2021 “Green Nobel Prize” announced, 6 ordinary people won

There are a group of people in the real world. They don't have cloaks, battle armors, shields, or super powers, but they are also called "heroes."

The annual Goldman Environmental Prize (Goldman Environmental Prize) rewards such a group of "grassroots heroes" in the environmental protection industry.

This award was founded by the late philanthropist Richard Goldman and his wife since 1990. The per capita prize money is as high as 150,000 US dollars. It is also the world's most lucrative environmental award.

Therefore, the Goldman Environment Prize has always been called the "Green Nobel Prize."

This year, the award also commended 6 private individuals from different countries around the world .

These ordinary people fought for the sake of environmental protection, and in the face of huge crises and risks, they made extraordinary deeds.

He saved 1540 endangered pangolins

Thai Van Nguyen, 39 years old, Vietnamese.

When he was a child, he witnessed a pangolin mother and baby being caught by neighbors in the village and brutally killed them.

At that time, he made up his mind to protect pangolins as his life's mission.

Because of its medical value, pangolin has become the most poached and smuggled mammal in the world.

In the past 10 years, more than 1 million pangolins have been poached globally, and three-quarters of pangolins in Asia are critically endangered.

So in 2004, Nguyen established the Save Vietnam Wildlife Organization (SVW), and since then began the road to save endangered animals.

He started by compiling a manual for pangolin breeding, published research results in authoritative journals, participated in international seminars, and formulated Vietnam's first agreement to introduce and track pangolins.

At the same time, he opened the first pangolin education center in Vietnam to popularize wildlife law and protection courses to the public, and established the first Asian pangolin rehabilitation center in Vietnam to treat and research pangolin diseases.

He even sneaked into the battlefront of poachers to learn how they tracked and captured pangolins; sneaked into restaurants, hospitals, and medical schools to see how they used pangolins.

In 2018, Nguyen promoted the local government and NGOs to establish Vietnam's first anti-poaching unit, which also gave him a stronger force to protect pangolins.

From 2014 to 2018, they destroyed 775 illegal camps, 9701 wild animal traps, confiscated 78 guns, arrested 558 poachers in 95,000 hectares of primeval forest, rescued a total of 1,540 pangolins, and illegally poached them. Activities have been reduced by 80%.

But when he won the prize, he said easily:

Working for pangolins makes me full of enthusiasm. Protecting and saving wild animals is a joy.

She guarded the last free river in Europe

Maida Bilal, 39 years old, from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The western part of the Balkan Peninsula, where Bosnia and Herzegovina is located, is known as the "blue heart of Europe", but in recent years, it has been swept by a wave of "dam building."

There are 436 small hydropower projects that have been built or are under construction here. The construction of dams has blocked wild rivers, dried river beds, and severely damaged animal habitats and ecosystems.

In July 2017, heavy machinery began to enter the Kruszcica River here, but the local villagers were completely unaware that this river was the lifeline and main water source of two nearby towns.

Bilal was originally just a part-time employee of the local financial management department, but seeing this situation, she decided to work hard to protect the river.

To build a dam on the river, a small wooden bridge must be crossed, so Bilal temporarily called more than 300 villagers to stand on the bridge to block the bridge.

Almost all of these 300 villagers are women. This is to avoid violence as much as possible, after all, their purpose is to make workers impassable.

When the workers thought it was just a short-lived protest, they guarded the bridge in shifts 24 hours a day on the second and third day, regardless of the extreme cold or heat.

This guard is 503 days.

In the early morning of August 24, 2017, a special police force attacked the women sitting there and blasted them away with a violent attack. Bilal was beaten into a coma on the spot.

But she was not deterred, and even established the Eko Bistro Civic Association, demanding to keep this "free river".

Later, the video of the violent attack attracted international attention and was widely disseminated on the Internet. Under the persistent guardianship of the Citizens Association, in 2018, the local court finally began to cancel the dam building permit.

However, due to lack of confidence in the local judicial system, these "bridgekeepers" did not leave completely until the end of the year.

Later, this bridge was also called "Kruszka Bridge of Brave Women".

She protected 2 million acres of Amazon rainforest

Liz Chicaje Churay, 38 years old, from Peru.

In the remote northeastern corner of Peru, there are 2 million acres of Amazon rainforest, where there are 3000 species of plants, 500 species of birds, 550 species of fish, and many rare animals, as well as 29 indigenous communities.

But for the past 20 years, illegal logging and mining have been harassing this land and the indigenous people.

As the leader of the indigenous Bora community in Loreto, Peru, Chicaje has tried her best to protect the land where she grew up. She has been a community activist since she was 16 years old.

But it is difficult to resist the continuous invasion by her own strength, so she thought of a way-to establish a national park here.

Chicaje soon collaborated with government officials, environmentalists, and scientists to advocate for the planning of parks, organized educational activities throughout Peru, and took a boat to the Aboriginal sites with parents and children to discuss with the aboriginals. This is an extremely test of Chicaje's diplomatic ability.

After long-term efforts, Chicaje finally persuaded 23 of the 29 local indigenous communities to support the construction of the park, and then she went to the government department to request a meeting with various leaders.

But it's not just about building a park. Chicaje also hopes that the park can protect the native environment of thousands of wild animals here, maintain the tropical rainforest river system and peatland here, and allow the aboriginal people to live normally…

In January 2018, with the continuous promotion of Chicaje, the Yaguas National Park finally began to be established here.

This is a crucial step in protecting Peru’s rich ecosystem.

It is reported that 1.5 million carbon resources can be stored here in the next 20 years.

She stopped a hugely expensive plastic manufacturing plant

Sharon Lavigne, 69 years old, American.

She has lived in the Parish of St. James, Louisiana, USA, which is known as the "Cancer Town".

Because there are a large number of chemical plants all over the area, the incidence of cancer is 50 times the average in the United States. The "yellow rain" containing toxic chemicals often pours down at night.

Anytime you go to any family, they can tell you who has died of illness and who has cancer now .

In November 2018, the St. James Parish Council approved the construction of a large-scale plastic manufacturing plant at a cost of US$125,000. This plant will produce hundreds of tons of toxic and polluting gases that affect human breathing.

Lavigne was originally a special education teacher, but later decided to work full-time to maintain the community environment.

In October 2018, she founded a grassroots environmental protection organization called RISE St. James, and mobilized the grassroots from house to house to popularize the large scale and density of the factory and the negative impact of the new plastic factory.

As the event heated up, Lavigne and members of the Parliament requested to meet one by one, hoping that the government could issue a statewide ban on new industrial construction, but was rejected, and she subsequently set off a number of protests with the masses.

In the end, less than a year after obtaining the license for the new plastic factory, the construction of the plastic factory was officially cancelled in September 2019.

Lavigne protected her hometown with one grassroots movement after another. She said that she always thinks of her childhood days:

When I was a little girl, we lived on this land, where there was clean air, clean water, and we did not get sick.

She pushed for a plastic ban

Gloria Majiga-Kamoto, 30 years old, from Malawi.

With the acceleration of urbanization and population growth in Malawi, plastic pollution is particularly rampant here.

Malawi produces 75,000 tons of plastic each year, 80% of which are single-use plastics. A study found that 40% of the local slaughtered livestock have plastic in their intestines.

In 2015, the Malawi government decided to implement a ban: banning the production, distribution, and import of thin plastics, that is, disposable plastics used daily.

However, in 2016, before the ban was implemented, the Malawi Plastic Manufacturing Association appealed the policy, arguing that the ban caused job loss and harmed the national economy.

The court subsequently ordered a suspension of the injunction.

Majiga-Kamoto was an official of the Environmental Policy and Advocacy Center. Seeing that plastic pollution has increased, she decided to implement a ban on thin plastics in her spare time without any source of salary or funding.

She formed an alliance to invite media reporters to spread the vicious incidents caused by local plastics, refute the wrong dichotomy between jobs and the environment, and commend stores that stopped using thin plastic.

In June 2018, they also began to hold demonstrations and continuously file petitions to the court. On July 31, 2019, the court finally ruled that they supported the implementation of the ban. Violators will be subject to economic penalties or even imprisonment. Three companies that illegally produce thin plastic The company was closed.

She killed 13 coal-fired power plants in the cradle

Kimiko Hirata, 50 years old, Japanese.

In 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake followed by a tsunami hit Japan, and Japan fell into an energy crisis.

So Japan also started bidding for the establishment of coal power plants nationwide. Japanese companies took the opportunity to expand Japanese coal power plants and planned to build 50 coal power plants by 2015, but coal is one of the most polluting energy sources.

Thus, Kimiko Hirata began a multi-pronged national "anti-coal operation."

Prior to this, Kimiko Hirata had resigned from the publishing house and became a founding member of a non-governmental organization to stop climate change. He also decided to devote his life to climate issues.

For this anti-factory operation, she developed a special website to track the locations of those coal power plants, and called scientists, professors, lawyers, journalists, and local community leaders in each place to hold hearings and Take turns to speak to raise everyone's awareness of the hazards of coal and electricity, and call on everyone to protect the living environment.

She also cooperated with Greenpeace to publish a research report and found that Japan’s coal power plant plan would cause more than 1,000 premature deaths in Japan each year; she also received support from the Oxford University Sustainable Finance Project and the Carbon Tracking Agency to build coal in Japan. The power plant conducts an investment risk analysis.

In order to stop the plan as soon as possible, she established relationships with international anti-coal activists, including non-governmental organizations in the United States, Europe, and Asia, to put pressure on Japan on the international stage.

In the end, her advocacy prevented Japan and commercial banks from developing and funding new coal projects.

In 2019, 13 coal power plants planned to be built were successfully killed in the cradle. These coal power plants originally emitted 42 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

Moreover, she is also the first female winner from Japan.

At last

Their stories show what every ordinary person does for environmental protection.

In the face of existential crises, environmental repression, dangerous conditions, and uncertain risks, they have made many struggles and sacrifices.

Today, the Goldman Environment Prize is in its 32nd year. Although only a handful of people are selected each year, it is not the winners themselves that are more important.

It is impossible to solve the problem of environmental protection by relying on the individual's own strength. What's more important is the team of ordinary residents, philanthropists, scientists, and leaders behind them. This is their strong pillar.

The environmental protection stories from all over the world brought by these people also continue to affect more people in the process.

Of course, everyone does not have to "break the blood" for environmental protection, we can also do what we can for environmental protection.

Those tree-planters who have worked in the desert and Gobi for decades, and those scholars who have been silently studying in forests, fields and rivers all their lives… They are also worthy of admiration.

▲ Picture from: One Earth

​Environmental protection and development often have conflicts that are difficult to reconcile. Many crises cannot be "one size fits all", and many remedies cannot be achieved in a day.

But sustainable action is still indispensable, as Richard Goldman, the co-founder of the award, said:

We want to make the world a little better than when we discovered it.

Note: The pictures not specified in the text are all from the "Goldman Environmental Award"
Content source: www.goldmanprize.org

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