is survived by her mother, two brothers, and her new husband, Mateo Williford, a fellow activist, solar entrepreneur and dear friend. From all of us at Earthworks, we send our deepest condolences for this terrible loss.