Three Native Americans from the Gwich"in tribe of northern Yukon were honored with this year’s North American Goldman Environmental Prize for their efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from the effects of oil drilling. The Gwich"in consider the land and wildlife intrinsic to their culture.
Winner Sarah James hopes the prize’s publicity will draw attention to the issue of safeguarding ANWR. "We need to educate the world to make it a better place to live," she says. "Once people hear our story, they will support us."
Other Goldman winners include Fatima Jibrell, a Somali woman fighting widespread logging in the midst of political turmoil and severe drought; Pisit Charnsnoh, an ecologist working to protect Thailand’s coastal ecosystems; Poland’s Jadwiga Lopata, an ecotourism entrepreneur; Alexis Massol-Gonzãlez, a leader in the creation of Puerto Rico’s first community-managed forest reserve; and Jean la Rose, an indigenous Guyanese woman who filed her people’s first lawsuit to protect the rainforest from mining.
Every year, the Goldman Environmental Foundation awards the world’s most prestigious grassroots-focused accolade to one outstanding activist from Africa, Asia, Europe, Island Nations, North America and South/Central America. The award stipend has risen from $60,000 in 1990 to $125,000 today.
The Goldman winners join Jane Lubchenco, recipient of this year’s environmental Heinz Award, in receiving some long overdue recognition. Teresa Heinz created the awards in 1993 to celebrate the work and interests of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz (R-PA).
Lubchenco, a professor of marine biology at Oregon State University, is being recognized for her research and her outspoken environmental advocacy. Lubchenco studies biogeography, biodiversity, global change, rocky intertidal communities, and plant-herbivore interactions. She has also worked to create more federal marine reserves. "Most marine systems are in a bad state," she says.