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Reflections on Rio: Seeing plenty in half-full glass

July 6, 2012

After finally getting caught up on our inbox and backlog of to-dos, Goldman Prize staff took some time to reflect on our week in Rio. And while we share the many frustrations at the vacuum of government leadership, it’s become clear that the events at Rio Centro did little to undermine the tremendous participation from the grassroots level.

We felt it in the energy at our reception honoring Goldman Prize recipients—they weren’t defeated by a lack of concrete proposals from government. They were energized by concrete proposals that were emerging from civil society and the events happening outside of Rio Centro.

We saw it in the earnest faces of all the diverse participants at the People’s Summit, many of whom traveled long distances at significant expense to take part in these important conversations. Thousands braved hours under the hot sun to take a stand against the Belo Monte Dam  in the form of a human banner.

And last but not least, we saw much to celebrate in how far the indigenous people’s movement has come since the first Earth Summit in 1992, and in the growing participation from environmental groups in developing nations.

Marina Silva, the 1996 Goldman Prize winner from Brazil, perhaps said it best: “We can say not much has changed over the past 20 years. But something has changed: People’s environmental awareness.”

Economic ministers may be quick to cast aside grassroots environmental activists to the fringe. But the outpouring of participation from their constituents showed us that they are—and should—remain at the forefront of social and political activism. We’re proud to stand with these activists and honor outstanding grassroots leadership with the Goldman Environmental Prize.

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