The 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize awards announced April 18 in San Francisco were tinged with the sadness that 2015 award winner Berta Cáceres had been assassinated only weeks before in Honduras. This year’s six awardees demonstrate the kind of dogged determination – and community-building skills – that made Cáceres such a standout.
This year’s awardees, like Cáceres and other previous recipients, are “fearless grassroots activists working against all odds to protect the environment and their communities. They often work in countries where violence and death threats against environmental defenders are on the rise.” They are from Cambodia, Slovakia, Peru, Tanzania, Puerto Rico and the United States.
There are common threads among those who were selected for this year’s prize:
- Opposition to land grabs and concessions to companies with interests in timber, mining and large-scale tourism that threaten natural resources, endangered wildlife and the rights of the people who are pastoralists or subsistence farmers.
- Concern about health and well-being of people in communities jeopardized by long-term toxic waste dumping and incinerators used in waste-to-energy
- Championing community rights through grass-roots efforts and on-the-ground campaigns to build consensus in places that aren’t ordinarily empowered or successful
- Effectiveness in creating legislation and judicial proceedings that turned things around
Below are bios and videos on each of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize winners:
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. See the video
Zuzana Čaputová, Slovakia
A public interest lawyer and mother of two, Zuzana Čaputová 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. See the video
Luis Jorge Rivera Herrara, 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. See the video
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. See the video (in Spanish)
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. See the video
Destiny Watford, United States
Probably the youngest Goldman Prize winner ever (age 20) ! 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 trash-burning incinerator less than a mile away from her high school. See the video
Browse all current and former recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize