Goldman awards environmental prize
to six international environmentalists
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger amongst key speakers
Photos by Jenifer Austin
By Aldrich M. Tan
April 25, 2006
Six international environmental activists received the Goldman
Environmental Prize at a ceremony Monday evening at the San Francisco
War Memorial Opera House.
Established in 1990 by Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the local-based
organization annually recognizes six individuals for sustained
and significant efforts to preserve the natural environment from
six continental regions, master of ceremonies Kate Kelly said.
The recipients will receive $125,000 as well as the honor of being
among over 113 award recipients from 67 countries.
"These six winner are among the most important people you
have not heard of before," founder Richard Goldman said.
"All of them have fought, often alone and at great personal
risk, to protect the environment in their home countries. Their
incredible achievements are an inspiration to us."
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the surprise
keynote speakers for at the event to congratulate the recipients.
"These are the action heroes of our time and history will
smile upon them," Schwarzenegger said.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Schwarzenegger mentioned his own state conservation efforts,
including allocation of 25 million acres for conservation through
the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the launching of a hydrogen highway
plan for 200 fueling stations by the year 2010 as an alternative
to fossil fuels, and the creation of a million solar roofs on
residential and commercial buildings which would take 3 million
tons of greenhouse gases out o the air, equal to taking a million
cars off the road.
"I am working towards building a better and cleaner future
for California," Schwarzenegger said.
2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai was another keynote
speaker at the event. Maathai said it was her first time coming
back to the event since she received the Goldman Environmental
Prize in 1991 for launching the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots
tree-planting project composed mainly of women working to curtail
deforestation and desertification in Kenya.
"Tonight we honor individuals who recognize that the environment
needs to be managed through sustainable means," Maathai said.
"The only way we can do that is if we govern ourselves responsibly."
Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor of Monrovia, Liberia is this year's
Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient for Africa. As the Director
of the Sustainable Development Institute, Siakor exposed mass
lumbering violations by former President Charles Taylor which
led to the United Nations Security Council to ban the export of
Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor
"We cannot allow multinational corporations to destroy our
forest," Siakor said. "When they tear down the trees
and strip away the land, they tear down the people and strip away
This year's Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient for Islands
and Island Nations went to Annie Kajir of Port Moresby, Papua
New Guinea. Kajir, an attorney for the Environmental Law Center,
defends aboriginal land rights and spearheaded the case against
lead logging company Ribunan Hijau for using illegal land permits
in the country's western province.
"How can it be called development when the land is raped
for the profit of few?" Kajir said. "We must make a
consorted effort to rescue this land for its biodiversity and
cultural diversity and make sure that it is handed down intact
to the next generation."
Yu Xiaogang, director of the Green Watershed program in Kunming,
China, is the Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient for Asia.
Xiaogang developed groundbreaking watershed management program
for Lashi Lake. He helped persuade the Chinese government to delay
the development of dams on the Nu River and has been instrumental
in making sure that the government makes social impact assessments
when planning major developments.
"Protecting the environment is the only path for truly sustainable
development in China." Xiaogang said.
Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva of Altamira, Brazil, led a successful
campaign to protect 240,000 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest
and exposed illegal logging activities to the Brazilian government
despite many death threats. Feitosa is the Goldman Environmental
Prize Recipient for South and Central America.
Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva
"722 people have been brutally murdered for protecting the
forest," Feitosa said, "The crimes remain unpunished,
but we have hope for justice because we know that the land is
really our land no matter how much we are threatened."
Olya Melen, an attorney at the Environment-People-Law in Lviv,
Ukraine, is the Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient for Europe
for her successful efforts to suspend the dredging of the Danube
Delta, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culturally
Organization-recognized World Heritage Site and biosphere reserve,
for the development of the Danube-Black Sea Canal.
"I feel so strongly about the work that I'm doing,"
Melen said. "I knew that this delta was worth fighting for
and worth taking the risk of protecting."
Melen said she is also the first award recipient from Ukraine
but not the last.
Together, we can change the history of the Ukrainian environmental
movement to assure that more Ukrainians will come on this stage
after me," Melen said.
The Goldman Environmental Prize for North America went to Craig
Williams of Berea, Kentucky. Williams, a Vietnam War veteran,
discovered that the Department of Defense had built an incinerator
to destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons stored in multiple areas
of the United States near his community. Through the Chemical
Weapons Working Group, a nationwide grassroots coalition, Williams
convinced the Pentagon to stop their plans and use safer water-based
process to destroy the weapons in 1996.
"As we honor the work of a few, we are fighting for the
rights of many," Williams said.
The recipients were not the only honored guests at the award
ceremony. Approximately 400 youth representing 32 schools and
programs throughout the Bay Area attended the event, events assistant
Molly Norton said.
The youth sat at reserved seating throughout the event and attended
a private reception with a speech by Goldman award recipient Margie
Eugene-Richard, Norton said.
"It is important that they are here to hear the recipients'
stories and their struggles because the youth will soon be taking
on our battles," Norton said.
Teacher Susan Stanaway agrees with Norton. Stanaway is an eighth
grade social studies teacher at Cupertino Middle School in Sunnyvale.
The school brought 16 kids to the event.
"A lot of teenagers feel very disempowered and the reason
I went into teaching is to let them know that they are empowered
and their voice really counts," Stanaway said. "This
is the age to reach kids and this is the time when they need to
be listened to and encouraged."
Julia Korableva, 14, an eight grader at Cupertino Middle School,
agrees with her teacher.
"I think young people are generally taken advantage of because
their viewpoints are so easily manipulated," Korableva said.
"It is important for adults to tell them to do the right
Benjamin Lilly, 14, from Cupertino Middle School said he felt
honored that the recipients were imparting their values to the
youth. Lilly said he had donated a lot of his money from his Bar
Mitzvah to the Sierra Club.
"I am hopeful that our generation is going to be able to
face the environmental problems of the world head on and realize
that we too can make a difference," Lilly said.