Goldman Environmental Prize Honors Six Environmental Heroes
Grassroots award recognizes activists from Peru, the United States, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Japan, Vietnam, and Malawi
Virtual ceremony to take place on June 15, 2021, at 4:00 pm PDT, featuring Jane Fonda as host, musical guests Lenny Kravitz, Baaba Maal, and the Ndlovu Youth Choir, with Sigourney Weaver and a special appearance from Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate
EMBARGOED UNTIL JUNE 15, 2021, AT 12:30 AM (PDT), 3:30 AM (EDT), 7:30 AM (GMT)
SAN FRANCISCO, June 15, 2021—The Goldman Environmental Foundation today announced six recipients of the 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s foremost award for grassroots environmental activists.
Awarded annually to environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions, the Goldman Environmental Prize honors the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists from around the world, inspiring all of us to take action to protect our planet.
The Prize was founded in 1989 in San Francisco by philanthropists and civic leaders Rhoda and Richard Goldman. As Richard Goldman once noted, “We’d like to leave the world a little better than we found it.” In 32 years, the Prize has had an immeasurable impact on the planet. To date, the Prize has honored 206 winners (including 92 women) from 92 nations, and has shined a light on many of the critical issues facing the Earth.
“When it comes to the environment, the global community of grassroots activists, leaders, thinkers, and philanthropists is only growing and becoming more sophisticated, more united, more powerful,” said Susie Gelman, vice president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation. “These Prize winners have so much to teach us about the path forward and how to maintain the balance with nature that is key to our survival. These phenomenal environmental champions remind us what can be accomplished when we fight back and refuse to accept powerlessness and environmental degradation. They have not been silenced—despite great risks and personal hardship—and we must also not be silent, either. It takes all of us.”
Normally, Prize winners are awarded the Prize in-person at a ceremony at the San Francisco Opera House in April, but this year, in light of the coronavirus outbreak, the Prize will be awarded virtually and shared on social media on June 15. The event will be streamed on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Guests can register for the event here: rsvp.goldmanprize.org/2021.
This year’s winners are:
Gloria Majiga-Kamoto, Malawi
Concerned about the environmental harm caused by mounting plastic pollution in Malawi, Gloria Majiga-Kamoto fought the plastics industry and galvanized a grassroots movement in support of a national ban on thin plastics, a type of single-use plastic. As a result of her dedicated campaigning, in July 2019, Malawi’s High Court upheld the ban on the production, importation, distribution, and use of thin plastics. This is the first Prize for Malawi.
Thai Van Nguyen, Vietnam
Thai Van Nguyen founded Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, which rescued 1,540 pangolins from the illegal wildlife trade between 2014 and 2020. Nguyen also established Vietnam’s first anti-poaching unit, which, since 2018, has destroyed 9,701 animal traps, dismantled 775 illegal camps, confiscated 78 guns, and arrested 558 people for poaching, leading to a significant decline in illegal activities in Pu Mat National Park. Pangolins are the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal despite an international trade ban. Heavy demand for their meat, scales, and blood threatens pangolins with extinction; all eight pangolin species are on the IUCN Red List.
Maida Bilal, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Maida Bilal led a group of women from her village in a 503-day blockade of heavy equipment that resulted in the cancellation of permits for two proposed dams on the Kruščica River in December 2018. The Balkans are home to the last free-flowing rivers in Europe. However, a massive hydropower boom in the region threatens to irreversibly damage thousands of miles of pristine rivers. This is the first Prize for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
ISLANDS AND ISLAND NATIONS
Kimiko Hirata, Japan
After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, Japan was forced to move away from nuclear power and, in its place, embraced coal as a major energy source. Over the past several years, Kimiko Hirata’s grassroots campaign led to the cancellation of 13 coal power plants (7GW or 7,030MW) in Japan. These coal plants would have released more than 1.6 billion tons of CO2 over their lifetimes. The carbon impact of Hirata’s activism is the equivalent of taking 7.5 million passenger cars off the road every year for 40 years.
Sharon Lavigne, United States
In September 2019, Sharon Lavigne, a special education teacher turned environmental justice advocate, successfully stopped the construction of a US$1.25 billion plastics manufacturing plant alongside the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Lavigne mobilized grassroots opposition to the project, educated community members, and organized peaceful protests to defend her predominantly African American community. The plant would have generated one million pounds of liquid hazardous waste annually, in a region already contending with known carcinogens and toxic air pollution.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA
Liz Chicaje Churay, Peru
In January of 2018, as a result of the efforts of Liz Chicaje Churay and her partners, the Peruvian government created Yaguas National Park. Comparable in size to Yellowstone National Park, the new park protects more than two million acres of Amazon rainforest in the northeastern region of Loreto. Its creation is a key step in conserving the country’s biodiversity—safeguarding thousands of rare and unique wildlife species and conserving carbon-rich peatlands—and protecting Indigenous peoples.
ATTENTION EDITORS: Detailed biographical information, photographs, and video of all the winners are available by request or online at goldmanprize.org/pressroom.
About the Goldman Environmental Prize
The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1989 by late San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals.