2008 Goldman Environmental Prize Raises the Stakes

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 14, 2008 (ENS) – Seven grassroots leaders who are challenging government and corporate interests and working to improve the environment and living conditions for people in their communities have won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize this year. In 2008, each individual Prize award will be increased from $125,000 to $150,000.

The winners are being awarded the Prize at an invitation-only ceremony this evening at the San Francisco Opera House and will also be honored at a smaller ceremony on Wednesday at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, DC.

“This year’s Prize recipients exemplify the astounding environmental work being done by ordinary people around the world,” said Goldman Prize founder Richard Goldman. “Their commitment to bettering both the lives of people living in their communities and the environment around them has received our attention and praise.”

This year’s recipients include two people from Ecuador who are fighting oil giant Chevron to bring justice and environmental recovery to an area devastated by oil pollution.

2008 Goldman Prize recipients: front row
from left: Luis Yanza, Rosa Hilda
Ramos, Marina Rikhvanova; second
row from left: Feliciano dos Santos,
Jesus Leon Santos, Ignace Schops,
and Pablo Fajardo Mendoza. (Photo
courtesy Goldman Environmental Prize)

A Mozambican activist-musician who brings education about sanitation and clean water systems through performance and community-based outreach to one of the poorest nations in the world was chosen by the Goldman Prize jury.

Other recipients include a Puerto Rican grandmother working to protect a precious marshland, an indigenous Mexican farmer utilizing pre-Columbian agriculture techniques to transform a barren area into rich farmland, a Belgian environmentalist who campaigned to secure the country’s first and only national park, and a Russian woman working to protect Siberia’s Lake Baikal from oil and nuclear interests.

The Goldman Environmental Prize, now in its 19th year, is awarded annually to grassroots environmental heroes from each of the world’s inhabited continental regions and is the largest award of its kind.

The 2008 Goldman Prize recipients addressed some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues through grassroots efforts, helping to educate and motivate local communities to get involved in the effort to protect the natural environment around them and to stand up for their rights.

This year’s winners are:

* Pablo Fajardo Mendoza, 35, and Luis Yanza, 46, Ecuador:
In the Ecuadorian Amazon, Fajardo and Yanza lead one of the largest environmental legal battles in history against oil giant Chevron, demanding justice for the massive petroleum pollution in the region.

* Feliciano dos Santos, 43, Mozambique:
Using traditional music, grassroots outreach and innovative technology to bring sanitation to the most remote corners of Mozambique, Feliciano dos Santos empowers villagers to participate in sustainable development and rise up from poverty.

* Rosa Hilda Ramos, 63, Puerto Rico:
In the shadow of polluting factories in Catan’o, a city across the bay from San Juan, Ramos leads her community to permanently protect the Las Cucharillas Marsh, one of the last open spaces in the area and one of the largest wetlands ecosystems in the region.

* Jesús León Santos, 42, Mexico:
In Oaxaca, where unsustainable land-use practices have made it one of the world’s most highly-eroded areas, León leads a land renewal program that employs ancient indigenous practices to transform depleted soil into arable land.

* Marina Rikhvanova, 46, Russia:
As Russia expands its petroleum and nuclear interests, Rikhvanova works to protect Siberia’s Lake Baikal, one of the world’s most important sources of fresh water, from environmental devastation brought on by these polluting industries.

* Ignace Schops, 43, Belgium:
Raising more than $90 million by bringing together private industry, regional governments, and local stakeholders, Schops led the effort to establish Belgium’s first and only national park, protecting one of the largest open green spaces in the country.

The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1990 by San Francisco civic leader and philanthropist Richard Goldman and his late wife, Rhoda Goldman. It has been awarded to 126 people from 72 countries.

Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals.

Previous Prize winners have been at the center of some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, including seeking justice for victims of environmental disasters at Love Canal and Bhopal, India; leading the fight for dolphin-safe tuna; fighting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and fighting against mountain-top removal mining in America’s coal country.

Since receiving a Goldman Prize, eight winners have been appointed or elected to national office in their countries, including several who became ministers of the environment. The 1991 Goldman Prize winner for Africa, Wangari Maathai, won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

For more about the current and past Goldman Environmental Prize recipients, click here [www.goldmanprize.org].

View This Story On Eco–mmunity Map.