Friday, April 22, 2016

Start Small: Grassroots Environmentalism

The 2016 recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Photo courtesy of the Goldman Foundation

by Jen Gennari

Earth Day is Friday, April 22 this year, but the best observance occurred earlier, on April 18, when the Goldman Foundation recognized its 2016 prize recipients. For the last 27 years, the Goldman Foundation honors six individuals who have triumphed against greed to save their local environment, one from each continent. These awards are often called the Nobel Prize of the environmental world.

This year the winners were Destiny Watford, a Baltimore teenager who organized and stopped a toxic incinerator plant from being built in her neighborhood; Zuzana Caputova, a lawyer from Slovakia, who spearheaded a successful campaign that shut down a toxic waste dump; Leng Ouch, who went undercover to document illegal logging in Cambodia; Máxima Acuña, a Peruvian farmer who fought off a land-grab by a mining company; Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera who helped establish a nature reserve in Puerto Rico’s Northeast Ecological Corridor; and Edward Loure who pioneered an approach that gives land titles to indigenous communities in northern Tanzania.

The Goldman Foundation has interesting ties to the floating home community. You may have seen the foundation's Executive Director David Gordon swinging a tennis racket or walking up and down Liberty Dock. The beautiful short documentaries shown of each award winner, with narration by Robert Redford, are made by Mill Valley Film Group, which has a studio on East Pier. And this year’s Emcee was broadcast journalist Dana King, a former dock resident.

On this Earth Day, don't be overwhelmed by trying to save the planet or awed by these outstanding activists. The key thing to remember is that the award honors grassroots organizing. Start small. Start local. Together, we can make a difference here, too, in our little pond.