April 2016


Imagine living on your own plot of land in the Peruvian highlands of Cajamarca, peacefully raising your children on your home-grown potatoes, and milk and cheese from your family's sheep and cow.  That's what Maxima Acuna and her husband were doing until 2011, when officials from a mining company demanded that Acuna leave her land.  She refused – even after armed thugs returned, destroyed her house and beat her and a daughter unconscious.

 For her continued resistance to this illegal attempt to evict her, Acuna was awarded a 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize.  She was one of six grassroots activists from around the world recognized for their exceptional courage and commitment.  Several, like Acuna, are risking their lives to protect our environment. 

Leng Ouch went undercover in Cambodia to document illegal logging, exposing corruption that is robbing communities of their land. 

Destiny Watford defied her Baltimore neighborhood's "we're a dump" self-concept by rallying the community and defeating plans for the nation's largest incinerator less than a mile from her high school. 

Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera, who as a child watched bulldozers tear up his family farm, helped lead a successful campaign to establish a nature reserve in Puerto Rico's Northeast Ecological Corridor. 

uzana Caputova, a public interest lawyer and mother of two, organized a campaign that shut down a toxic waste dump in Slovakia and established case law wit ramifications throughout Europe. 

Edward Loure led a grassroots organization that pioneered an approach giving land titles to indigenous communities in northern Tanzania, protecting native lands from government seizure.

 What a privilege it was to watch these international champions receive their awards and the appreciation of a packed house at San Francisco City Hall on April 18!  I thank Annette Doornbos for making it possible for me to be there.

 When Acuna rose to be honored, she stood before the microphone at barely four-foot-eight to sing her response.  Never believe that height or education or well-heeled connections are the measure of bravery.   Never forget that your own back yard is worth saving.