In his acceptance speech at the 2014 Goldman Prize ceremony, Prize winner Suren Gazaryan told the story of his colleague Evgeny Vitishko, an environmental activist from Russia who was sentenced to three years in a penal colony for his role in exposing illegal construction in a national forest and speaking openly about the environmental impact of the Sochi Olympic Games' construction.
Government crackdowns on civil society groups have surged in recent years, an alarming trend impacting many Goldman Prize winners around the globe. 2010 Goldman Prize winner Thuli Makama, an environmental attorney from Swaziland, knows first-hand how difficult it is to effectively operate in a country where civil society is repressed. She stopped by the Goldman Prize office last month to update us on her recent work.
A recent report from the UN and Interpol titled “The Environmental Crime Crisis,” estimates that illegal environmental crime, from illegal logging to elephant poaching, generates up to $213 billion a year, with the majority of profits going to international crime syndicates and terrorist organizations.
In what some are calling “the greatest triumph of the environmental movement in Chile,” the government of President Michelle Bachelet rejected an $8 billion dam proposal that would have devastated Chile’s pristine Patagonia region.
Mama Aleta Baun was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2013 for organizing hundreds of local villagers to peacefully occupy marble mining sites in “weaving protests,” which stopped the destruction of sacred forestland on Mutis Mountain on the island of Timor, Indonesia.
In the year since winning the Prize, Baun has continued to empower the people of the Timor Tengah Selatan district, whose livelihoods are constantly threatened by the extractive industries, climate change and poverty.
Earlier this month, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, heard oral arguments in a landmark case that stands to decide whether the Town of Dryden has the right to keep fracking out of its borders. With more than 170 communities across New York taking action against fracking, the lawsuit stands to impact fracking’s footprint throughout the state, as well as in communities in Colorado, Texas, and California, among others.
Marc Ona was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2009 for leading a campaign to publicly expose the unlawful agreements behind a huge mining project threatening the sensitive ecosystems of Gabon’s equatorial rainforests. Ona’s efforts led to an unprecedented victory for civil society in Gabon, with the government adopting new environmental oversight regulations and significantly reducing the size of the mining concession.
After a massive storm devastated St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) late last year, 1994 Goldman Prize winner Andrew Simmons returned to his island home to assist with the disaster relief effort and educate locals about climate change’s particularly harsh impact on small island communities.
This week, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a proposal to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. The proposed regulation is the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate change strategy and may become one of his defining policy legacies.