On Monday, April 28, in a packed Opera House in San Francisco, $1,050,000 was handed out to six of the most impressive environmental activists in the world in the form of the Goldman Environmental Prize.
The Goldman prizes aren’t just big in dollars; they are life changing and planet-altering awards given each year to six grassroots environmental activists who are putting forth an exceptional effort to save our planet. According to the Goldman Prize website, the work of “prize recipients often focuses on protecting endangered ecosystems and species, combating destructive development projects, promoting sustainability, influencing environmental policies and striving for environmental justice. Prize recipients are often women and men from isolated villages or inner cities who chose to take great personal risks to safeguard the environment.”
This year’s recipients are no exception to the rule, but what is out of the ordinary is that five out of the six have a Boulder connection in the form of the Global Greengrants Fund.
This Boulder-based fund is the largest environmental fund in the world when it comes to offering grants to support grassroots environmental action. Boulder’s Global Greengrants Fund has provided over 8,000 grants in 142 countries, worth over $37 million. With that track record, it’s understandable why both the Goldman Prize and Global Greengrants Fund have offered support to this year’s Goldman Prize winners at one time or another.
The following bios of this year’s Goldman Prize winners are courtesy of the Goldman Prize. All recipients with the exception of Helen Holden Slottje have received past support from Boulder-based Global Greengrants Fund.
RUTH BUENDIA — PERU
Overcoming a history of traumatic violence, Ruth Buendía united the Asháninka people in a powerful campaign against large-scale dams that would have once again uprooted indigenous communities still recovering from Peru’s civil war. Ruth Buendía successfully united the Asháninka indigenous people to campaign against the large-scale dams that would have destroyed their homeland.
DESMOND D’SA — SOUTH AFRICA
Desmond D’Sa rallied south Durban’s diverse and disenfranchised communities to successfully shut down a toxic waste dump that was exposing nearby residents to dangerous chemicals and robbing them of their constitutionally protected right to a safe and clean environment.
RAMESH AGRAWAL — INDIA
With a small internet café as his headquarters, Ramesh Agrawal organized villagers to demand their right to information about industrial development projects and succeeded in shutting down one of the largest proposed coal mines in Chhattisgarh.
SUREN GAZARYAN — RUSSIA
An internationally recognized bat expert and zoologist, Suren Gazaryan led multiple campaigns exposing government corruption and illegal use of federally protected forestland along Russia’s Black Sea coast. He played a critical role in drawing attention to the environmental devastation of the Sochi Olympics.
RUDI PUTRA — INDONESIA
A biologist by training, Rudi Putra is dismantling illegal palm oil plantations that are causing massive deforestation in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino.
HELEN HOLDEN SLOTTJE — UNITED STATES
Using a clause in the state constitution that gives municipalities the right to make local land use decisions, Helen Slottje provided pro-bono legal assistance, helping towns across New York defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking.