News / Science & Technology

Grassroots Activists Awarded Goldman Environmental Prize

Grassroots Activists Awarded Goldman Environmental Prizei
X
Rosanne Skirble
April 27, 2014 11:51 AM
Grassroots environmental activists from six regions of the world were awarded with the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco Monday. Each year the $175,000 award recognizes individuals who have shown courage and initiative against the odds to take action to protect the world. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Grassroots Activists Awarded Goldman Environmental Prize
Rosanne Skirble
Grassroots environmental activists from six regions of the world were awarded with the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco Monday.

Each year the $175,000 award recognizes individuals who have shown courage and initiative against the odds to take action to protect the world.  

This year's Goldman Prize winner in South Africa is Desmond D’Sa,  who grew up in Durban and worked in a nearby chemical factory. 

His poor working class neighborhood is surrounded by gas and oil refineries, paper mills and agrochemical plants. Half of its 300,000 residents have asthma and also suffer from high rates of cancer.
 
Grassroots Activists Awarded Goldman Environmental Prize
Grassroots Activists Awarded Goldman Environmental Prizei
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

A refinery explosion sparked his activism and he began to organize against the expansion of a toxic waste dump near his neighborhood.

“We started to develop a community and create awareness," D'Sa said. "We have health workshops. We take bucket samples to ensure they know what’s causing all the illnesses. So we have developed the knowledge base. We have agitated. We have lobbied.  We were able for the first time in the history of this country to get the industry bosses to be held accountable for their actions.”

The landfill was forced to close and, despite threats to his life and property, the Goldman award winner is now fighting the expansion of Durban’s port, which would displace thousands of people without compensation, while also increasing pollution.

“We’ve shown that as a united force, you can stop environmental racism," he said.  "And we’ve shown communities that there needs to be a new way of doing business.”
 
  • Desmond D’Sa is opposed to the $10 billion project to expand Durban’s port, which he says would displace thousands of people, exacerbate waste management problems and increase pollution. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • Desmond D'Sa addresses a meeting of fisherman in Chatsworth, Durban, South Africa. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • Biologist Rudi Putra is coordinating efforts to save rainforest habitat in Sumatra, among the most bio-diverse places on the planet. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • Rudi Putra supervises a forest restoration team cutting down a palm oil tree in the Leuser Ecosystem, Indonesia. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • At a community meeting in Aceh, Indonesia, Rudi Putra demonstrates his skill in getting local leaders to work together on forest projects. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • Ramesh Agrawal tells villagers that they have legal rights to block a mining project slated for development on their land. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • Ramesh Agrawal successfully thwarted one of the largest proposed coal mines in an area already replete with mining activity like this one near a village near Raigarh, India. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • Russian zoologist Suren Gazaryan has led multiple campaigns exposing government corruption and illegal exploitation of protected lands. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • In order to avoid a prison sentence, Suren Gazaryan escaped to Estonia, where he continues his activism. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • Helen Slottje in Ithaca NY, which sits on the Marcellus Shale, the largest known deposit of underground shale gas in the United States. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • Attorney Helen Slottje has given free legal help to dozens of cities and towns to establish bans on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial practice of gas extraction from shale deposits deep underground. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • Ruth Buendia fled her native land as a child during Peru’s civil war. Reconnecting with her people through environmental issues, she’s shown here on the banks of the Ene River. (Goldman Environmental Prize)
  • In efforts against large scale dams, Peruvian activist Ruth Buendia has united the indigenous Ashaninka people in campaigns to protect their native lands. (Goldman Environmental Prize)

Indonesian biologist Rudi Putra is the Goldman laureate representing the world’s island nations, where the majority of the world’s palm oil is grown. The oil is in everything from cookies, chocolate and baby formula to cosmetics and soap products.

Palm oil plantations are replacing the forests in Sumatra, one of the most bio-diverse regions of the world. So Putra has turned his own chain saw on illegal operations, cutting down the trees on nearly 500 hectares. Putra has succeeded in getting village chiefs, local officials and the police to join him on his crusade. But, he says, there is much more to do.

“Recently we started an international petition against damage to the ecosystem, and we got over 1.4 million signatures worldwide, which were submitted to the Indonesian government to cancel their plans to develop the rainforest here," Putra said. "We are determined to win this battle, too.”

Europe is represented in the Goldman Awards by zoologist Suren Gazaryan from Russia. Gazaryan made headlines with his challenge to former president Dmitry Medvedev, who had wanted to build a luxury home in a nature reserve in forested land near the Black Sea. President Vladimir Putin had stripped the area of its protected status to allow the project to go ahead. Gazaryan organized a blockade to halt it.      

“We started a social media campaign against the project that recruited 10,000 people," Gazaryan said. "This showed the public that the very people responsible for creating these laws were the first to violate them. Looking forward my main goal is to continue to try to change people’s consciousness, so that they better understand that nature isn’t something we can just sell off and get rich on.  We have to preserve these places for future generations.”

Gazaryan won that battle and returned again to the Black Sea to fight construction of a summer house for Putin, in a protected old-growth forest. Here, he was falsely accused of threatening security guards. Rather than face prison time, Gazaryan fled to Estonia where he continues his environmental work.

Other Goldman prize winners include Ramesh Agrawal from India who, from his small Internet café, began a successful campaign to halt a huge coal mining project in an area already distrurbed by pollution; Ruth Buendia from Peru, who stood up to dam construction that would have uprooted indigenous people; and American attorney Helen Slottje, who used the law to defend many towns targeted by gas drilling operations.

Now in its 25th year, the Goldman Environmental Prize has been awarded to 163 activists from 82 countries.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs