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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid