EMAIL SIGN UP!
Most Popular This Week
Today's Top News
Environmentalists to Be Honored with Goldman Prizes
6 Activists will be Presented with Prestigious Award in San Francisco
Six people from around the world will be honored tonight at the San Francisco Opera House for their grassroots work to protect the environment.
The Goldman Environmental Prize has been awarded each year since 1990 to "women and men from isolated villages or inner cities who chose to take great personal risks to safeguard the environment," according to the Goldman Environmental Prize Web site.
This year the $150,000 prizes, created by San Francisco philanthropists Richard N. Goldman and his late wife, Rhoda H. Goldman, are being awarded to men and women in Costa Rica, Poland, the United States, Cuba, Swaziland and Cambodia - where Sereivathana Tuy is saving elephants. The other winners are:
Randall Arauz led a campaign to halt the practice of maiming and killing sharks for their fins in Costa Rica, which in 2004 was the world's third largest exporter of shark products, including 8,000 tons of fins.
The global shark population has declined by about 90 percent over the past 50 years because of overfishing, according to Goldman Prize officials. The fishing problem has been exacerbated due to the demand for shark fins, a key ingredient in shark fin soup.
Goldman Prize officials said 100 million sharks are slaughtered annually to feed the global demand. Shark-finning is particularly brutal because the fins are cut off sharks, which are then dumped back into the ocean to die. Shark fins command $70 per kilogram, while shark meat gets only 50 cents per kilogram, according to Goldman Prize officials.
Arauz used a secretly recorded video to expose a ship illegally landing 30 tons of shark fins, which led to the death of an estimated 30,000 sharks. The video caused outrage in Costa Rica, which Arauz used to mobilize opposition.
By 2005, the government banned shark finning, using language that would ultimately become the model for international shark-finning guidelines.
Malgorzata Górska fought to stop a highway through one of Poland's last vestiges of untouched wilderness.
The Rospuda Valley in the country's northeast holds a unique ecosystem, with peat bogs, wetlands and primeval forests. A wide mix of animals, including lynx, endangered eagles, wolves, elk, boars, otters and beavers, call the region home.
But the growth of Poland's burgeoning democracy in the early 1990s put increasing pressure to develop, including a proposed highway through the Rospuda Valley, according to Goldman Prize officials.
Górska helped coordinate a coalition of activists and organizations to protest the highway. Goldman Prize officials, in a press release, credit her with creating a "countrywide public support for protecting the Rospuda Valley."
Górska's coalition ultimately took the government to European and national courts, winning in both arenas.
Lynn Henning exposed the polluting practices of livestock ranches in rural Michigan, prompting state and federal regulators to issue hundreds of citations for serious water quality violations.
Industrial facilities for dairy cattle, pigs and chickens can sometimes house scores of animals in tight quarters with no natural vegetation or light, Goldman Prize officials said.
The runoff of animal excrement is often a "toxic brew" of bacteria, antibiotics, chemicals and, sometimes, carcasses, Goldman Prize officials said. That runoff ends up in waterways, they said.
Henning runs a 300-acre corn and soybean farm that's within a 10-mile range of 12 industrial meat facilities. She worked with neighbors, farmers and EPA officials.
She collected data and presented it to state regulators to encourage stronger enforcement, which then happened. The EPA also adopted some of Henning's techniques in its own investigations, Goldman Prize officials said.
Humberto Ríos Labrada helped shift farming practices in Cuba, increasing the diversity of crops and reducing the amount of chemicals put into the land.
Agriculture has long been critical to Cuba's economy, from infamous plantations by Spanish colonists to the late 20th century, when the former Soviet bloc was a critical trade partner.
But part of the nation's growth involved increased industrialized farming techniques, such as monocultures and chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Ríos, a scientist, had seen rural farmers use pre-industrial techniques, such as crop rotation and experimentation with a variety of seeds. Ríos saw these techniques as critical for the nation's food security.
Ríos began promoting these techniques, ultimately gaining the notice of officials at the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences, where Ríos worked. The Goldman Prize credits Ríos as playing an important role in the fact that about 50,000 farmers now participate in seed biodiversity initiatives.
Thuli Brilliance Makama fought to get citizen participation on the Swaziland board in charge of the environment.
The result is that those who are poor and rural will have a greater say over the land they depend on, Goldman Prize officials said.
Those who live in rural areas have often been forced off their land to the benefit of game parks, officials said. But even as they've been forced off of their land, many rely on hunting for survival.
That, however, is at conflict with what is arguably the nation's most powerful industry: game parks.
Government regulations give game park workers broad immunity to shoot and even kill suspected poachers, according to Goldman Prize officials.
Makama and her organization have been representing locals in court against game parks, who have in turn sought to discredit Makama, Goldman Prize officials said.