Every year in April there are two events that give us all a chance to pause and appreciate; to dip deeply into gratitude and remember the vigilance and effort it takes to deter the voracious appetites of “capital market forces” from chewing up all we hold dear about our planet.
The first event is the annual Goldman Environmental Prize, set up 26 years ago by Richard and Rhoda Goldman to honor remarkable individuals who have stepped up – often in the face of mortal danger, to rally their communities and challenge the injustices imposed by seemingly insurmountable greed.
Over the years many environmental heroes have been honored for halting forest destruction, stemming “medicinal” harvesting of endangered species, halting rampant chemical dumping and minerals mining projects, and standing in the way of destructive development – to name a few campaigns. The prize focuses on how a passionate individual rises to leadership, galvanizing their communities to take on industries – often backed by the state, and halt the destruction of something they love.
“The Goldmans” are always a moving event; being in the presence of six heroes, one from each continent who have expressed their deep connection with some small portion of our beautiful planet. This year honored Marilyn Baptiste, a Xeni Gwet’in first nations member who personally road-blocked Teseico Mines from turning a sacred lake and source of her tribal sustenance into a sludge pond for a copper and gold mine. Myint Zaw faced the totalitarian Myanmar Government’s complicity in a deal with China that would have dammed the Irrawaddy River, displacing his ancestral village only to provide exclusive electricity to China. Berta Caceres also halted a dam on the Mother River of her Honduran Lenga people.
Howard Wood (Scotland) and Jean Weiner (Haiti) both saved and restored their island fisheries by halting habitat-destroying practices from industrial drag trawling (Wood) and turning mangroves into charcoal (Weiner). And Phyllis Omido (Kenya) shut down a battery reprocessing plant that was poisoning her village waters with lead.
Every year the Goldmans are exceptional. But this year was remarkable in that every Goldman Hero was moved to save – living water.
Which brings us to the other event that happens each year in April. A few years back the National Science Foundation declared that there is no plural for the word “Ocean.” It is one body of water. Increasingly I am coming to understand that there is actually only one body of water on the entire planet – from the perspiration vapor hovering around your body, to the deep aquifers beneath your feet and below your water table – all the way down to the deepest brine at the bottom of the sea. It is all one water.
I’m sure you have all heard the aphorism that from space this little blue planet we inhabit does not look like earth; rather it looks mostly like water. The Goldman Heroes this year all expressed in one way or another their deep love of water. Today we can take a moment and join them in this honoring of water.
Happy Earth Day!