Goldman Environmental Prize 2017 winners announced

Congratulations to the 2017 winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize including mark! Lopez (USA), Prafulla Samantara (India), Rodrigue Magaruka Katemba (Dem. Rep. Congo), Rodrigo Tot (Guatemala); Uros Marcel (Slovenia); Wendy Bowman (Australia)

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Article
3 May 2017

mark! Lopez, 2017 Goldman Prize Recipient for North America

Author: Goldman Prize

In LA’s Eastside…residents bear the brunt of the region’s pollution, with heavy cargo traffic…and industrial plants operating…Among these facilities was an aging battery recycling plant, which had been in operation since 1922 with minimal updates and repairs. Georgia-based Exide took over the smelter in 2000 and ramped up the volume of batteries processed at the plant—and with it, emission levels of dangerous pollutants such as lead and arsenic…In March 2015, after coming under investigation by a federal grand jury about its operations, Exide agreed to shut down the plant but left little means to clean up the contamination beyond the smelter site…Lopez and his team at East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice started knocking on doors to inform the community about the dangers of lead contamination…Lopez faced the next hurdle of identifying funds to run tests and cleanup. He [called out] the injustice in the state leaders’ sluggish response to the Exide cleanup…In April 2016, Governor Brown finally approved $176.6 million for the testing and cleanup of affected homes. Lopez was appointed co-chair of the advisory committee responsible for overseeing the cleanup. While it is one of the largest environmental cleanups in California history, the funds will only cover a fraction of the total homes that need remediation. A newly imposed battery recycling fee is expected to raise additional funds and help other communities in the state affected by defunct battery smelters.

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Article
3 May 2017

Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo 2017 Goldman Prize Recipient for Africa

In 2010, the Congolese government sold SOCO International, a British oil company, the right to explore for oil in an area known as Block V, about half of which extends into…a World Heritage Site…Rodrigue Katembo, 41, is a Congolese park ranger who grew up during the turbulent years following the country’s independence from Belgium…In 2011, during one of his regular morning patrols, Katembo came across a handful of vehicles that offered [him]..money in exchange for letting them pass…To carefully document evidence of corruption, [he] met with a film director who helped with undercover cameras to record footage of SOCO and its contractors offering bribes and discussing illegal activities.

Katembo and the footage he gathered during his undercover investigations were heavily featured in the documentary film Virunga. The film premiered in April 2014 at the Tribeca Film Festival and gained a massive international audience through Netflix…A few months later, in November 2015, SOCO announced it was giving up its oil license in Block V.

Since SOCO’s departure from Virunga, wildlife in the park is showing signs of recovery... Katembo has paid an enormous price for his activism. In September 2013, he was arrested and tortured for 17 days…Since then, Katembo has been promoted to director of Upemba National Park, where he continues to protect the park and wildlife from poachers, militia, and extractive industries.

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Article
3 May 2017

Uroš Macerl, 2017 Goldman Prize Recipient for Europe

Author: Goldman Prize

Uroš Macerl, 48, is the president of Eko Krog and an organic farmer whose family farm sits on the outskirts of the Lafarge plant….Many farmers suffered huge losses as industrial pollution wiped out the three most vital elements of their livelihood: clean air, soil, and water…Unwilling to accept the injustice to his community, Macerl began organizing farmers, residents, and local groups to collect air quality data that showed a dramatic increase in dangerous pollutants since Lafarge had begun burning petcoke…In 2009 when Lafarge applied for an environmental permit to co-incinerate hazardous industrial waste with petcoke… Macerl filed and won a lawsuit that canceled the permit, but Lafarge continued to burn petcoke and waste. Noting the Slovenian authorities’ failure to enforce the court ruling, Eko Krog and Macerl informed the European Union…The European Commission sided with Macerl. And when Lafarge continued its operations, the commission requested that Slovenia be brought before the European Court of Justice for its failure to enforce EU pollution standards. The national authorities finally ordered Lafarge to halt production, and the company complied in March 2015…Since the plant’s shutdown, the region has seen visible improvements in air quality... Lafarge continues its attempts to restart co-incinerating petcoke and waste, but faces formidable opposition in Macerl, Eko Krog members, and a community determined to protect its health and environment

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Article
3 May 2017

Wendy Bowman 2017 Goldman Prize Recipient for Islands and Island Nations

Author: Goldman Prize

New South Wales (NSW), on Australia’s eastern coast, is a region with a rich agricultural history…However, in recent years, the region’s farms have become islands surrounded by oceans of open-pit coal mines.

Under directives to prioritize economic growth above all else, government is issuing coal licenses with little regard to mining’s impact on local residents’ lives...Coal mining has displaced many landowners in the valley. Those who remain live surrounded by around-the-clock blasting and heavy equipment operation…Landowners were being forced to move off their property with little say or explanation of their rights…

In 2010, Chinese-owned Yancoal proposed to extend the Ashton South East Open Cut mine, which would bring mining operations onto Bowman’s grazing lands and the banks of one of Hunter River’s most important water tributaries. Bowman was determined to stay and protect the community’s health, land, and water from further destruction. As one of the few landowners left in the area, Bowman became a key plaintiff in a public interest lawsuit to fight back the mine expansion…The Land and Environment Court issued its ruling in December 2014: The Ashton expansion could proceed, but only if Yancoal could get Bowman to sell them her land. It was the first time an Australian court placed this kind of restriction on a mining company…Bowman has refused offers of millions from Yancoal, and…continues to be an advocate for the community’s health and environment, and has worked with the local health department to place air monitors near coal mines…

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Article
30 April 2017

India: Prafulla Samantara Receives The Goldman Environmental Prize, Asia, 2017

Author: Counter Currents

Prafulla Samantara, National Convener, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements and the leader of Lokshakti Abhiyan, Orissa has been awarded The Goldman Environmental Prize, Asia, 2017. The Goldman Environmental Prize honours the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists for their sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the Natural environment. He has been awarded the Prize for committing his life for the peoples’ struggle and the hardships that he has faced in the historic 12-year legal battle along with Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondh’s land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive, open-pit aluminium ore mine proposed by Vedanta...a socialist by thoughts, has been a part of many leading Peoples’ struggles, one of which is Anti-POSCO Movement (POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsh Samiti) in Orissa.

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Article
24 April 2017

Rodrigo Tot, 2017 Goldman Prize Recipient for South and Central America

Author: Goldman Prize

…An indigenous leader in Guatemala’s Agua Caliente, Rodrigo Tot led his community to a landmark court decision that ordered the government to issue land titles to the Q’eqchi people and kept environmentally destructive nickel mining from expanding into his community…Fear began to spread in the community. People were worried that they were losing their land and with it, their livelihood…Tot found legal support with the US-based Indian Law Resource Center (ILRC) and Defensoria Q’eqchi, a small human rights organization in Guatemala…On February 8, 2011, two years after the community of Agua Caliente filed its lawsuit, the Constitutional Court issued a landmark decision…[r]ecognizing the Q’eqchi’s collective property rights…The victory has come at an enormous personal cost for Tot. In 2012, two of his sons were on a bus to Guatemala City when they were shot in what appeared to be a staged robbery. One of them died, and the other survived with grave injuries…

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