People Prized

April 22, 2013

This post was authored by Ramtin Arablouei, HEFN's Program Manager,

The last time we saw Kim Wasserman Nieto was in Chicago at HEFN’s 2012 annual meeting.  Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), described her journey from new mother concerned about her infant son’s asthma into a life of community organizing for cleaner air, climate justice, and neighborhood open space.

Funders in the HEFN audience were impressed not only by LVEJO’s victories but also by Wasserman’s stories about how LVEJO negotiated a memorandum of understanding to improve relationships with its national partners.

This month we applauded Kim Wasserman for being one of 6 grassroots leaders to win a 2013 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s biggest award for grassroots environmental heroes.  Several HEFN members and staff attended Goldman Prize events in Washington, DC, including Millie Buchanan of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, a long-time funder of LVEJO.

Along with Wasserman, other 2013 Goldman winners also were recognized for groundbreaking work tackling interconnected problems of environmental degradation, community health concerns, and social injustice.

South African writer and environmental campaigner Jonathan Deal won the African prize for organizing to protect the Karoo -- its lands, water and people -- from gas development through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Civil engineer Azzam Alwash won the Asia prize for restoration of conflict-devastated Iraqi marshes Alwash describes as the “life source for indigenous communities.”

Italian elementary school teacher Rossano Ercolini won the Europe prize for catalyzing a national movement against incineration and towards Zero Waste.

Aleta Baun, an indigenous Mollo, won the Islands and Island Nations prize for leading hundreds of West Timor villagers in successfully blocking marble mining of mountains from which the villagers derived food, medicine, dye and spiritual connection.

Colombian waste picker Nohra Padilla won the South & Central America prize for organizing to promote informal recyclers’ rights, safety, and recognition as valued parts of a national sustainable waste management system. In these days when so much in the news is grim, the Goldman Prize’s videos about this year’s winners are an especially inspiring reminder of everyday heroes working around the world for a healthier, fairer future.

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