Environmental justice activist Sharon Lavigne, who led a successful grassroots campaign to block a toxic plastics manufacturing plant in her Louisiana community, is this year\u0026#039;s North American winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.\r\n\r\nThe awards, sometimes referred to as the Green Nobels, were announced Tuesday to recognize \u0022grassroots environmental heroes\u0022 on each of the planet\u0026#039;s inhabited continents who have exhibited \u0022sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022Sharon is in an intense, ongoing fight for the life of her community and our planet.\u0022\r\n\r\nLavigne is a former special education teacher and founder and president of the faith-based grassroots group RISE St. James. The St. James Parish is located in a predominantly Black area along the Mississippi River known as \u0022cancer alley\u0022—a nickname in reference to the human impact of the toxic industries that have polluted, and are slating to continue polluting, the surrounding communities.\r\n\r\nThe 69-year-old has been leading efforts against such environmental racism, and Goldman recognized her advocacy to successfully stop the Wanhua plastics complex. As a statement from Goldman notes, St. James Parish Council gave the plant zoning approval, even though it would have produced \u0022hundreds of tons of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI)—a chemical used in the production of foam. MDI affects respiratory function in humans and is found to produce tumors in rats.\u0022 It would also have released \u0022carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, benzene, and other toxic pollutants into the environment—directly next to residential neighborhoods and the Mississippi River.\u0022\r\n\r\nBy leading what the prize called \u0022a master class in campaigning for environmental justice,\u0022 including forming alliances with other environmental and climate justice organizations, Wanhua withdrew the project.\r\n\r\nBut, as she and her allies stress, the battle to stop the community from continuing to be a sacrifice zone to benefit polluting industries. At the center of that struggle is stopping Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group from building a $9.4 billion petrochemical plant.\r\n\r\nLavigne\u0026#039;s group along with allies Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Healthy Gulf, filed a federal lawsuit last year to stop the plant, triggering a construction delay.\r\n\r\nFollowing the award announcement, Lavigne\u0026#039;s allies sang her praises and referenced her determination.\r\n\r\n\u0022When the governor of Louisiana came to St. James Parish and announced Formosa Plastics was coming to town, Sharon Lavigne was brave enough to stand up and say no. Sharon had a different vision for her historic Black community,\u0022 Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said in a statement.\u0026nbsp;\r\n\r\n\u0022When parish officials told her that Formosa was a done deal, she insisted that it was not,\u0022 Rolfes added. \u0022Her leadership, courage, and vision are rewarded today by the Goldman Prize. And she would be the first to say that this is just the beginning. The fight has just begun.”\r\n\r\n\u0022These phenomenal environmental champions remind us what can be accomplished when we fight back and refuse to accept powerlessness and environmental degradation.\u0022\r\n\r\nJulie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which represented the groups fighting Formosa Plastics, also celebrated Lavigne\u0026#039;s achievement.\r\n\r\n“Sharon is in an intense, ongoing fight for the life of her community and our planet,\u0022 she said. \u0022Sharon has battled through pollution-related illness and the loss of loved ones, and she keeps faithfully fighting environmental racism. Under the leadership of this amazing woman, we\u0026#039;re going to stop Formosa Plastics and advance environmental justice in this country.”\r\n\r\nOther Goldman Prize winners this year include\u0026nbsp;Gloria Majiga-Kamoto of Malawi for fighting against plastics pollution; pangolin advocate\u0026nbsp;Thai Van Nguyen of Vietnam; dam opponent\u0026nbsp;Maida Bilal of Bosnia and Herzegovina; anti-coal activist\u0026nbsp;Kimiko Hirata of Japan; and conservation champion\u0026nbsp;Liz Chicaje Churay of Peru.\r\n\r\n\u0022These Prize winners,\u0022 said Goldman Environmental Foundation vice president Susie Gelman, \u0022have so much to teach us about the path forward and how to maintain the balance with nature that is key to our survival. These phenomenal environmental champions remind us what can be accomplished when we fight back and refuse to accept powerlessness and environmental degradation.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022They have not been silenced—despite great risks and personal hardship—and we must also not be silent, either. It takes all of us,\u0022 added Gelman.