AIT student wins Goldman Environmental Prize
AIT doctoral candidate Yu Xiaogang has been presented with one of the world’s most prestigious awards for environmentalism. On 24 April, he and five others received the Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
The prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of US$125,000, the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize views “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.
Mr. Yu spent years creating groundbreaking watershed management programs while researching and documenting the socioeconomic impact of dams on Chinese communities. His reports are considered a primary reason that the central government paid additional restitution to villagers displaced by existing dams and now considers social impact assessments for major dam developments.
He holds his master’s degree from AIT and was employed by the university from 1993 to 1994 as a research associate in Gender and Development Studies. He is currently enrolled as a doctoral candidate in the same field of the School of Environment, Resources and Development.
A Vietnam veteran fighting Pentagon plans to incinerate chemical weapons stockpiles, a man who tipped the United Nations to illegal logging in war-torn Liberia and the person behind the creation of the world’s largest area of protected tropical rainforest are among the other winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize.
“These six winners are among the most important people you have not heard of before,” said Goldman Prize founder Richard N. Goldman. “All of them have fought, often alone and at great personal risk, to protect the environment in their home countries. Their incredible achievements are an inspiration to all of us.”
The prize, now in its 17th year, is awarded annually to six grassroots environmental heroes and is the largest award of its kind in the world.
This year’s other winners are:
Craig E. Williams, 58, Berea, Kentucky, United States:
Williams convinced the Pentagon to stop plans to incinerate old chemical weapons stockpiled around the United States and has built a nationwide grassroots coalition to lobby for safe disposal solutions. Williams co-founded the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, which won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its international campaign to ban landmines.
Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor, 36, Monrovia, Liberia:
Siakor exposed evidence that former Liberia President Charles Taylor used profits of unchecked, rampant logging to pay the costs of a brutal 14-year war. Such evidence – collected at great personal risk to Siakor – led the United Nations Security Council to ban the export of Liberian timber, part of wider trade sanctions that remain in place today.
South & Central America
Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva, 35, Altamira, Brazil:
Feitosa led efforts to create the world’s largest area of protected tropical forest regions in a remote, lawless region in northern Brazil threatened by illegal logging. Despite death threats, Feitosa worked with local organizations to create protected lands for local residents and exposed illegal logging activities to the Brazilian government.
Olya Melen, 26, Lviv, Ukraine:
Melen, a lawyer, used legal channels to temporarily halt construction of a massive canal that would have cut through the heart of the Danube Delta, one of the world’s most valuable wetlands. For her efforts, she was denounced by the notoriously corrupt and lawless pre-Orange Revolution government.
Islands & Island Nations
Anne Kajir, 32, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea:
Kajir uncovered evidence of widespread corruption and complicity in the Papua New Guinea government, which allowed rampant, illegal logging that is destroying the largest remaining intact block of tropical forest in the Asia Pacific region. In 1997, her first year practicing law, Kajir successfully defended a precedent-setting appeal in the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea that forced the logging interests to pay damages to indigenous land owners.
About the Goldman Environmental Prize
The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1990 by San Francisco civic leader and philanthropist Richard N. Goldman and his late wife, Rhoda H. Goldman. It has been awarded to 113 people from 67 countries.
Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals.
Previous prize winners have been at the center of some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, including seeking justice for victims of environmental disasters at Love Canal and Bhopal, India; leading the fight for dolphin-safe tuna; fighting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and exposing Monsanto’s role in introducing rBGH milk-stimulating hormone in the dairy industry.
Since receiving a Goldman Prize, eight winners have been appointed or elected to national office in their countries, including several who became ministers of the environment. The 1991 prize winner for Africa, Wangari Maathai, won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
Mr. Yu is also featured in the current Grist Magazine. Read more ...