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

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    Iran Orders Social Media Sites to Store Data Inside Country

    New requirements are expected to affect the instant messaging app Telegram, which has more than 20 million users inside Iran

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora