goldmanprize09_group.jpgSix campaigners who have fought governments and industry to protect the planet won prestigious Goldman Environmental Prizes on Sunday. The awards, often referred to as the Nobel Prizes of the environmental world, went to people in six continents who took on everything from toxic chemical dumps in the former Soviet Union to ship-breaking in Asia, reports Reuters.

The 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize recipients include Maria Gunnoe, a born-and-bred West Virginian who faced death threats for her outspoken activism to stop the coal industry’s plunder of Appalachia via mountain top removal and valley fills.

Another recipient, Marc Ona, a wheelchair-bound civil society leader from the West African country of Gabon, faced arrest, imprisonment and public character assaults for his unyielding campaign to stop a destructive mining concession in a protected national park.

Other recipients include a Russian scientist connecting NGOs across Eastern Europe and the Caucasus to identify and safely remove toxic chemical stockpiles; two Saramaka leaders, members of a Maroon community in Suriname founded by freed African slaves in the 1700s, whose legal struggle to protect their tribal land rights led to a binding decision for all indigenous and tribal peoples in the Americas; Bangladesh’s leading environmental attorney, whose legal advocacy led to tighter regulations on the environmentally-devastating and exploitative ship breaking industry; and an Indonesian woman developing community-based waste management systems to stem her island nation’s overwhelming waste infrastructure problems.

The Goldman Environmental Prize, now in its 20th year, is awarded annually to grassroots environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions and is the largest award of its kind with an individual cash prize of $150,000.

(Read more in this Reuters Feature story)

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