The Goldman Environmental Foundation announced Monday the six recipients of its annual Goldman Environmental Prize, the largest eco-related prize in the world. The prize, established in 1989 by the late civic philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman, is also known as the Green Nobel. Chosen to represent Earth’s different geographic zones, each prize recipient will receive $175,000, no strings attached. It’s not unusual for them to donate their award or plow it back into their environmental efforts.
The recipients this year are Edward Loure, of Tanzania; Leng Ouch, Cambodia; Zuzana Caputova, of Slovakia; Luis Jorge River Herrera, of Puerto Rico; Destiny Watford, from the United States; and Máxima Acuña, of Peru.
An invitation-only ceremony tonight in San Francisco likely will be more solemn than usual. Early last month, one of last year’s recipients of the prize, Berta Cáceres, was found shot dead in a small town in her homeland of Honduras, near the border of El Salvador. The slaying is unsolved. The 44-year-old indigenous leader of the Lenca people was co-founder and coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Goldman awarded her the prize for "a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam" at the Rio Gualcarque.
“We really hope people will treat Berta’s death as a wake-up call,” said David Gordon, executive director of the Goldman Environmental Foundation, which was launched by the late San Francisco philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman as a way to honor grass-roots environmental activists around the world. [...]
Mr. Gordon said Ms. Cáceres’s death highlighted what he called a growing problem of environmental activists being subjected to threats and assaults, often over land conflicts.
Like Cáceres, environmental activists in much of the world often risk their lives in their efforts to make a difference. Ouch Leng, for instance, said he felt compelled to hide out after he exposed illegal logging in Cambodia. He told The Wall Street Journal he would not cease his efforts.
“Of course, I always worry about my security and think I could get killed,” said Mr. Leng, 39, in an interview. “But I also have the opportunity to tell the world how to protect the forest.”
There will also be a public ceremony with the recipients in Washington on Wednesday.
Here are some details about each of the 2016 recipients, courtesy the Goldman Environmental Foundation:
EDWARD LOURE, Tanzania: Edward Loure led a grassroots organization that pioneered an approach that gives land titles to indigenous communities—instead of individuals—in northern Tanzania, ensuring the environmental stewardship of more than 200,000 acres of land for future generations.
LENG OUCH, Cambodia: In one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental activists, Leng Ouch went undercover to document illegal logging in Cambodia and exposed the corruption robbing rural communities of their land, causing the government to cancel large land concessions.
ZUZANA CAPUTOVA, Slovakia: A public interest lawyer and mother of two, Zuzana Caputova spearheaded a successful campaign that shut down a toxic waste dump that was poisoning the land, air and water in her community, setting a precedent for public participation in post-communist Slovakia.
LUIS JORGE RIVERA HERRERA, Puerto Rico: Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera helped lead a successful campaign to establish a nature reserve in Puerto Rico’s Northeast Ecological Corridor—an important nesting ground for the endangered leatherback sea turtle—and protect the island’s natural heritage from harmful development.
DESTINY WATFORD, United States: In a community whose environmental rights had long been sidelined to make room for heavy industry, Destiny Watford inspired residents of a Baltimore neighborhood to defeat plans to build the nation’s largest incinerator less than a mile away from her high school.
MÁXIMA ACUÑA, Peru: A subsistence farmer in Peru’s northern highlands, Máxima Acuña stood up for her right to peacefully live off her own land, a property sought by Newmont and Buenaventura Mining to develop the Conga gold and copper mine.
You can read more detailed biographical information on each of the six by clicking on their highlighted names here.