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What is the Goldman Environmental Prize and who won it

The 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize has been awarded to six environmental activists from all over the world who dedicate their life to safeguarding the Earth.

Six environmental activists have been awarded the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize on 18 April in Los Angeles, California. The official ceremony will be held in the capital, Washington D.C., on 20 April. The award has been established in 1990 and is the highest recognition that honours activists from all over the world dedicated to safeguarding nature.

 

L'attivista ambientale Berta Caceres
Berta Càceres, Honduran activist murdered in March

 

Understanding what pushes these people to dedicate their whole life to fighting for the environment can be hard work. Sometimes it’s all about an ideal, or the simple need of protecting their families, lands, and habitats.

 

However, it’s an extremely dangerous choice. Just think of Berta Caceres, Honduran activist who fought to protect her community’s rights and lands and winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, who was killed on 4 March.

 

This year’s edition’s winners have completely different origins and stories, but what bring them together is the same desire of a positive change, in the name of a fairer social and environmental development.

 

Máxima Acuña Chaupe

Máxima Acuña is a Peruvian farmer and does not embodies the traditional activist: she cannot read or write and she hasn’t joined any association. Yet, she is the real winner of the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize. In fact, she defended her land by opposing the construction project of Latin America’s largest dam, which would have damaged the lake her community depend on to irrigate lands.

 

La contadina peruviana Máxima Acuña
Máxima Acuña, 47-year-old Peruvian illiterate farmer, won her fight against a mining giant, protecting her land and environment © Goldman environmental prize

Edward Loure

He fights for Tanzania’s indigenous rights and for safeguarding the environment. He leads an organisation aimed at giving north-Tanzanian lands to indigenous communities rather than to individuals, granting the environmental protection of over 80,000 hectares of land for future generations. Loure looks at the past to guarantee a future to his people, which were used to live in a sustainable way and to coexist with wildlife until they were deprived of their ancestral lands.

 

Edward Loure durante la cerimonia di premiazione
Edward Loure fights for indigenous rights in Tanzania © Goldman Environmental Prize

Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera

Puerto Rican naturalist Rivera Herrera contributed to creating an important natural reserve where the endangered leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) use to nest. He also successfully opposed – trough a 16-yer-long battle – to the construction of a huge resort meant to be built in the protected area.

 

Il naturalista portoricano Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera
Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera contributed to the creation of a protected area for leatherback sea turtles © Goldman Environmental Prize

Leng Ouch

Ouch dedicates his life to protecting the forests of Cambodia, one of the world’s most dangerous countries for environmental activists. He worked undercover to provide documentary evidence of illegal logging and to denounce corruption between the government and multinationals.

 

Leng Ouch durante la cerimonia di premiazione
Leng Ouch managed to furnish proof of illegal logging in Cambodia © Goldman Environmental Prize

Destiny Watford

The Baltimore 20-year-old led the fight of her local community against the construction plan of Maryland’s largest incinerator, just a kilometre from her high school. According to environmental impact assessment studies, the burner – designed to bring clean energy to the country – would pollute more than the existing coal plants. Destiny thus founded Free Your Voice, a school organisation dedicated to communities’ rights and social justice, organising petitions and spreading awareness on the risks linked to the new plant.

 

Destiny Watford, co-fondatrice dell'organizzazione studentesca Free Your Voice
The US 20-year-old girl opposed to the construction project of a huge incinerator © Goldman Environmental Prize

Zuzana Čaputová

Slowak lawyer Zuzana Caputova successfully led a campaign to close a dam of toxic waste poisoning and polluting lands, water and air in her community, which bases part of its economy on viticulture. She created a precedent for public participation in post-Communist Slovakia.

 

L’avvocatessa Zuzana Čaputová
The Slowak lawyer managed to close a tozic waste dam in Pezinok © Goldman Environmental Prize

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