Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The Goldman Environmental Prizes are truly inspirational. Now in their 18th year, more than 110 people from around the globe have been recognized for their individual contributions to making the world a better place. The prize ceremony last night in San Francisco included a jam-packed theater of young and old, greens in blue jeans, givers in suits, doers dressed however, and more than 500 school kids who hooted, hollered, and received the attention and direct commendations of each of the six prize winners.

"You are the morning," said one prize winner to the hundreds of students cheering in the balcony. "We are in the evening of our lives and our work," but you are just beginning. It is truly lovely to attend an award ceremony where those on stage thank and commend those in the balcony, for what they have done and what they will do.

Each of the individuals honored is amazing. Whether it be fighting for the rights of indigenous people in the Amazon forests, working to save a river in Mongolia (and seeing one's work pay off - the river actually died and came back), going to jail to stop Shell Oil from ramming a pipeline through your village, or using native knowledge and fancy new mapping tools to protect 2 million acres of boreal forest, these folks have accomplished miracles. And the sense that they are "just ordinary people" (a mantra of the ceremony) is real, even with the beautiful video narrated by Robert Redford, dancers suspended from the ceiling, and 1000s of cheering people - the actual prize winners are inspirational because of what they've done.

After 18 years, the Goldman Prize has recognized a lot of amazing people. Some of them have used their prize money to fund other prizes and continue the motivational work. The network effect of these folks and their work is exciting to think about - check out the website to see who they are, where they work, and how to reach them.

This year's prize winners seemed to embody the "new green" - where business meets environmental awareness. Its not clear whether or not this was deliberate on the part of the jury or nominators. It was clear - at least to this observer - that this confluence pleased Mr. Richard Goldman, paterfamilias of the Foundation and prize jury, and on stage presenter of each award. In his remarks he spoke of the awards themselves only for a moment, directing most of his comments to the failures of the current Presidential administration, the hope inspired by the new American Congress, and the need for market incentives to change corporate behavior.

Many of the prize winners over the years have been recognized for their work against corporate polluters - this year alone, 3 of the winners were honored for taking on mining, petroleum, or logging companies. Two others were directly involved in what President Clinton calls "market organizing," in this case one for redirecting African poachers to sustainable agriculture and one for buying out large fisheries who were devastating the Atlantic salmon population.

Its inspiring to me - what these people do and the degree to which their individual actions directly address markets and global public policy. A hopeful example for us, the kids in the balcony, and philanthropy.

The Goldman Prize website has video footage from past years - and I assume they will soon post this year's. I'm hopeful I can convince them to share said video with fora.tv. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Gayle said...

Hey Lucy,

Missed you in the audience last night.

But seriously, "inspirational" is the word I've been sharing with everyone today about last night's presentation and the award winners, each of who was quite extraordinary. I came away more hopeful for the future, knowing we are of one family, of mother.

You know, with all the recent talk about how subservient foundations are to their corporate funders and the status quo in general, there was a bit more rebelliousness in the night's presentation than I was expecting. Perhaps its just the nature of being an environmentalist, but the list of accomplishments the emcee read off at the beginning were all victories against major corporations.

Okay, so it is not like they gave an award to somebody fighting local homeboy Chervon on environmental justice issues -- that would have really surprised me -- but they did stick it to Shell last night with the award to Ireland's Willie Corduff. Peru's Jolio Cusurichi Palacios calls for action against World Bank types will certainly put him on the State Department's watch list, if he isn't already.

Rather hard to start a revolution from the upper balconies of the Opera House, but they don't call it the War Memorial building for nothing.

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