The Goldman Environmental Prize is given to those struggling at the bottom: grassroots activists. The founder describe it as following: “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.”
Some examples of ast winners of the prize are Wangari Maathai, Janet Gibson, Noah Idechon or Ka Hsaw Ma. Possibly, you have never heard about them. That is one of the problems of grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize therefore not only gives the winners monitary support but also recognition and visibility. Every year one person from each continent is awarded. Let us have a look who won the prize this year:
Ikal Angelei from Kenya is fighting for the survival of Lake Turkana. The largest desert lake in the world is endangered because of modern irrigation tecniques, climate change and most of all upstream dam projects. Its a very rich site with archeological treasures and populations of hippos, snakes, crocodiles and fish. Besides, “its thriving ecosystem represents a lifeline to the hundreds of thousands of indigenous farmers, herders and fishermen who live around it.” Ikal Angelei founded the group Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT) in 2008 to protest against the Gibe 3 Dam in Ethopia which is often compared to the Three Gorges Dam in China. Angelei managed to bring divided ethnic minorities togeteher and make their voice heard.
Ma Jun from China fights for the implementation of environmental policies in his country. Because of the economic growth and especially through the role of multinational corporations the environment has been pushed to the background in China, Ma Jun is putting it back on the agenda. “Ma Jun and his team at IPE have exposed over 90,000 air and water violations by local and multinational companies operating in China. Chinese citizens, for the first time in history, have at their fingertips information that reveals which companies are violating environmental regulations across China’s 31 provinces—and with it, the power to demand justice.”
Evgenia Chirikova from Russia is trying to safe the Green lungs of Moscow: the Khimki Forest are 2,500 acres of federally protected parkland in the city. The forest is threatend by a project to construct a new road from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Corruption and high involvement of politics make it hard to fight against this project but Evgenia Chirikova wants this forest to be there for their children. “Without any experience in grassroots organizing, Chirikova left her engineering job to form the group Defend Khimki Forest, and began organizing public opposition to the highway project.”
Edwin Gariguez from the Philippines is trying to protect his island Mindoro from an environmental degrading open-pit nickel mine planned by a Norwegian company. “The proposed mine area is near two key biodiversity areas and is within the watershed that feeds the island’s four major rivers, which provide drinking water to lowland communities and irrigation for Mindoro’s rice fields. The Intex mine would use a process known as acid leaching to access the nickel ore, producing several million tons of toxic waste, contaminating the island’s water resources and destroying the tropical forests.” Edwin Gariguez is a catholic priest is the voice of the people in the island and he co-founded the Alliance Against Mining (ALAMIN).
Caroline Cannon from the USA is trying to safe the arctic waters, home to polar bears, whales and many species of fish. The region is also home to the Inupiat people who depend on it for survival. However, the region is threatend by the hunger for oil. Drilling in this area is especially dangerous because “spill prevention and response capability in this remote corner of the world is virtually unknown. If a spill were to occur in the fall when the seas are freezing over, oil could be left to flow until the following summer when relief wells can be drilled.” Caroline Cannon, a grandmother of 26, is fighting for the future of her people, the Inupiat and the environment she grew up in.
Sofia Gatica from Argentina is fighting the use of agro-toxins in the export-driven industry of her country. Some of the pesticides highly used in Argentina have been banned in many countries because of its threats to human health and the environment and are on the UN list of persistent organic pollutants to be eliminated worldwide. Gatica is one of many mothers who lost a child to these chemicals. They started researching the health impact of the way food is produced in their country and found that “residents reported cancer rates that were 41 times the national average (doctors suspect that many other cases go unreported), as well as high rates of neurological and respiratory diseases, birth defects, and infant mortality.” Gatica and the Mothers of Ituzaingó “faced an uphill battle, having very few resources or any direct access to demand accountability from Monsanto, DuPont and other global agrochemical companies operating in Argentina.”
From these inspiring people we can learn that no matter who you are or where you live, you can make a difference in protecting the world around you.