Nicknamed the “Green Nobel Prize,” the Goldman Environmental Prize recognises grassroots activists from six continents who have worked tirelessly to mitigate the environmental issues their communities face. This year’s winners led the fight on environmental justice, wildlife and rainforest conservation, plastic pollution, dams and coastal projects. Here are the 6 winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize.
- Gloria Majiga-Kamoto, Malawi- Winner for Africa
Gloria fought the plastic industry in her country and organised a grassroots campaign in support of a national ban on thin plastics, a type of single-use plastic. As a result of her work, in July 2019, Malawi’s High Court upheld the ban on the production, importation, distribution and use of thin plastics.
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- Thai Van Nguyen, Vietnam- Winner for Asia
Thai founded Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, which rescued over 1 500 pangolins from the illegal wildlife trade between 2014 and 2020. He also established Vietnam’s first anti-poaching unit, which, since 2018, has destroyed 9 701 animal traps, dismantled 775 illegal camos, confiscated 78 guns and arrested 558 people for poaching, leading to a significant decline in illegal activities in Pu Mat National Park.
- Maida Bilal, Bosnia and Herzegovina- Winner for Europe
Maida led a group of women from her village in a 503-day blockade of heavy equipment that resulted in the cancellation of permits for two proposed dams on the Kruščica River in December 2018. The Balkans have the last free-flowing rivers in Europe and a hydropower boom in the region threatens to damage thousands of kilometres of rivers.
- Kimiko Hirata, Japan- Winner for Islands & Island Nations
Kimiko Hirata’s campaigning has led to the cancellation of 13 coal power plants (7 GW) in Japan, which, over their lifetime, would have released more than 1.6 billion tons of CO2 over their lifetimes. The carbon impact of Hirata’s activism is the equivalent of taking 7.5 million passenger cars off the road every year for 40 years.
- Sharon Lavigne, US- Winner for North America
In September 2019, Sharon Lavigne successfully stopped the construction of a USD$1.25 billion plastics manufacturing plant alongside the Mississippi River in Louisiana. She mobilised grassroots opposition to the project, educated community members and organised peaceful protests to defend her predominantly African American community. The plant would have generated one million pounds of liquid hazardous waste annually, in a region already struggling with known carcinogens and toxic air pollution.
- Liz Chicaje Churay, Peru- Winner for South & Central America
In January 2018, as a result of Liz and her partners’ efforts, the Peruvian government created the Yaguas National Park. Comparable in size to Yellowstone National Park, the new park protects more than two million acres of Amazon rainforest in the northeastern region of Loreto. Its creation is a key step in conserving the country’s biodiversity- safeguarding thousands of rare and unique wildlife species and conserving carbon-rich peatlands- and protecting Indigenous peoples.
Susie Gelman, vice president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation, said in a press release, “These phenomenal environmental champions remind us what can be accomplished when we fight back and refuse to accept powerlessness and environmental degradation. They have not been silenced- despite great risks and personal hardship- and we must also not be silent, either. It takes all of us.”
The Goldman Prize amplifies the voices of these grassroots leaders and provides the winners with:
- International recognition that enhances their credibility
- Worldwide visibility for the issues they champion
- Financial support to pursue their vision of a renewed and protected environment
- Capacity building support to deepen the efficiency of their work
- Networking, learning, and connection with other grassroots leaders
Featured image by: ecowatch