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Four Historic Earth Days for the Goldman Prize

Leaves lighted by sun

April 21, 2022

When Richard and Rhoda Goldman set out to create an environmental counterpart to the Nobel Prize, they only dreamed their work might change the world. “We have no idea how important this prize program will turn out to be,” said Rhoda, “but we hope it will be very important.”

32 Earth Days and 200+ Prize recipients later, the Goldman Prize has become the world’s most recognized and celebrated environmental prize—and its reach is only growing. As the movement to protect the planet has expanded and become more inclusive and more urgent, the organization finds itself in a pivotal role: supporting those fighting for a healthier planet, spreading awareness about their initiatives, and reminding the world why there is hope for the future.

In conjunction with Earth Day 2022, let’s celebrate our collective progress in this journey. Here are four historic moments that have launched the Goldman Prize into the international spotlight—and launched ordinary people into extraordinary action.

Historic Earth Days for the Goldman Environmental Prize

Earth Day, April 16, 1990

After being moved by global headlines—like 1989’s Exxon Valdez oil spill—Richard and Rhoda Goldman decide to create a unique philanthropic initiative, with no idea how it would be received. After sending 3,000 invites to the inaugural ceremony in San Francisco, they would get back 1,600 RSVPs. It was an immediate hit—both for audiences and the new Prize winners.

Earth Day, April 19, 2004

Fifteen years on, the Goldman Prize pairs up with one of the country’s most prominent environmental activists: Robert Redford. The distinguished actor can be seen and heard all across the Goldman Prize’s platforms, from Prize winner profiles to global ambassadorship to narrating Prize ceremonies. Far from the only touch of Hollywood, other notable celebrities who’ve partnered with the Goldman Prize include Jane Fonda, Christiane Amanpour, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Dr. Jane Goodall.

Earth Day, April 22, 2018

For the first time in its 28-year history, all but one Goldman Prize winner is a woman—with three of the six being women of color: Francia Márquez (Colombia), Khanh Nguy Thi (Vietnam), LeeAnne Walters (United States), Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid (South Africa), and Claire Nouvian (France). As we’ve covered in the past, women are often at the forefront of environmental movements, sometimes involuntarily: 80% of those currently displaced due to climate change are women. As Makoma Lekalakala put it, “If you check the history, you realize that women are the custodians of conserving the environment.”

Earth Day, April 22, 2020

The Goldman Prize celebrates its 31st ceremony—virtually. The pandemic-friendly event led to even bigger reach, and Sigourney Weaver, Robert Redford, and performances by Jack Johnson highlighted the organization’s first exclusively digital celebration.

2022’s Prize ceremony will be virtual, with host Jane Fonda, remarks by Dr. Jane Goodall, and performances by Angélique Kidjo and the Detroit Youth Choir. Tune in on May 25 at 5:00 pm PDT / 8:00 pm EDT to meet this year’s recipients—and to learn about their extraordinary work.

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