Goldman Environmental Prize
Honors Six Outstanding Defenders of the Earth
Grassroots award recognizes activists from Zambia, Indonesia, Turkey, Finland, Brazil, and the United States
Live ceremonies to take place on April 24 in San Francisco and April 26 in Washington, DC
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SAN FRANCISCO, April 24, 2023—The Goldman Environmental Foundation today announced six recipients of the 2023 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. In 34 years, the Prize has had an immeasurable impact on the planet. To date, the Prize has honored 219 winners—including 98 women—from 95 nations. Many have gone on to positions as government officials, heads of state, NGO leaders, and Nobel Prize laureates.
“Now that the world has awakened to acute environmental crises like climate change, fossil fuel extraction, and pollution of our air and water, we are much more aware of our connections to each other and to all life on the planet,” said John Goldman, president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation. “A grassroots activist in Malawi working to combat plastic pollution in her own country is directly connected to us, and vice versa; and she has much to teach us about how we can do that work at home, where we live. This work, and our fates, are all intertwined.”
Prize winners will be celebrated at an in-person ceremony at the San Francisco Opera House on April 24, at 5:30 pm PDT—the first in-person ceremony since 2019. The ceremony will be hosted by Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, with musical guest Aloe Blacc, and will be livestreamed on the Goldman Prize’s YouTube channel.
A second ceremony will take place at the Eisenhower Theater at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, on April 26, at 7:00 pm EDT. The ceremony will be hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mary Jordan, with special remarks by Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.
This year’s winners are:
Chilekwa Mumba, Zambia
Alarmed by the pollution produced by the Konkola Copper Mines operation in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia, Chilekwa Mumba organized a lawsuit to hold the mine’s parent company, Vedanta Resources, responsible. Chilekwa’s victory in the UK Supreme Court set a legal precedent—it was the first time an English court ruled that a British company could be held liable for the environmental damage caused by subsidiary-run operations in another country. This precedent has since been applied to hold Shell Global—one of the world’s 10 largest corporations by revenue—liable for its pollution in Nigeria.
In collaboration with local fishing cooperatives and Turkish authorities, Zafer Kizilkaya expanded Turkey’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along 310 miles of the Mediterranean coast. The newly designated areas were approved by the Turkish government in August 2020 and include an expansion of the MPA network by 135 square miles (350 sq. km) of no trawling/no purse seine, and an additional 27 square miles (70 sq. km) of no fishing zones. Turkey’s marine ecosystem has been severely degraded by overfishing, illegal fishing, tourism development, and the effects of climate change—and these protected areas help mitigate these challenges.
Tero Mustonen, Finland
Since April 2018, Tero Mustonen led the restoration of 62 severely degraded former industrial peat mining and forestry sites throughout Finland—totaling 86,000 acres—and transformed them into productive, biodiverse wetlands and habitats. Rich in organic matter, peatlands are highly effective carbon sinks; according to the IUCN, peatlands are the largest natural carbon stores on Earth. Roughly one-third of Finland’s surface area is made up of peatlands.
ISLANDS AND ISLAND NATIONS
Delima Silalahi, Indonesia
Delima Silalahi led a campaign to secure legal stewardship of 17,824 acres of tropical forest land for six Indigenous communities in North Sumatra. Her community’s activism reclaimed this territory from a pulp and paper company that had partially converted it into a monoculture, non-native, industrial eucalyptus plantation. The six communities have begun restoring the forests, creating valuable carbon sinks of biodiverse Indonesian tropical forest.
Diane Wilson, United States
In December 2019, Diane Wilson won a landmark case against Formosa Plastics, one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies, for the illegal dumping of toxic plastic waste on Texas’ Gulf Coast. The $50 million settlement is the largest award in a citizen suit against an industrial polluter in the history of the US Clean Water Act. As a part of the settlement, Formosa Plastics agreed to reach “zero-discharge” of plastic waste from its Point Comfort factory, pay penalties until discharges cease, and fund remediation of affected local wetlands, beaches, and waterways.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA
Alessandra Korap Munduruku, Brazil
Alessandra Korap Munduruku organized community efforts to stop mining development by British mining company Anglo American in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. In May 2021, the company formally committed to withdraw 27 approved research applications to mine inside Indigenous territories, including the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory, which contains more than 400,000 acres of rainforest. The decision protects a critically threatened area of the Amazon—the world’s largest rainforest and a globally significant carbon sink—from further mining and deforestation.
ATTENTION EDITORS: Detailed biographical information, photographs, b-roll, and video of all the winners are available by request or online at goldmanprize.org/media-room/.
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.