Maria Gunnoe was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2009 for leading a campaign against the environmentally devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR).
In the five years since winning the Prize, Gunnoe’s fight has continued to gain momentum, resulting in regional mine closures and stricter regulations for the industry. In the excerpts below, Gunnoe reflects on how winning the Goldman Prize has impacted her work and leadership:
“The Goldman Prize has elevated the mountaintop removal issue to global level. In West Virginia we are historically without access to the outside world. The Goldman Prize has changed this for us in a way that no one else could.
In 2003, Judy Bonds put a new face on environmentalism in the USA when she won the Goldman Prize. Judy gave part of her award money to Coal River Mountain Watch to hire me as an Organizer. In 2009, when I was awarded the Goldman Prize, I gave money to Coal River Mountain Watch to hire others to help their communities. This enabled us to create more community organizers to fight the coal industry in their back yards.
The coal industry and politicians traditionally labeled active community members as ‘environmentalists’ with the thought that it was a bad thing. Thanks to the Goldman Prize, local people have learned to value our culture as one of great uniqueness. It has also given me an opportunity to be a globally recognized leader in the environmental community.”
Gunnoe continues to be a leading voice in the fight against MTR and will be speaking about her experience with the coal industry tonight at a public event, “The Goldman Prize at 25” at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. For more information CLICK HERE.