Brower Youth Awards
Former Earth Island Journal editor Gar Smith noted that as a mountaineer, “Dave Brower learned how to balance personal daring against gravity to overcome daunting obstacles.” He took that courage into his life as a conservationist, working tirelessly to create national parks and seashores, keep dams out of the Grand Canyon and other wild places, establish the National Wilderness PreservationSystem, and more.
To honor his legacy, Earth Island Institute created the Brower Youth Awards in 2000. The Awards recognize six exceptional young environmental and social justice leaders from North America annually.
Many of the accolades heaped on Brower by his peers are fitting descriptors for this year’s Brower Youth Award recipients. They are “full of creative ideas as well as a razor-sharp sense of what the environmental movement should be doing to stay on the cutting edge” (Brent Blackwelder). Their work to create a “powerful movement with a powerful vision” (Jerry Mander) makes them planetary heroes.
Erica Fernandez, 16, Oxnard, California
Project: No BHP Billiton LNG Facility Off Our Coast
When Fernandez learned that a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility was proposed for the coast of Oxnard and Malibu that would include a 36-inch pipeline routed through low-income neighborhoods, she was outraged. She worked in concert with the Sierra Club and the Latino No on LNG group to mobilize the youth and Latino voices in protests and public meetings. She organized weekly protests at the BHP Billiton offices in Oxnard, met regularly with community members, marched through neighborhoods that would be most impacted, and brought more than 250 high school students to a critical rally. Her passionate testimony at the California State Lands Commission meeting was widely quoted in news articles, and helped convince the Commission to vote to deny the project. Next, she helped convince the California Coastal Commission to vote 12–0 against the project, and worked on a campaign to the governor asking him to veto the project. Fernandez’s dogged determination played a crucial role in helping her community to resist a multinational corporation.
Q’orianka Kilcher, 17, Santa Monica, California
Project: Achuar Solidarity
Kilcher is an actress of Peruvian indigenous ancestry who has used her celebrity to draw attention to pressing human rights and environmental injustices. Of special concern to her are the practices of Occidental Petroleum, which was responsible for pumping 800,000 barrels of toxic wastewater into
the Corrientes River basin in the Peruvian Amazon. The Achuar are one of several Amazonian communities that depend on the river basin for drinking, fishing, and bathing, and they have been on the frontlines of conflict for 35 years. On a trip to Peru to promote a recent film, Kilcher directed her publicity and media attention toward the Achuar’s plight. She invited indigenous leaders to participate in a red carpet event, toured communities, conducted interviews with affected peoples for a documentary, collaborated with US-based campaigners Amazon Watch, and met with employees of oil companies to request that they tour the affected area.
Alexander Lin, 14, Westerly, Rhode Island
Project: WIN ‘05 - Recycle and Reuse our E-Waste
In 2004, Lin read an alarming Wall Street Journal article about the growing electronic waste crisis. When he was nine, Lin had co-created a community service team called Westerly Innovations Network (WIN) and it seemed fitting to motivate his team to tackle e-waste. Lin’s leadership included a recycling drive that collected 21,000 pounds of e-waste and the creation of a permanent e-waste receptacle in town that has collected more than 60,000 pounds of waste. WIN ’05 helped draft and pass an ordinance in Lin’s town and a statewide bill banning the dumping of e-waste. Lin also persuaded his school superintendent and director of technology to incorporate refurbishing donated computers as part of his school’s computer curriculum, resulting in the collection, restoration, and distribution of 260 computers to students in his hometown, and in Sri Lanka, and Mexico. Lin recently helped build an Internet café in Cameroon, and is now setting up a pilot system for providing refurbished computers to youth internationally through the United Nation’s Environment Program.
Jon Warnow, 23, Burlington, Vermont
Project: Step It Up 2007
Warnow’s passion for tackling the Earth’s climate crisis was the basis for his role in Step It Up 2007. This project used the Internet to stage a highly coordinated National Day of Climate Action involving 1,400 communities in all 50 states. Every action was united by a common message: “Step It Up Congress! Cut Carbon 80 Percent by 2050.” For Step It Up 2007, Warnow developed the Internet strategy and tools that were vital to making such a collaborative effort possible – in just three months. The project was driven by the firm belief that the federal government was not going to act boldly to tackle the climate crisis unless American citizens in every corner of the country urged politicians to do so. Just one month after Step It Up 2007, all of the top Democratic presidential candidates came out in support of the Step It Up Goal. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama co-sponsored a Senate bill with 80 percent reduction targets, joining John Edwards, who had made a commitment to clean energy a major part of his platform.
Carlos Moreno, 19, Dorchester, Massachusetts
Project: Summer Jobs Campaign
Moreno understands youth violence as an environmental justice issue because of its tremendous impact on where and how we live. In 2001, the state funding for after-school programs in Massachusetts dropped from $14 million to nothing, and youth violence steadily increased. Through the Summer Jobs Campaign, Moreno addressed the violence in the city of Boston and helped create more opportunities for summer youth employment. Over the course of three years, Moreno helped the United Youth & Youth Workers of Boston to mobilize 320 young people to attend a city meeting and organized hundreds to attend and speak at committee meetings, vigils, and rallies at City Hall, the Boston Commons, and the State House. Moreno also coordinated a Q&A session between youth and gubernatorial candidates to solicit their positions on youth issues. The Summer Jobs Campaign has initiated a crucial dialogue between the youth and city officials, resulting in an increase of $750,000 for summer jobs.
Rachel Barge, 21, Berkeley, California
Project: The Green Initiative Fund & The Sustainability Team
By the beginning of her first year at University of California, Berkeley, Barge was an avid participant in various environmental initiatives. She soon realized that one factor preventing her campus from becoming more sustainable was a lack of funding. To overcome this challenge, Barge co-created The Green Initiative Fund, a student fee referendum passed by the students at Berkeley. The Green Initiative Fund successfully secured more than $2 million over 10 years for sustainability projects on campus, including clean energy, sustainable transportation, improved energy efficiency, water conservation, “green” internships, and improved recycling and composting programs. The Green Initiative Fund tripled the amount of sustainability funding available at UC Berkeley. Barge also founded The Sustainability Team, a student internship program now consisting of 60 members dedicated to creating and leading a variety of projects aimed at sustainable practices. The Sustainability Team founded the first organic, local, student-run cooperative produce stand on campus.
A memorable evening honoring this year’s Brower Youth Awards winners was on October 24, 2007 in San Francisco at the Herbst Theatre. To become a sponsor of the Brower Youth Awards, call Kevin Connelly at (415) 788-3666 x155.
To learn more about the BYA recipients or to apply for the 2008 Awards, visit www.broweryouthawards.org.