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Worldwatch Nominee Maria Gunnoe Awarded Goldman Environmental Prize

WASHINGTON - The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Environmental Foundation named Maria Gunnoe, a tireless voice in the movement against mountaintop-removal coal mining, as a recipient of the prestigious 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize. The Worldwatch Institute was one of several organizations to nominate Gunnoe for the award, which recognizes individuals for their sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.Gunnoe has emerged as a leader in the effort to stop mountaintop-removal mining in her native West Virginia and beyond, enduring threats to her personal safety and that of her family. She has played a significant role in building support for the Clean Water Protection Act, a resolution that would potentially outlaw mountaintop removal. The bill, HR 1310, was reintroduced in March with a record number of sponsors. 

"Maria Gunnoe has given a human face to this critical issue," said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin, author of Low-Carbon Economy: A Roadmap. "She has overcome incredible obstacles to raise awareness about a destructive and dangerous practice that is threatening many Appalachian communities while feeding our fossil fuel addiction."

While proponents argue that coal mining will create jobs, a recent Worldwatch analysis noted that the industry is requiring steadily fewer jobs as mechanized strip-mining practices (including mountaintop removal) take the place of human capital. In the United States alone, coal industry employment has fallen by half in the last 20 years, despite a one-third increase in production.

At the same time, an estimated 2.3 million people worldwide hold so-called "green jobs," meaning they currently work either directly in renewables or indirectly in supplier industries. These figures are expected to swell substantially as private investment and government support for alternative energy sources grow. The most optimistic analyses project that global wind power employment will increase to as much as 2.1 million in 2030 and 2.8 million in 2050. Similar projections estimate that worldwide solar photovoltaic production could create as many as 6.3 million jobs by 2030.

"Replacing coal-fired power plants with renewable energy technologies is vital not only to our planet's climate, but also to the communities that are put at risk everyday by these unsafe mining practices," said Flavin. "Maria Gunnoe's determination has brought us one step closer to achieving this goal."


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The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Its mission is to generate and promote insights and ideas that empower decision makers to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs.

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