Today, Rodrigo Tot and five other brave people from around the world were awarded the most prestigious environmental award in the world, the Goldman Environmental Prize (aka. the 'Green Nobel'). The award recognizes ordinary people like you who do extraordinary things to stand up to corporate power, often risking everything to keep their local communities and ecosystems safe from harm.
In 2016, Peruvian farmer Máxima Acuña won the Goldman Prize for her tireless work stopping extractive giant Newmont Mining from building a gold mine in her backyard. Over 160,000 SumOfUs members have asked Newmont to leave Máxima alone after repeated harassment over the last two years. Together, we raised resources for her support and legal fund. And finally, we all cheered and stood by Máxima as she won the award last year.
Given SumOfUs’ mission is to fight for people over profits, we want to be the first to introduce you this year’s winners. Without further ado, here they are. You can click on their photos to learn more or send them a personal message.
RODRIGO TOT, Guatemala
An Indigenous leader in Guatemala’s Agua Caliente, Rodrigo Tot led his community to a landmark court decision that recognized land titles for the Q’eqchi people and kept several mining companies from restarting a destructive nickel mine in his community.
For years, Canadian and other multinational mining companies have wreaked havoc on the Mayan Q’eqchi’ people -- allegations of murder and rape by the companies have been widely reported. Bravely taking on a Guatemalan legal system mired in corruption, Rodrigo shocked mining companies and environmental activists alike when he actually won.
But the victories have come at an enormous personal cost for Tot. In 2012, two of his sons were on a bus to Guatemala City when they were shot in what appeared to be a staged robbery. One of them died, and the other survived with grave injuries.
The Q’eqchi community’s quest to secure land titles continues -- the government has yet to enforce the court’s ruling, and a Russian company continues to pursue the expansion of the mine. In response, Tot set up a community watch group to keep trespassers at bay.
RODRIGUE MUGARUKA KATEMBO, Democratic Republic of Congo
Rodrigue Katembo put his life on the line to stop a British oil company from drilling for oil in Virunga National Park. As a park ranger, Rodrigue exposed bribery, corruption and violence, and forced UK-based SOCO International to withdraw and preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site for future generations.
An iconic leader of social justice movements in India, Prafulla Samantara led a historic 12-year legal battle against a massive, British-operated open-pit aluminium ore mine. To save India’s breathtaking Niyamgiri Hills and the endangered Bengal tiger that call them home, he walked, biked and travelled for miles to build resistance to this destructive mine among the Indigenous Dongria Kondh until finally winning in India’s Supreme Court in 2016.
Uroš Macerl, an organic farmer from Slovenia, successfully stopped French-owned cement company Lafarge from spewing hazardous industrial waste all over his community. Uroš rallied support and took his fight all the way to the European Comission. Against all odds, Uroš forced the plant to shut down in 2015.
For almost 7 years, 84 year-old Wendy Bowman fought to stop Chinese-owned mining company Yancoal from expanding an open cut coal mine. Bowman took her fight all the way to the New South Wales Court of Appeal, and didn’t give up until she stopped the mine in its tracks.
mark! Lopez took on one of the biggest manufacturers of industrial and lead batteries in the world after it polluted his community in Los Angeles’ Eastside for more than 30 years. After tireless door-knocking and outreach, mark! built so much popular support that the Governor of California was forced to commit $176.6 million to decontaminate homes, one of the largest environmental cleanups in state history.
SumOfUs is a community of people from around the world committed to curbing the growing power of corporations. We want to buy from, work for and invest in companies that respect the environment, treat their workers well and respect democracy. And we’re not afraid to stand up to them when they don’t.
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