The Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony is like the Oscars for environmental activists. Instead of awarding celebrities and movie stars, Goldman honors everyday heroes. The Goldman Prize is the world's largest prize for grassroots environmentalists and attracts thousands of people annually to celebrate at the San Francisco Opera House followed by a reception at City Hall. Last year Al Gore and Robert Redford hosted the event. This year Peter Coyote served as the Master of Ceremonies and legendary Sengalese singer Baaba Maal moved everyone with his music.
The real stars of the evening were the six winners who followed their passion and often put their life on the line to support their cause and enhance the planet. Of the recipients, three were women! Malgorzata Gorska from Poland, Lynn Henning from Michigan, and Thuli Brilliance Makama from Swaziland.
The Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony is a See Jane Do favorite as it showcases everyday people doing extraordinary things for the planet. I had the privilege of attending the ceremony and interviewing several of the winners.
Malgorzata Gorska led at team to stop the controversial highway project, Via Baltica Expressway linking Helsinki to Warsaw through the fragile ecosystem, Rospuda Valley. She petitioned to the EU and won!
Lynn Henning is a family farmer who exposed the polluting practices of livestock factory farms in rural Michigan. Her efforts to require CAFO's (basically animal factories that confine thousands of livestock) to clean up the toxic brew that is contaminating ground water, lakes and streams, has gained the attention of the EPA. Despite personal threats and harassment as a result of her activism, Henning continues to lead the way and make a difference.
I also spoke with Thuli Briliance Makama, Swaziland's only public interest environmental attorney. Her family, including her two daughters, traveled with her to San Francisco. While big game park owners have attracted tourists and protected the wildlife, the voice of the local people have been excluded from the conservation process. Rural people are forced off their land to make way for the private game reserves. Thuli won a landmark case to include environmental NGO representation in the Swaziland Environment Authority.
In addition to the Makama, Henning, and Gorska the other three winners included, Tuy Sereivathana of Cambodia, Humberto Rios Labrada of Cuba, and Randall Arauz of Costa Rica. Following the ceremony in San Francisco the recipients will fly to Washington D.C. for another ceremony and are scheduled to meet with President Obama.
Click here to listen to the stories that inspired these women to go above and beyond and find out how winning $150,000 (no strings attached) and receiving this award will change their life. You can also hear the interviews on KVMR news.
* Photo of The 2010 Goldman Prize recipients and videos/ Credit: Goldman Environmental Prize