Applauding the Goldman Prize Winners

I was fortunate to be invited to attend the Washington DC award ceremony for this year’s Goldman Prize recipients at the Reagan Building on April 17, 2013.  The Goldman Environmental Prize is described as “the world’s largest prize honoring grassroots environmentalists,” and last night’s event did not fail to impress us all with its wonderful honorees and their lifetime of dedication to environmental causes.  The six honorees were:

  • Assam Alwash from Iraq who helped restore the Mesopotamian marshlands in southern Iraq, known by many as the birthplace of civilization.  Situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, these wetlands were once known as the Garden of Eden, but were destroyed by Saddam Hussein in the 1990s;
  • Mama Aleta Baun from West Timor in Indonesia for halting deforestation and mining on Mutis Mountain, an area key to the survival of the indigenous Mollo people;
  • Jonathan Deal from South Africa for stopping fracking in the Karoo, a beautiful, dry, desert-like rural area boasting the richest diversity of succulents on earth and home to many unique species of mammals;
  • Rossano Ercolini from Italy, an elementary school teacher who led a grassroots campaign for Zero Waste and halting plans for a waste-to-energy incinerator;
  • Nohra Padilla from Colombia who established a recycling initiative in Bogota which has now spread to many other cities and has catalyzed new waste management practices; and,
  • Kimberly Wasserman from Chicago, Illinois whose grassroots organizing closed down two dirty coal-burning power plants in 2012.

I was joined at this wonderful event by Craig Williams, a 2006 Goldman Prize recipient, who was honored for his many years of effort to prevent the construction of an incinerator in Blue Grass, Kentucky for destruction of a nerve agent chemical weapons stockpile; a neutralization facility is currently under construction there, and will begin elimination of the stockpile, one of the last two of nine chemical weapons stockpiles in the US, in a few years.  We have worked with Craig for almost twenty years now to promote the safe and sound abolition of chemical weapons, a whole class of weapons of mass destruction, worldwide.

The Goldman Environmental Prize has been awarded annually for 24 years since 1990 to six well deserving “heroes” from the world’s six inhabited continental regions.  We applaud them all, and hope to follow their wonderful examples of personal dedication and persistence, environmental leadership, and political bravery.  More information can be found at www.goldmanprize.org.

Jonathan Deal, Azzam Alwash, Rossano Ercolini, Mama Aleta Baun, Kimberly Wasserman, and Nohra Padilla