SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The Goldman Environmental Prize celebrated its 30th year Monday night, with a special tribute from San Francisco, which illuminated City Hall with green lights to honor the anniversary.
The Goldman Prize is often called the "Green Nobel prize." A panel selects six environmental activists every year, each person representing one of the regions of the world.
The 2019 awards ceremony included former US vice president and environmental activist Al Gore; Alexandra Cousteau, who is the granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau; and members of the Goldman family, who gathered on the green carpet inside San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House.
Robert Redford, another longtime supporter of the Goldman Prize, narrated the video shown for each prize winner.
The Goldman Environmental Prize was founded by Richard and Rhoda Goldman. Their daughter, Susie Gelman, remembers how the idea began.
"At breakfast one morning when my dad was reading the newspaper reading about that year's Nobel Prize-winners. And he thought, 'Is there a comparable award to recognize environmental activists?' " said Gelman.
Gelman said when her parents learned there was no prize at the time, they decided to create one.
On Earth Day 1990, they held the first Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony honoring six environmental activists.
"I think my parents would be so pleased and proud if they saw how the Goldman Environmental Prizewinners family has grown," said Gelman.
Richard Goldman, who lived to see the 20th Anniversary year, spoke in 2009.
"Here's to the next 20 years of inspiration," said Goldman, who later passed away shortly after in November 2010.
During its three-decade span, the Goldman Environmental Prize has honored 194 activists from 89 countries, who have used the prize to expand their work.
"This environmental prize is so important, it recognizes the work of people around the world who often go unnoticed," said Alexandra Cousteau, who served as the ceremony's emcee, "or me to be here to celebrate them is a huge honor."
"Much has been accomplished in the past 30 years. Add to that the 2016 Goldman Prize Winner is President of the nation of Slovakia," said Doug Goldman, Richard and Rhoda Goldman's son.
"It's going to help with the work that we're doing by drawing attention to some of the issues and hopefully raising a lot of awareness," said one 2019 prize recipient, Jacqueline Evans who was honored for her work protecting the ocean and marine life surrounding the Cook Islands.
"I am excited and I am also looking forward to seeing how attention will be drawn to the indigenous communities," said Alfred Brownell of Liberia, who risked his life to help indigenous people fight palm oil manufacturers.
Alberto Curamil, the prize winner from the Central and South American region was not able to attend. He is an indigenous Mapuche activist who fought to stop construction of two hydroelectric projects. He is jailed in Chile, so his daughter spoke in his place.
Also honored were Linda Garcia of Vancouver, Washington, who helped end plans for an oil terminal.
Bayarjargal Agvaantsereno of Mongolia was recognized for her work stopping mining operations and preserving snow leopards and their habitat.
Ana Colovic Lesoska was honored for blocking a hydropower project in Northern Macedonia.
Former Vice-President and environmentalist Gore praised the passion of those activists who keep up the fight.
"Remember that the passion for social justice, the passion for environmental justice, the passion for change...is itself a sustainable resource," said Gore.
The prize recipients will go to Washington D.C. next for another ceremony on May 1.