Kin to the Earth: Goldman Prize Winners

Goldman Environmental Prize recipients focus on protecting endangered ecosystems and species, combating destructive development projects, promoting sustainability, influencing environmental policies, and striving for environmental justice. Prize recipients are ordinary citizens who choose to take great personal risks to safeguard the environment and their communities.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Goldman Environmental Prize, awarded annually to celebrate grassroots environmental activists from around the globe. Each year, grassroots environmental activists from each of the six inhabited regions of the planet are selected and honored for their significant and sustained efforts to protect the environment.

The 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize winners at the San Francisco award ceremony. From left to right: Belen Curamil Canio, representing her father Alberto Curamil (South and Central America), who remains imprisoned; Jacqueline Evans (Island Nations); Alfred Brownwell (Africa); Linda Garcia (North America); Bayarjargal Agvaantseren (Asia); Ana Colovic Lesoska (Europe).

The 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize winners were honored on April 29. The  six 2019 award recipients are as follows:

Alfred Brownell—Liberia, Africa

Alfred Brownell is an environmental attorney in Liberia. Under the threat of violence and intimidation, he successfully stopped palm oil plantation developers from clearcutting 513,000 acres of primary tropical Upper Guinean rainforest considered as the “Lungs of West Africa.” Brownell is currently living in temporary exile in the United States for his safety.

Bayara Agvaantseren—Mongolia, Asia

Bayara Agvaantseren was instrumental in convincing the Mongolian Government to create and set-aside the 1.8-million acre Tost Tosonbumba Nature Reserve in the South Gobi Desert, and to cancel all 37 government-authorized mining leases within the boundaries of the Reserve, to protect habitat for the snow leopard—a species considered to be “vulnerable,” by the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species.

Ana Colovic Lesoska—North Macedonia, Europe

Ana Colovic Lesoska spearheaded a seven-year-long campaign that successfully cut off international funding for two major hydropower developments within Mavrovo National Park (North Macedonia’s largest National Park) situated near the borders with Albania and Kosvo. The cancellation of the international funding for the hydropower developments meant the protection of the last vestiges of remaining undisturbed habitat for the near-extinct Balkan lynx.

Jacqueline Evans—Cook Islands, Islands and
Island Nations

Jacqueline Evans was instrumental in orchestrating a successful five-year campaign to protect the Cook Islands’ coastal and marine biodiversity. Thanks to Evans and a grassroots campaign, the Cook Islands enacted legislation in 2017 to sustainably manage and conserve over 763,000 square miles of the country’s ocean territory—including the designation of Marine Protected Areas within 50 nautical miles around each of the 15 small islands that comprise the Cook Islands—and protected 125,000 square miles from large-scale fishing and mining operations.

Linda Garcia—United States, North America

Linda Garcia organized local residents near Vancouver, Washington to successfully combat the planned construction of the Tesorso Savage Oil Export facility, which would have been used to move 11 million gallons of oil per day from North Dakota to West Coast refineries for foreign export. Garcia was instrumental in organizing residents in the Fruit Valley neighborhood to prevent the construction of the export oil export terminal and prevent the transport of oil through North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and into Washington through the Columbia River Gorge. If constructed, the route to the terminal was estimated to have five-times the environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Alberto Curamil—Chile, South and Central America 

Alberto Curamil, an indigenous activist of the Mapuche, the largest indigenous group in Chile, successfully organized the people of Araucania to stop the construction of two major hydroelectric projects on the Cautin River in Central Chile. These two projects—which would have diverted hundreds of gallons of water per-day from the river, in a region of Chile where over one-third of the population already lives below the poverty-line—were cancelled by the Chillean Government in 2016. In August 2018, Alberto Curamil was arrested by the Chillean authorities on grounds of his conducting “suspicious activities.” Curamil’s colleagues unanimously believe he was arrested for his activism in stopping the hydroelectric projects. Curamil remains imprisoned. He was represented at the awards ceremony by his daughter Belen Curamil Canio.