- The Goldman Prize is awarded to one organizer from each of the six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.
- The awards ceremony took place last night in San Francisco.
- If you wanted to be there to meet the recipients of the prize in person but couldn’t make it, Mongabay has got you covered.
The Goldman Environmental Prize is a prestigious award that honors grassroots environmental leaders from around the world.
The awards ceremony took place last night in San Francisco. If you wanted to be there to meet the recipients of the prize in person but couldn’t make it, Mongabay has got you covered.
The Goldman Prize is awarded to one organizer from each of the six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.
Here are the winners of the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize.
Máxima Acuña and her family live off the land in a remote corner of Peru’s northern highlands known as Tragadero Grande. They lived peaceful lives until one day in 2011, when they were visited by representatives from Colorado-based mining company Newmont and its partner, the Peruvian company Buenaventura Mining, who demanded Acuña and her family leave their own land to make way for a new mine. Acuña refused, and has since been subjected to violence and brutality from the mining companies’ militarized security forces. She was even sued by the companies and given a jail sentence for “squatting” on her own land.
The community has come out strongly in support of Acuña. In December 2014, her jail sentence was overturned and she was allowed to remain on her land. Acuña has become well-known throughout Latin America for standing up to a multinational mining company, but she continues to face harassment from the mining companies.
Zuzana Čaputová mobilized thousands of residents of Pezinok, a town in western Slovakia, from artists and local business owners to students and church leaders, to shut down a waste dump that was leaching toxic chemicals into the ground just 500 feet away from a residential area. Čaputová helped organize peaceful protests, concerts and photographic exhibits, and gathered 8,000 signatures on a petition to the European Parliament, all while orchestrating a relentless legal challenge to a second proposed landfill in her community through the Slovakian and EU judiciaries.
In 2013, the Slovakian Supreme Court ruled that the newly proposed landfill was illegal and ordered the decrepit dumpsite to shut down. Čaputová now provides legal assistance for other Slovakian communities fighting industrial pollution.
Edward Loure was born to a Maasai tribe in the Simanjiro plains of Tanzania, a semi-nomadic community that raised cattle in a sustainable manner, in harmony with nature and the local wildlife. But in 1970, the Tanzanian government sealed off part of Loure’s village to create Tarangire National Park, forcefully evicting the Maasai residing there, turning them into “conservation refugees.”
Loure brings all of this experience to bear in his position as head of the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), which has protected more than 200,000 acres of rangeland through Certificates of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCROs), which allow entire communities to secure indivisible rights over their traditional lands.
Loure and UCRT are now looking to apply the CCRO model throughout Tanzania, with communal grazing lands of nearly 700,000 acres slated for titling in the next couple years. Their goal is to use community-based land titling to ultimately strike a balance between the needs of Tanzania’s people, its environment, and its economy.
Leng Ouch went undercover as a laborer, timber dealer, driver, tourist, and even as a cook to document the illegal operations of Cambodia’s biggest timber magnate. He publicly released the photos and video footage he gathered during his investigation in order to expose the collusion between timber companies and government officials who were using Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), a long-term leasing system designed by the Cambodian government to promote large-scale agricultural development, to cover up illegal logging.
Ouch did all of this at enormous personal risk, given that Cambodia is an extremely dangerous place to be an environmental activist. One of Ouch’s own colleagues was brutally murdered in 2012, for instance. And last November, a park ranger and police officer were gunned down while patrolling for illegal loggers and poachers in a Cambodian forest.
In 2014, due to growing anger amongst Cambodians and increasing scrutiny from the international community, the Cambodian government canceled 23 land concessions covering 220,000 acres of forest, including two ELCs that had been granted inside Virachey National Park. But Ouch’s work continues: He’s working to stop the government from issuing any more forest clearing licenses, and to get the logging companies to return the land to its rightful owners.
Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera has spent the past decade and a half fighting for the Northeast Ecological Corridor (NEC), which covers 3,000 acres of oceanfront property along the north coast of Puerto Rico. In the late 1990s, developers proposed two megaresorts to be built in the corridor, which would have destroyed the NIC’s wildlife habitat, threatened the local water supply, and limited public beach access.
Rivera Herrera and his friends began organizing opposition to the megaresort projects on a volunteer basis. In 2005, Rivera Herrera drafted a bill to protect the corridor as a nature reserve, but it was ultimately blocked by a group of senators. But by 2007, there was enough public support for the governor of Puerto Rico to designate the NIC as a nature reserve — a decision that the governor’s successor quickly repealed in 2008. Then in 2012, Rivera Herrera and others worked with legislators to pass a new bill that designated all public lands in the corridor a protected nature reserve, which enjoyed such overwhelming public support that the governor was forced to sign it into law.
Rivera Herrera and his coalition colleagues are now mounting a fundraising campaign to help the government purchase the remaining privately owned land in the corridor and engaging Puerto Ricans in a plan to develop the corridor as an ecotourism destination, which will generate funding for wildlife management and restoration.
Destiny Watford rallied the residents of her south Baltimore community against a plan to build what would have become the largest incinerator in the U.S. — less than a mile away from her high school. Despite the fact that Baltimore’s Curtis Bay neighborhood is already beset by numerous industrial facilities and the pollution they create, developers proposed to burn 4,000 tons of trash every day at the new incinerator. Environmental studies projected that burning that much trash would release more mercury than even the dirtiest of coal-fired power plants.
Thanks to the pressure brought to bear by Curtis Bay residents, the Maryland Department of the Environment eventually declared the incinerator’s permit invalid in March 2016, after all of its customers had pulled out. The community is now pushing for the site to be used for clean energy alternatives, such as a community solar farm or a recycling center.