Goldman Environmental Prize Honors Seven of the Earth’s Foremost Defenders
Grassroots award recognizes activists from Thailand, Australia, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Ecuador, and the United States
Virtual ceremony to take place on May 25, 2022, at 5:00 pm PDT, featuring Jane Fonda as host, musical guests Angélique Kidjo and the Detroit Youth Choir, narration by Sigourney Weaver, and a special appearance from Dr. Jane Goodall
SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Goldman Environmental Foundation today announced seven recipients of the 2022 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 33 years, the Prize has had an immeasurable impact on the planet. To date, the Prize has honored 213 winners—including 95 women—from 93 nations.
“While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity,” said Jennifer Goldman Wallis, vice president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation. “The Prize winners show us that nature has the amazing capability to regenerate if given the opportunity. Let us all feel inspired to channel their victories into regenerating our own spirit and act to protect our planet for future generations.”
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 pandemic, the Prize will be awarded virtually and broadcast online on May 25, 2022. The event will be streamed on YouTube and Facebook. Guests can register for the event here: rsvp.goldmanprize.org/2022.
This year’s winners are:
Chima Williams, Nigeria
In the aftermath of disastrous oil spills in Nigeria, environmental lawyer Chima Williams worked with two communities to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for the resultant widespread environmental damage. On January 29, 2021, the Court of Appeal of the Hague ruled that not only was Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary responsible for the oil spills, but, as parent company, Royal Dutch Shell also had an obligation to prevent the spills. This is the first time a Dutch transnational corporation has been held accountable for the violations of its subsidiary in another country, opening Shell to legal action from communities across Nigeria devastated by the company’s disregard for environmental safety.
Niwat Roykaew, Thailand
In February 2020, Niwat Roykaew and the Mekong community’s advocacy resulted in the termination of the China-led Upper Mekong River rapids blasting project, which would have destroyed 248 miles of the Mekong to deepen navigation channels for Chinese cargo ships traveling downstream. Flowing 3,000 miles from the mountains of Tibet before draining to the South China Sea, the biodiversity-rich Mekong River’s fisheries, tributaries, wetlands, and floodplains are a vital lifeline for more than 65 million people. This is the first time the Thai government has canceled a transboundary project because of the environmental destruction it would cause.
Marjan Minnesma, the Netherlands
In a groundbreaking victory, Marjan Minnesma leveraged public input and a unique legal strategy to secure a successful ruling against the Dutch government, requiring it to enact specific preventive measures against climate change. In December 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the government had a legal obligation to protect its citizens from climate change and ordered it, by the end of 2020, to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 1990 levels. The Netherlands’ Supreme Court decision marks the first time that citizens succeeded in holding their government accountable for its failure to protect them from climate change.
ISLANDS AND ISLAND NATIONS
Julien Vincent, Australia
Julien Vincent led a successful grassroots campaign to defund coal in Australia, a major coal exporter, culminating in commitments from the nation’s four largest banks to end funding for coal projects by 2030. Because of Julien’s activism, Australia’s major insurance companies have also agreed to cease underwriting new coal projects. His organizing has produced a challenging financial landscape for the Australian coal industry, a significant step toward reducing fossil fuels that hasten climate change.
Nalleli Cobo, United States
Nalleli Cobo led a community coalition to permanently shut down a toxic oil-drilling site in her community in March 2020, at the age of 19—an oil site that caused serious health issues for her and others. Her community’s continued organizing against urban oil extraction has now yielded major policy movement within both the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which voted unanimously to ban new oil exploration and phase out of existing sites.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA
Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narvaez, Ecuador
Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narvaez spearheaded an Indigenous movement to protect their people’s ancestral territory from gold mining. Their leadership resulted in a historic legal victory in October 2018, when Ecuador’s courts canceled 52 illegal gold mining concessions, which were illegally granted without the consent of their Cofán community. The community’s legal success protects 79,000 acres of pristine, biodiverse rainforest in the headwaters of Ecuador’s Aguarico River, which is sacred to the Cofán.
ATTENTION EDITORS: Detailed biographical information, photographs, 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.
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