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2008 Goldman Environmental Prizes

April 15, 2008

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If you've checked out PND today, you know our top story is about the 2008 Goldman Environmental Prizes, which are awarded to grassroots activists from Africa, Europe, Asia, and North, Central, and South America working to improve the environment and living conditions for people in their communities.

Established in 1990 by San Francisco civic leader and philanthropist Richard N. Goldman and his wife, Rhoda, the prize is probably the best known and largest environmental award ($150,000) of its kind in the world.

This year's recipients are Pablo Fajardo Mendoza, 35, and Luis Yanza, 46, who are leading a legal battle against oil giant Chevron to bring environmental justice and recovery to an area of the Ecuadorian Amazon devastated by petroleum pollution; Feliciano dos Santos, 43, who is using traditional music, grassroots outreach, and innovative technology to bring sanitation to the most remote regions of Mozambique; Rosa Hilda Ramos, 63, who is leading her community of Cataño, in Puerto Rico, to permanently protect the Las Chucharillas Marsh, one of the largest wetlands ecosystems in the region; Jesús León Santos, 42, who is leading a land renewal program in the state of Oaxaca that employs ancient indigenous practices to transform depleted soil into arable land; Marina Rikhvanova, 46, who is working to protect Russia's Lake Baikal, one of the world's most important sources of fresh water, from petroleum and nuclear pollution; and Ignace Schops, 43, who has helped raise more than $90 million to establish Belgium's first and only national park.

Interestingly, as Lucy Bernholz pointed out on her blog yesterday, Chevron, has launched a nationwide media campaign to protest its characterization by the Goldman Prize committee as a despoiler of the Amazon. In her post, Lucy quotes at length from a blog post by Phil Matier and Andrew Ross in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle, a portion of which I re-quote here:

Once San Ramon's Chevron got wind of the Goldman Foundation [sic] selections, the oil giant began gearing up for a full-scale media counterattack charging that the charity founded by philanthropist and former San Francisco Protocol Director Richard Goldman had been "sadly misled" in honoring the Ecuadoran pair. Chevron says most of the pollution has happened under Ecuador's own government-run oil company, which took over drilling in 1990.

Chevron enlisted high-priced San Francisco PR crisis manager Sam Singer to push its assertion that the company is the victim of trumped-up charges and greedy lawyers. On Friday, it sent a letter to Goldman accusing Fajardo and his supporters of being "dishonest and duplicitous in their campaign" against Chevron.

On Tuesday, Chevron plans to roll out a full-page ad in the Chronicle -- the start of a nationwide campaign that will also feature ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

I haven't seen the ad, but if it's anything like the ads Chevron has been running in the NY Times and on TV the last year, I expect it'll be a curious mix of wounded sanctimony and corporate Big Brotherism. Stay tuned.

Lucy, a Bay Area resident, had the good fortune to attend the Goldman Prize ceremony last night. You can read her thoughts about the ceremony, which included an impassioned defense of Fajardo and Yanza's selection by Richard Goldman, here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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I actually got to go to the Goldman Prize ceremony also. It was an incredibly moving event. And to be quite honest, I'm more inclined to believe the Goldman panel of judges than Chevron. But anyway, if you're interested, here is a wiki that has video clips of the 2008 Goldman winner speeches: http://greenhome.huddler.com/wiki/2008-goldman-prize

Wow, you really can find anything on YouTube. Thanks for the head's up, Vanessa. Even though most of the acceptance speeches are in a language other than English, the video and audio quality is good and one really gets a sense of being there. It must have been a blast!

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