In today’s divisive political climate, where meaningful change is often stalled by partisanship and bureaucracy, it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of environmental challenges like climate change, habitat loss, and disappearing species. But environmentalists are no strangers to opposition, and a look back at their stories may provide the inspiration needed to move forward. In Nature’s Allies, Larry A. Nielsen pens eight riveting biographies of great conservationists. Some famous and some little known, their diverse stories are a model for affecting positive, lasting change for the environment.

The subjects of Nielsen’s profiles—John Muir, Ding Darling, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Chico Mendes, Billy Frank Jr., Wangari Maathai, and Gro Harlem Brundtland—are a refreshing move beyond the mainstream of American conservation. These engaging narratives represent a fuller diversity of contributions, including stories from Africa, South America, and Europe. Beyond the value of their accomplishments, these individuals may seem to have little in common. But despite their varied personalities, methods, and causes, the conservationists of Nature’s Allies share one powerful thing in common—they all hail from modest backgrounds, and are a testament to the power of one person to bring about extraordinary change. Their stories are not just for environmentalists, scientists, or students. Nature’s Allies is a powerful, engaging read for anyone who wants to be inspired to make a difference.

Check out an excerpt from the chapter on Gro Harlem Brundtland, known as the godmother of sustainability, below.