Puerto Rican Awarded Goldman Environmental Prize
SAN JUAN – The Goldman Environmental Foundation announced Monday the six recipients of the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists. Awarded annually to environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions, the prize recognizes “fearless grassroots activists for significant achievements” in protecting the environment and their communities.
The winners will be awarded the prize at an invitation-only ceremony Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Opera House (this event will be live streamed online at www.goldmanprize.org/ceremony). A ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. will follow on Wednesday, April 20, at 7:30 p.m.
This year’s winners are:
LUIS JORGE RIVERA HERRERA, Puerto Rico
Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera helped lead a successful campaign to establish a nature reserve in Puerto Rico’s Northeast Ecological Corridor—an important nesting ground for the endangered leatherback sea turtle—and protect the island’s natural heritage from harmful development.
The environmental planner fought to protect 3,000 acres of coastal land that has long lured developers to the U.S. territory. He campaigned for more than a decade until the governor designated the land a protected nature reserve in 2012. The 13-mile-long area has more than 861 types of flora and fauna, including 50 rare, endemic or threatened species.
Rivera told The Associated Press that Puerto Rico more than ever needs to protect natural resources given its economic crisis and a growing push to develop pristine areas for more revenue.
“Although the award is given to an individual, the reality is the corridor’s protection is due to the hard work of many people, particularly members of the Pro Northeast Ecological Corridor Coalition,” Rivera Herrera said in a written statement.
He added “it is a source of great satisfaction for me as a proud representative of the Pro Northeast Ecological Corridor Coalition, but above all, as a Puerto Rican, having received this distinction as don Alexis Masol (2002) and Rosa Hilda Ramos (2008) did in the past.”
The “collective work with which I have been associated and deserving of this award is due largely to the attention, trust and patience of members of the Puerto Rican press over the past years, as part of their duty to inform, educate and encourage critical thinking among all residents of our island.”
EDWARD LOURE, Tanzania
Edward Loure led a grassroots organization that pioneered an approach that gives land titles to indigenous communities—instead of individuals—in northern Tanzania, ensuring the environmental stewardship of more than 200,000 acres of land for future generations.
LENG OUCH, Cambodia
In one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental activists, Leng Ouch went undercover to document illegal logging in Cambodia and exposed the corruption robbing rural communities of their land, causing the government to cancel large land concessions.
ZUZANA CAPUTOVA, Slovakia
A public interest lawyer and mother of two, Zuzana Caputova spearheaded a successful campaign that shut down a toxic waste dump that was poisoning the land, air and water in her community, setting a precedent for public participation in post-communist Slovakia.
DESTINY WATFORD, United States
In a community whose environmental rights had long been sidelined to make room for heavy industry, Destiny Watford inspired residents of a Baltimore neighborhood to defeat plans to build the nation’s largest incinerator less than a mile away from her high school.
MÁXIMA ACUÑA, Peru
A subsistence farmer in Peru’s northern highlands, Máxima Acuña stood up for her right to peacefully live off her own land, a property sought by Newmont and Buenaventura Mining to develop the Conga gold and copper mine.
The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1989 by late San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals. For additional information about the Prize and previous winners visit www.goldmanprize.org.