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Nine Ways Prize winners Rocked 2016

December 20, 2016

This year has been one of the most painful years for environmental activists, not least of all due to the devastating loss of Berta Cáceres and the terrible attacks on Máxima Acuña. Fellow Prize winners have stood behind and rallied to the defense of these women while making significant advances in their own work this year by speaking out about some of the most pressing environmental issues at global gatherings. (Above from left: Helen Slottje, Sofia Gatica, Yuyun Ismawati, Olga Speranskaya, John Goldman; Vice President of the Goldman Prize, Von Hernandez, Lois Gibbs and Ricardo Navarro at the IPEN Global Meeting in San Francisco, California.) 

Honoring Native History

Gwich’in tribal leader Sarah James attended the All Nations Gathering on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, California to mark the anniversary of the 1989 occupation of the island by indigenous groups, and to advocate for the designation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness. Join Sarah and help protect the “Sacred Place Where Life Begins.”

(From left) Sophia Rabliauskas, Randall Arauz, Ignace Schops, Tuenjai Deetes, Jean Wiener and Cath Wallace (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Conserving our Natural Resources

Several Prize winners including Jean Wiener, Ignace Schops, Albena Simeonova, Sophia Rabliauskas and Tuenjai Deetes made their mark at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii giving presentations covering topics from deforestation to indigenous land rights. Marine conservation advocates Randall Arauz and Cath Wallace built on this advocacy work just weeks later by helping to win protections for silky sharks and safeguard vast swathes of the Antarctic Ocean.

Restoring Vital Watersheds

River defender Prigi Arisandi spoke at the 19th International River Symposium in New Delhi, India, about his project regulating water pollution and preserving the biodiversity of Indonesia’s Brantas River watershed. He shared best practices on how to hold water polluters accountable through citizen lawsuits, and advocated for the involvement of indigenous communities using their traditional knowledge of fishing techniques to support river restoration programs.

Lynn Henning at the 2016 Factory Farm Summit (Photo:

Challenging Industrial Farming

Sustainable agriculture advocate Lynn Henning spoke at the first Factory Farm Summit in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The summit convened communities affected by factory farming and gave them a much-needed space to build coalitions and hold polluting industrial farms accountable.

“We came out of the summit with a discussion of power-building by networking impacted communities to build significant change. This summit gave folks the energy and inspiration to see this vision and we are excited for what will happen next!” – Lynn Henning

Defending the Defenders

The daughter of the late Berta Cáceres, Laura Zuñiga Cáceres joined a panel at the Latin America Indigenous Funders Conference in Lima, Peru to discuss support strategies for indigenous environmental activists in Latin America, as threats to their lives continue to grow. The conference was dedicated to her mother, serving as a tribute to her lasting legacy.

Fighting for Communities on the Frontlines

Environmental justice advocate Kim Wasserman was keynote speaker at the SXSW Eco Conference in Austin, Texas inspiring attendees by talking about her work at the intersection of environmental justice, policy, and organizing. Kim took the opportunity to build relationships with artists, entrepreneurs, designers, and communicators, opening the possibility for breakthrough initiatives. Building on her organizing, Kim and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) recently helped pass a groundbreaking new energy bill that will provide energy efficiency programs for low-income communities and green jobs for the formerly incarcerated.

Phyllis Omido (in red) speaking at a Prize winner panel at the IPEN Global Meeting. (From left) Olga Speranskaya, Bruno Van Peteghem, Helen Slottje, Lois Gibbs, Yuyun Ismawati and Sofia Gatica (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Safeguarding the Next Generation from Toxic Chemicals

Activists working toward a toxics-free future including Phyllis Omido, Helen Slottje, Sofia Gatica, Yuyun Ismawati, Olga Speranskaya, Von Hernandez, Lois Gibbs, Ricardo Navarro, and Bruno Van Peteghem attended the IPEN Global Meeting in San Francisco, California. This gave them the opportunity to share their successes and expertise on issues ranging from the dangers of lead poisoning on a child’s development to the use of neurotoxic chemicals in agriculture.

Protecting Indigenous Territories

Asháninka leader Ruth Buendía attended the Fifth Meeting of the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement on Principle 10 in Santiago, Chile to negotiate regional standards in Latin America and the Caribbean for the inclusion of indigenous people in decisions over their land. One of the main challenges faced by indigenous communities is the lack of information shared with them on development projects that affect them:

“Indigenous people have earned the right to free, prior and informed consent as when we are talking about the extraction of natural resources, many of the concessions are located in indigenous territories.” – Ruth Buendía

Bobby Peek and Desmond D’Sa with two members of SDCEA at their 21st anniversary celebration (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Celebrating Triumphs in Environmental Justice

Last but not least, the organization co-founded by Desmond D’Sa, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) celebrated its 21st anniversary supporting environmental justice in Durban, South Africa. This milestone was marked by a four-day program which brought together activists, community members, academics, educators and NGOs to celebrate SDCEA’s long list of achievements, most recently stopping the expansion of Africa’s largest port which would have displaced thousands of local residents. Fellow environmental justice advocate Bobby Peek also joined the celebrations as a guest speaker.

The Goldman Environmental Prize provides support to former Prize winners seeking to broaden their networks though their attendance at conferences, meetings and other events important to their work.

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