The 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize recipients are a group of fearless grassroots leaders taking on government and corporate interests and working to improve the environment and living conditions for people in their communities.
This year’s recipients include a duo from Ecuador who are fighting Chevron, one of the world’s petroleum giants, to bring justice and environmental recovery to an area devastated by oil pollution and a Mozambican activist-musician who brings education about sanitation and clean water systems through performance and community-based outreach to one of the poorest nations in the world.
Other recipients include a Puerto Rican grandmother working to protect a precious marshland, an indigenous Mexican farmer utilizing pre-Columbian agriculture techniques to transform a barren area into rich farmland, a Belgian environmentalist who campaigned to secure the country’s first and only national park, and a Russia woman working to protect Siberia’s Lake Baikal from oil and nuclear interests.
“This year’s Prize recipients exemplify the astounding environmental work being done by ordinary people around the world,” said Goldman Prize founder Richard N. Goldman. “Their commitment to bettering both the lives of people living in their communities and the environment around them has received our attention and praise.”
The Goldman Environmental Prize, now in its 19th year, is awarded annually to grassroots environmental heroes from each of the world’s inhabited continental regions and is the largest award of its kind. In 2008, each individual Prize award will be increased from $125,000 to $150,000. The winners will be awarded the Prize at an invitation-only ceremony today at 5 p.m. at the San Francisco Opera House and will also be honored at a smaller ceremony on Wednesday, April 16 at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.
This year’s winners are:
Pablo Fajardo Mendoza, 35, and Luis Yanza, 46, Ecuador:
In the Ecuadorian Amazon, Fajardo and Yanza lead one of the largest environmental legal battles in history against oil giant Chevron, demanding justice for the massive petroleum pollution in the region.
Feliciano dos Santos, 43, Mozambique:
Using traditional music, grassroots outreach and innovative technology to bring sanitation to the most remote corners of Mozambique, Feliciano dos Santos empowers villagers to participate in sustainable development and rise up from poverty.
Rosa Hilda Ramos, 63, Puerto Rico:
In the shadow of polluting factories in Cataño, a city across the bay from San Juan, Ramos leads her community to permanently protect the Las Cucharillas Marsh, one of the last open spaces in the area and one of the largest wetlands ecosystems in the region.
Jesús León Santos, 42, Mexico:
In Oaxaca, where unsustainable land-use practices have made it one of the world’s most highly-eroded areas, León leads a land renewal program that employs ancient indigenous practices to transform depleted soil into arable land.
Marina Rikhvanova, 46, Russia:
As Russia expands its petroleum and nuclear interests, Rikhvanova works to protect Siberia’s Lake Baikal, one of the world’s most important sources of fresh water, from environmental devastation brought on by these polluting industries.
Ignace Schops, 43, Belgium:
Raising more than $90 million by bringing together private industry, regional governments, and local stakeholders, Schops led the effort to establish Belgium’s first and only national park, protecting one of the largest open green spaces in the country.