Wenonah Hauter is an activist, author and progressive policy advocate. She is the founder and executive director of Food & Water Watch, an organization that, under her leadership, has fundamentally transformed the national debate about hydraulic fracturing (fracking), energy and the environment.
Wenonah has three decades of experience campaigning and writing on food, water, energy and environmental issues. She has played leading roles in successful campaigns to ban fracking in New York, label genetically modified foods, protect public water systems from privatization and promote renewable energy. She has trained and mentored hundreds of organizers and activists across the country and worked at the national, state and local levels to develop policy positions and legislative and field strategies to secure real wins for communities and the environment.
Wenonah’s career was inspired by childhood experiences that ingrained in her an appreciation for the environment and a passion for justice. When she was 11, her father bought aÂ hardscrabble farm in the Bull Run Mountains of Virginia. There, she developed an appreciation for what it really means to grow food, she picked potato bugs, plucked chickens and chopped kindling. In high school, she organized her female classmates to wear pants in defiance of an outdated dress code and participated in a sit-in over a civil rights issue. After she received her undergraduate degree, she worked on poverty and aging issues in Virginia.
In the early 1990s, Wenonah worked at the Union of Concerned Scientists as a senior organizer, where she coordinated broad-based, grassroots sustainable energy campaigns in the Midwest. In a foundation-funded network of energy activists, she became an early opponent of electric utility deregulation, to the chagrin of energy funders. She then became environmental policy director for Citizen Action, where she worked with the organizations 30 state-based groups on electric utility issues and pesticide use. From 1997 to 2005, she served as director of Public Citizen’s energy and environment program, which focused on reforming energy policies, stopping water privatization domestically and internationally, and regulating dangerous food technologies.
While at Public Citizen, Wenonah saw the need for an organization that directly involved people all over the country to stand up for policies that put people before corporate profits. She founded Food & Water Watch to lead campaigns that aspired to ask for what we need, rather than settle for what we can get, and to excite people with the vision that we can move forward to a progressive future.
At Food & Water Watch, the first national advocacy organization to call for a ban on fracking, Wenonah has helped provide strategic guidance for national and international campaigns to halt the practice. Her current book, Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment, exposes how more than 100 years of political influence peddling facilitated the control of our energy system by a handful of corporations and financial institutions, and looks at the growing movement to ban fracking and keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Her previous book, Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in AmericaÂ (2012), examines the corporate consolidation and control over our food system and what it means for farmers and consumers. Publisher’s Weekly calls Foodopoly a meticulously researched tour de force.
Wenonah holds an M.S. degree in Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland.