Panelists’ Biographies

Women, Climate Change and Human Rights are intrinsically inter-related on both the global and local level. The Safe Cities LA: Second Annual Special Assembly is a global exchange of stellar experts from the fields of academia, politics and activism. The following topics will be addressed:

  • How and why women are most severely affected by climate change and natural disasters
  • The impact under-representation has on women and decision-making processes
  • Identification of gender sensitive strategies and effective actions in response to climate change


Sarah Backhouse

Sarah Backhouse is Founder of – an online video platform dedicated to clean technology. uses video to tell powerful stories about why cleantech innovation matters. A TV host, producer and sustainability expert, Sarah has lived in Sydney, London and Los Angeles, where she worked for a diverse array of broadcasters including: CNBC, BBC, PBS, Fine Living, Sci Fi Channel, Discovery Channel and Planet Green. A sought after emcee, keynote speaker and interviewer, Sarah has participated in SXSWEco, the UN’s Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Organization, the Governor’s Global Climate Summit, and has interviewed heads of state and leading sustainability experts. Sarah honored as one of Asia Pacific’s Leading 50 Women at the 2011 Women’s Leadership Summit, and was a host on Al Gore’s 24 Hours of Reality in 2011 and 2012. Sarah was born in the UK and raised in Australia and Japan. She graduate with Bachelors degrees in Economics and Japanese Studies from the Australian National University and Keio University, Tokyo, and speaks fluent Japanese.


Martha Dina Arguello
Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility 

For the past 32 years, Martha Dina Argüello has served the non-profit sector as an advocate, community organizer, and coalition builder. She joined PSR-LA in 1998 to launch the environmental health programs, and became Executive Director in November 2007.  Martha is an active board member of Californians for Pesticide Reform, the California Environmental Rights Alliance, and Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy. She co-founded the Los Angeles County Asthma Coalition and the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice. Martha was appointed to Cal/EPA’s Environmental Justice Committee and the California Air Resources Board’s Global Warming Environmental Justice Advisory Committee.  Martha has dedicated her career to the environmental justice movement, and has lectured nationwide on the use of precautionary principle policies. She is committed to utilizing the credible voice of physicians as a powerful instrument to transform California and the planet into a more peaceful and healthier environment.

Leila Conners
Founder, Tree Media 

Leila Conners founded Tree Media Group in August of 1996. With her background in international politics, Leila set out to build a production company that creates media to support and sustain civil society by telling inspiring stories. Leila’s first feature-length documentary, ‘The 11th Hour’, was co-created with Leonardo DiCaprio. ‘The 11th Hour’ included 54 leading thinkers and scientists about the state of the world and the state of the human condition.  With Leonardo di Caprio, Leila has written two short films on the environment called ‘Global Warning’ and ‘Water Planet’.  Leila has a feature film script with Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions on the state of the oceans in development.  Leila is Editor-at-Large for New Perspectives Quarterly, an international journal on social and political thought. Leila is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Leila serves on the Entertainment Board for One Voice, a Middle East peace project.  Leila’s current projects include writing and directing ‘Into Eden’, a feature film about the steps we can take to safeguard ourselves and society from the disintegrative forces that threaten everything from the biosphere to our economic system, and a documentary film on the explosion of urban farming in Detroit titled ‘Urban Roots’.

Anna Cummins 5 Gyre Institute
Anna Cummins
Founder, 5 Gyre Institute

Anna Cummins has over ten years of experience in environmental non-profit work, education, writing, and campaign development. She has worked in marine conservation, coastal watershed management, sustainability education, and high school ecology instruction. Anna received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Stanford University. She holds a Masters Degree in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute for International Studies.  In 2001, Anna received a fellowship from the Sustainable Communities Leadership Program to work with the Santa Cruz based non-profit Save Our Shores. In 2007, Anna joined the Algalita Marine Research Foundation as its education adviser. She conducted school outreach and increased public awareness of plastic marine pollution. With Algalita, Anna completed a month long, 4,000-mile research expedition studying plastic debris in the North Pacific Gyre, and a 2,000 mile cycling/speaking tour from Vancouver to Mexico, giving talks about plastic pollution.  Anna and her husband Marcus Eriksen recently co-founded 5 Gyres, in collaboration with Algalita and Pangaea Explorations, to research and communicate plastic pollution in the worlds oceans. Anna was elected a National Fellow of the Explorers Club in 2010.

Dr. Elaine Enarson
Dr. Elaine Enarson is an accidental disaster sociologist whose personal experience in Hurricane Andrew sparked extensive work on gender relations in disasters. She was lead course developer of FEMA’s social vulnerability course and initiated the Gender and Disaster Sourcebook project. After a teaching appointment in Manitoba at Brandon University’s Department of Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies, Elaine returned to independent work based in Colorado where she continues international consulting and teaches distance education courses to graduate students in emergency management. Her passionate concern is to put hard-won knowledge to good use in order to anticipate, mitigate, and respond proactively to gender and other social equity issues arising across all sectors and phases of disasters and disaster management.  Toward this end, she speaks widely on gender and disaster risk reduction, and has authored several gender and disaster risk reduction training manuals and a preparedness guide for women’s grassroots organizations, and helped develop a template for grassroots women taking the lead in risk assessment and vulnerability/capacity mapping. Presently, her particular concerns are disaster-related violence, gender-responsive recovery planning, and men and masculinities in disaster contexts.Elaine is a founding member of the global Gender and Disaster Network and founder/co-facilitator of the US Gender and Disaster Resilience Alliance. Currently developing teaching resources for a Women and Climate Change course, she is also a member of the global Gender Justice and Climate Justice (G2C2) research network. In addition to numerous journal articles, she co-edited The Gendered Terrain of Disaster: Through Women’s Eyes (1998) with Betty Hearn Morrow, and Women, Gender and Disaster: Global Issues and Initiatives (2009) with P.G. Dhar Chakrabarti. The forthcoming volume The Women of Katrina: How Gender, Race and Class Matter in an American Disaster was co-edited with Emmanuel David. Her monograph Women Confronting Natural Disaster: From Vulnerability to Resilience is written for and about women and men striving to reduce risk in unsafe environments in the United States (forthcoming 2012 from Lynne Rienner Publishers).

Richard Mathew, PhD
Professor, Researcher

Richard A. Matthew is Professor of International and Environmental Politics in the Schools of Social Ecology and Social Science at the University of California at Irvine. He is the founding Director of the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs. He received his undergraduate degree at McGill University and his doctorate at Princeton University. Dr. Matthew is a Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Geneva; a Senior Fellow at the Munk School at the University of Toronto; a senior member of the United Nations Expert Advisory Group on Environment, Conflict and Peacebuilding; and a member of the World Conservation Union’s Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy.  The focus of Dr. Matthew’s research is tripartite: the environmental dimensions of conflict and peacebuilding; climate change adaptation in conflict and post-conflict societies; and transnational threat systems.  He has over 140 publications including six books and co-edited volumes. Dr. Matthew has conducted extensive field work in conflict zones in South Asia and East, Central and West Africa. Dr. Matthew has received Certificates of Recognition for his research and service.


women, climate change & human rights