Goldman Environmental Prize Winners Open Up in Exclusive Interviews


Photo via Goldman Environmental Prize

Seven winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize will be honored tonight in Washington, D.C., for their grassroots activism across five continents. TreeHugger writer Jaymi Heimbuch sat down with some of the winners earlier this week to hear their reactions to their win, their passion for their cause, and what keeps them inspired in these exclusive videos.

In Bangladesh, lawyer Rizwana Hasan has dedicated herself to fighting the environmentally harsh ship-breaking industry, in which untrained laborers take apart decommissioned ships to save the metal for scrap. Still, she thought her win was a dream:

"People don't have to be scared of the law," Hazan says. "The law can be used not only for private gains. The law can be used for public puzzles. That's my passion."

Russian winner Olga Speranskaya, Director of the Chemical Safety Program at the Eco-Accord Center for Environment and Sustainable Development, works with NGOs throughout Europe to prevent the use and stockpiling of toxic chemicals. "It becomes very personal to you. You can't just say, okay, I am done. This project is over now. You just can't do that—there are so many requests, so many demands coming from the grassroots organizations. It's inside you already, it's your life. You can't stop doing that."

West Virginian Maria Gunnoe has spent years fighting the coal-mining industry in her hometown of Bob White; her property has been flooded seven times since the mountaintop-remove mine began in 2000. One especially bad flood in 2003 sent "a wall of water 20 foot deep and 60 foot wide down on me and my kids," she says. "It was one of the most fearful times of my life I hit my knees and prayed as loud as I could." But it only made her more unafraid to take on the industry:

And as for simply moving off the land that had been in her family for more than 50 years? Gunnoe says she never considered it. "You have to do something about it. You can't sit down and allow any industry to ruin what, basically, was intended to be a homeplace for many generations—not just mine, not just my kids."

Tags: Bangladesh | Goldman Environmental Prize | Russia