Appreciation for Global Environmental Activists


Photo courtesy of Goldman Prize’s official site

MiJin Cho, Staff writer

On Monday, Apr. 18, six environmental activists received their Goldman Environmental Prize at San Francisco for their leadership in their endeavors to clean the planet. With each project comes a step towards creating a environmental-friendly legacy for future generations from each of the six geographical regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.

Dana King, the Master of Ceremonies, gave the first Goldman Prize to Destiny Watford from the United States of America. As the co-founder of Free Your Voice, Watford started her mission to reduce pollution from industrial cities, focusing on Curtis Bay, Baltimore. In her pursuit for clean energy, she led Free Your Voice to the Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) and eventually to the Maryland Department of the Environment to terminate the plan to create the nation’s largest incinerator.

“Environmental activist such as Watford are crucial in preserving the environment, for their efforts can motivate the common people, especially those around D.C. to participate in keeping the nearby area a cleaner and greener place,” freshman Seowon Choi said.

The second winner of the Goldman Prize is Leng Ouch from Cambodia. Putting his own life in danger, Ouch went undercover to discover and document the illegal logging from Cambodian companies. In his fight to keep the planet green, he exposed the lands stolen from rural communities; this eventually led to Cambodian government’s cancellations of certain land concessions. Today, many look at him as inspiration to fight against corruption has hurt the trees of the planet.

“He’s causing change in an often rigid society, which is something to be applauded. I think it will remind corporations that they are finally accountable to the populations they interact with, and that they can’t hide misdeeds. It will inspire corporate leadership worldwide to focus on causing a positive impact,” senior Abhi Chadha said.

The third Goldman Environmental Prize went to Zuzana Caputova from Slovakia for her work in environmental policy. As a public interest lawyer, Caputova headed a campaign with the purpose of shutting down a toxic waste dump in her community. Her strive to create a cleaner environment for her children and the future generations lead to a demonstration, gathering thousands of local residents. Her movement lead to Slovakian Supreme Court’s ruling that the proposed landfill was illegal. Zuzana Caputova’s fight to prioritize the health of the people before industrialization has influenced a movement against the actions of developers who put local health at risk.

“I think Caputova’s project has good intentions, but I also think there are potential problems with that solution,” sophomore Mariam Khan said. “Limiting amount of waste by reducing what you’re using to produce waste is a more important first step in helping the environment.”

Máxima Acuña is the fourth Goldman Prize receiver, from the country of Peru. Acuña’s mission to establish justice in the mining industry began as she resisted the Newmont and Buenaventura Mining on her property. Her resistance was met with severe consequences including getting sued and sentenced a three-year suspended prison term, having her house destroyed by the mining company and facing a fine of nearly $2,000 for illegally squatting her own land. With help from GRUFIDES, an environmental NGO, she appealed the court’s ruling and gained legal victory. Today, her fights against mining companies illegally taking over land ownership for profit still continues.

“Her achievements are really inspiring because she seems like a powerful figure who doesn’t let anything stop her. What she’s doing would have a more dramatic impact within the area she resides in, but long term effects as well throughout the world,” sophomore Rishitha Anumola said.

The fifth Goldman Prize went to Edward Loure from the state of Tanzania. After losing his home to the creation of the Tarangire National Park, Loure devoted his time to working for the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT), a local organization fighting for community land rights. He was able to lead UCRT to get rights to land by the Tanzanian government. The accomplishment eventually led to a unique approach to applying the Tanzanian Village Land Act (TVLA) though the Certificates of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCRO). With the CCRO in place, many communities are currently getting the rights to their land.

“I think hearing about this reminds me of the industrialization that’s occurring in Tysons Corners right now. As much as it’s benefitting Fortune 500 companies and metro users, it’s damaging the environment. I personally think what Mr. Loure did is impressive; not many people decide to be proactive like that,” junior Suzie Bae said.

Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera, from the country of Puerto Rico, received the sixth and final Goldman Prize. Rivera was recognized for his achievements in marine conservation. He had headed a successful campaign that worked to create a nature reserve in the Northeast Ecological Corridor, a nesting place for an endangered species of sea turtle– the leatherback sea turtles. This newly protected corridor allowed not only a safe habitat for the turtles, but also protected and preserved the island’s natural heritage from impending developments. Today, his work focuses on fundraising to allow the government to purchase the still remaining lands located in the corridor.

“This accomplishments is probably what will ignite the spark necessary to start up the conservation of not just the Northeast Ecological Corridor but for other communities… that have diverse flora and fauna that are vital towards the flourishing of the ecosystem in the area. Rivera sets an example for other people… in other communities working towards conservation efforts and to preserve the wildlife,” senior Asha Krishnakumar said.

All of the six winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize has not only contributed to protecting the environment, but also in fighting against the health risks many of the future generations are to face and in preserving the natural habitats and organisms on the planet today. Each received rightful recognitions and encouraged other environmental activists to continue their struggle to keep the planet healthy.