The Goldman Environmental Prize

The Goldman Environmental Prize was awarded to six grassroots environmentalists yesterday at an awards ceremony at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, with a reception afterwards at City Hall. The awards ceremony is one of the most inspirational events Mark and I attend each year. (Mark generally starts tearing before the first video and doesn’t stop until after the show is over.) The video profiles and speeches by the prize winners never fail to reinforce the power of one.

Four of the six winners this year attended a small celebration at our house this past Saturday, hosted by Global Greengrants, an NGO based in Boulder, Colorado that gives small grants (up to $5,000) to grassroots activists working on “environmental justice and sustainability around the world.” One of Global Greengrants’ awardees won this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize for Europe. Stephanie Roth has mobilized a community in one of the oldest settlements in Romania, Rosia Montana, to stop the construction of what would be Europe’s largest open cast gold and silver mine, dislocating 2,000 people and contaminating the region with cyanide and other chemicals.

Steph is an articulate, multi-lingual, media-saavy woman who left London, where she had lived and worked for 10 years, with a backpack and ended up in Transylvania, where she worked on a grassroots campaign to stop the construction of a Dracula theme park. The community in Rosia Montana recruited her to help them fight Gabriel Resources, a Canadian mining company, and Newmont Mining Corporation, a U.S. company that has recently made a 10% investment in the project.

I did not have a chance to speak with the three other winners who attended the party on Saturday, primarily because of language barriers. Isidro Baldenegro Lopez (Mexico) and Father Jose Andres Tamayo Cortez (Honduras) are both working to prevent illegal logging, and Chavannes Jean-Baptiste (Haiti) is working to try and restore land that has been devastated by deforestation.

The other winners are Kaisha Atakhanova (Kazakhstan), who is fighting the commercial importation of nuclear waste in one of the most radioactive places in the former Soviet Union and Corneille E.N. Ewango (Democratic Republic of Congo), who protected the Okapi Reserve (the okapi are rare forest giraffe) through two consecutive civil wars.

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