Honoring Grassroots Environmental Leaders

By Alison Blackmore

This is the second post in our 2-part series on the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize. Click here to read the first post.

Earlier this week, we featured three of the six 2012 recipients of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize winners. Today, we highlight three more of these inspiring environmental leaders: Edwin Gariguez of the Philippines, Caroline Cannon of  Alaska, and Sofia Gatcia of Argentina.

Winners at the San Francisco 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize Ceremony. (Photo Credit: Goldman Environmental Prize)

In 2009 Intex, a Norwegian mining company, planned to build an open-pit nickel mine on the Philippine island of Mindoro, home to Catholic priest Edwin Gariguez. The project would produce several million tons of toxic waste, contaminating the island’s water resources and destroying the tropical forests. In order to protect the well-being of his community, Gariguez co-founded the Alliance Against Mining, a coalition of thousands of indigenous peoples, farmers, and local and provincial political leaders. Mindoro led communities in numerous protests against the mining project, even in the face of violence and verbal harassment from mining officials and the military. In 2002, Gariguez took his fight to the Norwegian parliament, bringing international attention to the mining project. In 2010, this pressure led to an investigation into the mine’s environmental and social violations by the Philippine government, who consequently revoked Intex’s permit for the mine.

As a one of the 700 Inupiat people of Point Hope, a remote Alaskan village in the Arctic Circle, Caroline Cannon has become a powerful voice against the push to open up Arctic waters to oil and gas drilling. Her village depends on Arctic marine life for its survival, and the rush to drill poses a dangerous threat to these vital resources. With numerous leases for oil companies scheduled for approval in 2007-2012, Cannon has traveled back and forth from Alaska to Washington, D.C. to vocalize her opposition to the drilling operations. In 2009 she served as a co-plaintiff in a suit Point Hope brought against the proposed oil and gas leases, and a federal court stopped all but one of the proposed major leases. Today, Cannon continues to challenge industries and government initiatives who wish to drill at the expense of local communities.

After her newborn daughter died from kidney failure, Sofia Gatcia found that the prevalence of unexplained health problems in her Argentinean community was a direct consequence of agro-toxins sprayed in the surrounding soy fields. In response, Gatcia co-founded the Mothers of Ituzaingo, a group of parents dedicated to stopping the agrochemical use poisoning their community. Operating with few resources, these mothers brought together environmental groups from all over Argentina to warn the public of the dangers of pesticides through press conferences, demonstrations, and printed materials. In 2010, their work led to a government investigation and subsequent Supreme Court ruling banning agrochemical spraying near population areas in Argentina. Garcia continues to work with environment campaigns to push for a nationwide ban on glyphosate, a major agrichemical, in order to safeguard public health.

To read more about the inspiring work of these activists check out the Goldman Environmental Prize website here.

Alison Blackmore is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project. 

To read more about the Goldman Environmental Prize, see: Recognizing the Voices of Unsung Environmental HeroesHonoring the Farmers that Nourish Their Communities and the Planet, and Enlisting Farmers to Conserve Wildlife.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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