Environmentalists to Be Honored with Goldman Prizes

Published on
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The San Francisco Chronicle

Environmentalists to Be Honored with Goldman Prizes

6 Activists will be Presented with Prestigious Award in San Francisco

by
Matthai Kuruvila

Four of the six Goldman Prize recipients. From left: Randall Arauz, Malgorzata Górska, Lynn Henning, and Humberto Ríos Labrada. Not pictured: Thuli Brilliance Makama of Swaziland and Sereivathana Tuy of Cambodia.

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.

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