The Goldman Environmental Foundation in San Francisco has announced the recipients of the 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize, an annual award that recognizes grassroots environmental leaders from around the globe.
Launched in 1989, the program honors emerging leaders from each of the world's inhabited continental regions who are working to protect the environment and their communities. The prize, which includes a cash award of $175,000 for each winner, is the world's largest for grassroots environmental activism.
The 2017 prize recipients are Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who risked his life to document and release information about bribery and corruption related to efforts to drill for oil in Virunga National Park, resulting in public outrage that forced the company in question to withdraw from the project; Prafulla Samantara of India, who led a historic twelve-year legal battle that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondh’s land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive open-pit aluminum ore mine; Uros Macerl of Slovenia, an organic farmer who successfully stopped a cement kiln from co-incinerating petcoke with hazardous industrial waste; Wendy Bowman of Australia, who, amid an onslaught of coal development in her country, stopped a multinational mining company from taking her family farm and protected her community in Hunter Valley from further pollution and environmental destruction; mark! Lopez of the United States, who persuaded the state of California to provide comprehensive lead testing and remediation of East Los Angeles homes contaminated by a battery smelter that had polluted the community for over three decades; and Rodrigo Tot of Guatemala, an indigenous leader in Agua Caliente province who led his community to a landmark court decision resulting in the government issuing land titles to the Q’eqchi people and preventing environmentally destructive nickel mining from expanding into his community.
"It is really worth it to make this sacrifice," Katembo told the Guardian. "I know it is among the most dangerous work in DRC, but I am working for the welfare of future generations."