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2010 Goldman Environmental Prize Winners | The Nation

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2010 Goldman Environmental Prize Winners

At a ceremony in San Francisco on April 19, six leaders in international environmental activism received the 2010 Goldman Prize for their significant, local efforts to protect and sustain the natural environment, often at personal risk. Below we feature videos about three recipients of this year's prize.

Thuli Makama

In the 1960s the Reilly family began building game parks throughout Swaziland. As the Reilly parks expanded, indigenous locals were forced off the land they have depended on for food and survival for centuries. Under the pretext of Swaziland's game laws, which allow game rangers to shoot poachers, the parks's game rangers have killed about 100 locals, many of whom were unarmed poachers. Public interest attorney Thuli Makama has taken the organization which administers these game laws to court, and is publicly calling for investigations into these killings. After a three-year legal battle, Makama also won a spot for environmental NGOs on Swaziland's Environment Authority board, the highest environmental decision-making body in the country. This position will allow Makama to help balance the interests of the local communities with those of the parks, which Makama calls "the lasting solution."

Humberto Ríos Labrada

Humberto Ríos Labrada was a graduate student in Cuba when the Soviet Bloc dissolved in 1991. Cuba lost a major trading partner and, as a result, lost its source of fertilizer, pesticides and fuel. Massive food shortages ensued and Cuba's economy collapsed. When Humberto was forced out of his lab and into the fields, he did not turn to practicing unnatural and pesticide-dependent farming. Instead, as a way to promote crop and seed diversity, he cooperated with farmers and found them the most diverse seeds from across Cuba. Now, by working with farmers, he has started what's recognized as the world's largest organic farming experiment. Today, Cuba's food production has increased dramatically. "My dream is that one day all scientific research institutions will make seed diversity accessible and recognize rural farmers' knowledge," he says. "And that Cuba will definitely become an organic, agricultural island."

Lynn Henning

In the late 1990s, farming models known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) began committing a series of egregious environmental violations in the idyllic family farming community of Lenawee County, Michigan. With up to a million heads of livestock under their cover--which sometimes create enough excrement to compete with 69,000 people--CAFOs created untreated waste that radically altered the community's groundwater, rivers and lagoons, and began affecting the well-being of Lenawee's residents. Toxic fumes of methane, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia led to respiratory problems for the residents, while the untreated waste of blood, bacteria and feces was sprayed as fertilizer only to seep into the groundwater. Working as a Sierra Club Water Sentinel, Lynn traveled 150 miles a week to retrieve water samples, meter readings and pictures of violations. The data was essential to the hundreds of citations issued by the state's Department of Environmental Quality. In 2008, for the first time ever, a CAFO was denied a permit in Michigan.

This year's other recipients include: Tuy Sereivathana from Cambodia, who empowered local farmers to use low-cost, "home" remedies to keep elephants from destroying their crops, an initiative that has helped to forestall the disappearance of the already endangered Asian elephant population; from Poland, Malgorzata Gorska, whose activism and official complaint to the European Parliament won legal protection for one of Poland's last wilderness areas, the Rospuda Valley, which was threatened by a proposed highway project; and Randall Arauz, who convinced the Costa Rican government to ban shark finning, making the small Central American country a leader international shark protection.

Each year, the Goldman Environmental Prize honors one grassroots environmental activist from each of the six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Island Nations, North America and South and Central America.

Philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman created the prize in 1990 to give international recognition and financial support to the winners' projects and to provide an inspiration for other environmental advocates.

--Morgan Ashenfelter and Clarissa Léon

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