Eight environmental heroes received the 2001 Goldman Environmental Prize in April. The awards, along with a prize of $125,000, were presented to grassroots heroes from North America, Africa, South/Central America, Asia, Europe and the Island Nations. The Goldman Prize allows activists to continue their work and expand public awareness of what are often life-and-death environmental crises. This year’s winners are:
North America – Jane Akre and Steve Wilson: These TV journalists researched the health risks of recombinant bovine growth hormone. Their exposé proved too hot for the local Fox affiliate and ultimately led to their firing. [See "The Mystery in Your Milk," Summer 2001 EIJ.]
South America – Oscar Olivera: A Bolivian labor leader who became an advocate for universal rights to affordable, clean water. In 1999, Olivera lead popular demonstrations against the privatization of Bolivia’s water supplies by a company linked to the US multinational Becthel. [See "Bolivia’s Water War Victory," Autumn 2000 EIJ.]
Asia – Yosepha Alomang: This indigenous woman from the rainforests of West Papua (Irian Jaya, Indonesia) organized resistance to the world’s largest gold mining operation. She was detained and tortured for her efforts. Her ethnic group has declared independence to gain control over its resources. The group’s actions have been met with repressive government violence. Regardless of the dangers, Yosepha Alomang continues to promote traditional cultures, collective action and the well-being of West Papua’s indigenous people.
Europe – Myrsini Malakou and Giorgos Catsadorakis: These two Greek biologists led the charge to create a crucial wetlands conservation area in remote northwestern Greece. They worked for years researching, organizing, and advocating sustainable farming and economic activities to restore this precious area. Last year Albania, Macedonia and Greece jointly created the first trans-boundary protected area in the Balkans.
Africa – Eugene Rutagarama risked his life to save Rwanda’s last 355 mountain gorillas. Forced to flee Rwanda during the massacres of the 1990s that killed most of his family, he returned to rebuild the national park system and protect the gorilla habitat from human encroachment.
Island Nations – Bruno Van Peteghem: A resident of New Caledonia, Van Peteghem stood up to mining interests to save one of the world’s coral reefs from destruction. Van Peteghem, who is leading a campaign to place these South Pacific reefs on the World Heritage List, has confronted severe intimidation – including the burning of his home.
"The world is getting smaller and the need is growing for everyone to take responsibility for keeping our planet healthy," said Goldman Environmental Prize Founder Richard N. Goldman. "The environment is affected by wars, international business, economic policies, and the tendency to put short-term gains ahead of long-term solutions [but the]Â… courage and commitment of a single visionary individual can make a difference for generations to come."