California activist among 6 to win Goldman Environmental Prize
SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony drew a big crowd to San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House to honor the six prizewinners representing six continents. This year, however, many people remembered the legacy of two past prizewinners who lost their lives this year.
"Berta Caceras, who was assasinated because of her work," said Karolo Aparicio of Oakland.
Since 1989, the prestigious awards, have honored 181 environmental activists from 86 countries. Sometimes their work, though, comes with great risk.
"In January, we mourned the second killing of a Prize winner in less than a year. Isidro Baldanegro Lopez, an indigenous leader from Mexico," said John Goldman, of the Goldman Environmental Foundation.
One activist who goes by mark! Lopez, the 2017 North American winner from Los Angeles, knows the dangers.
"A lot of folks around the world who stand up and fight back, face violence, and in the U.S. as well," said Lopez.
The 32-year-old fought against an Exide battery recycling plant in East L.A., that was putting lead dust into the neighborhood.
"We defeated Exide on our blocks, block by block building a movement," said Lopez.
He pushed for soil testing and eventually governor jerry brown approved more than $176 million dollars for cleanup of homes.
"the struggle you start today is a struggle your babies don't have to fight tomorrow."
A chance to shine a bright spotlight on those who often work without expecting fame or fortune.
Prize winner Uros Macerl, 48, is an organic farmer from Slovenia who fought and won a court battle against a cement plant that was burning hazardous waste and polluting the farmland.
"Even if you are a just a simple shepherd, you can win," he told the crowd, speaking in his native Slovenian.
Rodrigo Tot, from Guatemala helped his indigenous people fight a nickel mining company, working to organize and claim titles to their land.
From Africa, a park ranger in the democratic republic of congo was honored, 41, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo put his life on the line and survived arrest and beatings to save endangered gorillas and natural resources at a national park.
In Australia, octagenerian, Wendy Bowman, stopped a mining company that was polluting water resources of local farmers.
In India Prafulla Samantara, 65, is a son of farmers who became the first citizen to win a battle in India's Supreme Court against a major mining company. He helped an indigenous tribe win the rights to control their own tribal lands.
"This award gives them hope that their voices will not go unheard," Samantara said.
The six prize winners were an inspiration for those who came to the event.
"It helps them to be able to continue to be advocates for their movement. It supports them. It gives them some credibiilty," said Rufaro Kangai and attendee who works for the Global Fund for Women.
The winners travel to Washington D.C. for a second ceremony on Wednesday April 26th.