2017 Goldman Environmental Prize recognizes 6 activists who risk life and limb to protect the environment

April 26, 2017 by  
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The winners of the 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize show you don’t have to be a celebrity or politician to make a change. The award, commonly called the Nobel Prize for the environment , recently recognized six inspiring individuals, ranging in age from 32 to 83, who have labored for environmental justice in their various communities . Read their stories after the jump. Rodrigue Katembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the oldest national park in Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it’s still been targeted by oil companies. Central sector warden Rodrigue Katembo, 41, faced down threats when London-based SOCO International pursued oil drilling in Block V of the park. He worked to expose their illegal activities, amassing evidence over a three-year period; in the process he was arrested and tortured in 2013, two days after he refused to allow SOCO officials to work inside the park as they lacked legal authorization. He appeared in the 2014 documentary Virunga , which Leonardo DiCaprio executive produced and helped turn public opinion against SOCO. They were accused of funding violence and bribery and withdrew in late 2015; Katembo now fights illegal coltan extraction in Upemba National Park. Related: This courageous Baltimore teenager shut down America’s largest incinerator Uroš Macerl, Slovenia Uroš Macerl, 48, has been fighting air pollution in his town of Trbovlje, Slovenia for over a decade. He took over his family’s farm in his twenties, but due to environmental degradation couldn’t grow fruit on the land and raised sheep instead. Then French company Lafarge Cement (now Switzerland-based LafargeHolcim after a 2015 merger) took over a cement kiln in Trbovlje in 2002. Macerl began filing legal complaints after Lafarge applied to incinerate petcoke and industrial waste at their facilities, and found out the government had fast tracked Lafarge’s permits without environmental assessments. So he went to the European Commission. Around five years later the European Commission Inspectorate finally shuttered Lafarge’s activities in Trbvolje, but the fight isn’t over – the company keeps applying for permits and according to Goldman Environmental Prize Slovenian government members are trying to change laws to overlook environmental standards. Macerl continues the battle as president of community organization Eko Krog , or Eco Circle. Wendy Bowman, Australia 83-year-old Wendy Bowman is a sixth-generation farmer in New South Wales (NSW), Australia . Bowman has watched coal mining sprawl across the region, with the support of the NSW government, for decades. She began Minewatch NSW in the early 1990’s to gather information and put the government’s technical statements into understandable language. In 2010 Chinese company Yancoal aimed to expand a mine to Bowman’s 650-acre farm, and she said no. With the Hunter Environment Lobby, she filed a lawsuit and the court said Yancoal could move forward only if they owned the land. Yancoal continues to try and appeal. According to Goldman Environmental Prize, 16.5 million tons of coal have not been mined thanks to Bowman’s determination, and she continues to speak out against coal mining in her community. mark! Lopez, United States mark! Lopez, 32, earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz before returning to his hometown in East Los Angeles . There he fought against a neighborhood battery smelter which released arsenic and lead into the community. A 2016 analysis from California’s Department of Public Health found children living near the smelter, owned by Georgia-based Exide Technologies , had higher levels of lead in their blood than children who didn’t live nearby, as reported by The Los Angeles Times . And that’s after Exide finally closed the recycling plant in 2015. That small victory wasn’t enough for Lopez, who’d worked to mobilize the community with the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ). He wanted Exide to pay for cleanup . Last year California Governor Jerry Brown approved $176 million for cleanup and further lead testing – Lopez thinks contamination could have crept further than the 1.7 mile radius tested. Now Executive Director at EYCEJ, Lopez continues to push for safe cleanup and justice. Rodrigo Tot, Guatemala The Q’eqchi people dwell in the Guatemalan highlands, but the land of the Agua Caliente community and other Q’eqchi communities is under threat from corporations who wish to expand the Fenix Project , a nickel mine. First owned by the government, the mine was sold to Canadian company HudBay Minerals , who later sold it to Switzerland-based Solway Investment Group . Security forces for the mine have attempted to evict people, burned houses, and raped women. Agua Caliente community leader Rodrigo Tot, 57, who has labored since 1972 to obtain land titles for his people, worked with the Indian Law Resource Center and Defensoría Q’eqchi in a legal battle to secure official recognition of Q’eqchi ownership, and the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala, ruled in their favor in 2011. But the government hasn’t enforced the ruling. In 2012 one of Tot’s sons was killed and another injured in what looked like a staged robbery. Tot continues to fight for the health of his community with a watch group that has held back security forces. Mining has contaminated Lake Izabal, a source of water and food for locals, with toxic metals like cadmium and chromium. Prafulla Samantara, India In India , the Odisha State Mining Company (OMC) and London-based Vedanta Resources reached an agreement on a $2 billion bauxite mine in the Niyamgiri Hills. But they didn’t inform the indigenous Dongria Kondh people, who reside in the hills – along with many endangered species – and hold the land sacred. Odisha native and activist Prafulla Samantara, 65, found out about it. In the face of harassment from state police and Vedanta personnel, he organized the people in non-violent demonstrations and filed a petition with the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court. The legal battle went on for a dozen years, but in 2013 the Supreme Court determined Dongria Kondh village councils should make the decision about Niyamgiri Hills mining. Each of the 12 councils unanimously voted against the mine. OMC petitioned the outcome but the Supreme Court denied them in 2016. According to Goldman Environmental Prize, the case established a precedent in India that village councils should determine mining activities in their localities. + Goldman Environmental Prize Images courtesy of Goldman Environmental Prize

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2017 Goldman Environmental Prize recognizes 6 activists who risk life and limb to protect the environment

Bill McKibben on how to protect the earth from a Trumpocalypse

February 2, 2017 by  
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If you’re feeling overwhelmed in the face of President Donald Trump’s overtures to ignore climate science, resuscitate oil pipelines , and in general undo all of the environmental progress we have made so far, you’re not alone. But you can take action, and renowned climate activist and author Bill McKibben is here to tell you how. Bill McKibben knows a thing or two about activism. His landmark book The End of Nature came out in 1989 under Republican president Ronald Reagan. Since then he has penned several more books and been active in environmental fights under presidents from both major political parties. He’s protested the Keystone XL pipeline in front of the White House, for which he was arrested. And he helped bring attention to ExxonMobil’s deliberate suppression of climate change information , to name just a few of his global actions. Related: 8 ways to help the water protectors at the Standing Rock Reservation But, if you’re not Bill McKibben, activism under Donald Trump’s administration can be intimidating. When asked how he feels about people who are discouraged, McKibben told Inhabitat, “Me too. But people have faced big challenges before. And if Trumpism goes down, much will go down with it: climate denial, for instance. We don’t know whether Trump is going to be bad in a normal way or bad in an abnormal way. The first week makes it look like the latter. We don’t really know how to fight an authoritarian oaf, but we’re going to have to figure it out.” McKibben recommends getting involved with organizations fighting the good fight, including the organization he helped found, 350.org . “Find a local group connected to the big national and global fight: 350.org, Sierra Club , or your local environmental justice group,” he said. “That way you can work at every level, from projects nearby to big international fights. If DC is closed to us, we need to open new fronts.” McKibben imagines pipeline fights under Trump, for example, will still require a similar mix of mobilization and litigation as they did under President Obama. But he emphasizes there’s strength in numbers in the dawning resistance. “In the end, if there’s a big enough movement in enough places it’s harder for them to do their dirty work. Their currency is currency. Ours is passion, spirit, creativity – and bodies!” He also said it’s important to stand up for other issues too. “I’d make sure you’re also working with other causes and groups – immigrants facing deportation, for instance,” he said. “Solidarity has never been more important.” + Bill McKibben + 350.org Images via Lorie Shaull on Flickr ( 1 , 2 ), Mark Klotz on Flickr , Takver on Flickr , Fabrice Florin on Flickr , and Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Bill McKibben on how to protect the earth from a Trumpocalypse

Endangered orcas under threat from bitumen pipeline planned for Vancouver port

November 17, 2016 by  
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A population of killer whales that live off the coast of Vancouver, Canada is under threat by a planned oil pipeline that could lead to a disruption of their habitat by increased tanker traffic. Texas-based Kinder Morgan is planning to build the $5 billion US Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project that would transport bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands directly to the edge of the whales’ habitat in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern British Columbia. The Canadian government has already been advised to approve the project, and its fate now lies with the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. According to the Guardian , the proposal to build the massive pipeline project still needs approval from the Canadian federal government, led by Justin Trudeau. But if approved, it would result in a 1,000 km (620 mile) pipeline from northern Alberta to Vancouver, as well as roughly seven times more barge and tanker traffic. Killer whales , or orcas as they’re also known, have already had a rough existence in recent years. The Guardian notes that in the 1960s and early ‘70s, many of them were captured and sold to aquariums and theme parks, while those remaining in the wild were exposed to runoff chemicals from local industries – causing them to become the “world’s most contaminated marine animals.” Conservationists say that an increase in tanker traffic in their habitat could be disastrous for the genetically unique population of orcas – already classified as endangered in both Canada and the US. “The approval of the project is also the approval of the extinction of the population, Ross Dixon of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation told the Guardian. “No one is disputing it. Nobody is saying that’s not accurate. It’s been accepted.” Related: Donald Trump vows to nix Paris climate deal and pave way for Keystone XL pipeline So, will it be approved? As of May, the Canadian energy regulator finished two years of review that recommended the government approve the project, with 157 conditions attached to that approval, including 49 related to the environment. Yet the review panel noted that, conditions or not, the project is likely to have “significant adverse effects” on the killer whale population. The Canadian government has until December 19 to make a decision, and so far, all signs are pointing to approval. Prime Minister Trudeau faces pressure to approve the pipeline from Alberta, where low oil prices have dramatically increased unemployment. Ironically, promises by President Elect Donald Trump to bring back the Keystone XL Pipeline could kill the Trans Mountain project and save the whales. Via the Guardian Images via Matthew_Allen and Mike Charest,  Flickr Creative Commons

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Endangered orcas under threat from bitumen pipeline planned for Vancouver port

16-year-old activist demands US gov end fossil fuel use by 2026

July 28, 2016 by  
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An online petition by 16-year-old climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has attracted over 100,000 signatures demanding that the 2016 presidential candidates commit to ending the use of fossil fuels in the next decade in an attempt to avert catastrophic climate change. In his video letter to the candidates, Martinez speaks out on behalf of the millions of members of his generation who will be affected by the new president’s climate policies, but who are too young to participate in the current election. Watch his moving video message below: https://youtu.be/BNKO-yveNlA In his petition, Martinez highlights the recent climate agreement in Paris , which would require the US to transition to a zero carbon energy economy by the year 2050 – and emphasizes that such action simply isn’t enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Instead, he wants the next president to include a plan to end the use of fossil fuels in the next ten years as part of their platform. This isn’t Martinez’s first time in the spotlight. He gave his first public address on climate change when he was just six years old, and now serves as the youth director of Earth Guardians, a movement of activists, artists, and musicians united in stopping climate change. Earlier this year, he made headlines when he spearheaded a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration for failing to take adequate action against climate change. He’s even spoken before the UN General Assembly on the issue. Related: This courageous Baltimore teenager shut down America’s largest incinerator Martinez is facing an uphill battle when it comes to convincing our politicians to take dramatic action on climate change. Not only has Donald Trump claimed that climate change is a “hoax” created by the Chinese government, he’s also stated that he would “renegotiate” the Paris deal in an attempt to skirt the US’s obligations under the treaty. He’s even gone so far as to sue developers of a Scottish wind farm for ruining the view from his golf course. Hillary Clinton is, of course, a more sympathetic audience, but even she is likely to bristle at the suggestion of ending all fossil fuel use so quickly. The Guardian has hailed her platform as “the strongest ever” on climate change: the current draft calls for a carbon tax, stricter regulations for the approval of oil pipelines, stronger regulation of fracking, and prioritizing renewable energy development over natural gas. While these are all important steps, they’re far from the dramatic approach Martinez advocates. It may take significant persuasion to convince Clinton that the issue is pressing enough to risk alienating the oil and gas lobby. Related: Meet the inspiring Peruvian grandmother who’s standing up to big mining It must also be said that, no matter what the future president includes in their platform, there’s a limited amount that they can do if other lawmakers refuse to pass the bills necessary to transition away from fossil fuels. We’ve seen this issue arise time and time again in the Obama administration’s clashes with Congress. Still, just because it may be an uphill climb politically doesn’t mean that Martinez’s petition should be ignored. With the recent years clocking in as the hottest in history , it’s now more important than ever to take dramatic action to stop climate change. If you’d like to join Xiuhtezcatl Martinez in demanding immediate action to end the use of fossil fuels in the US, you can sign the petition here . + Earth Guardians Images via Earth Guardians

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16-year-old activist demands US gov end fossil fuel use by 2026

Medieval village ruins converted into an art school unveil past secrets

July 28, 2016 by  
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Once the stomping grounds of Celtic tribes, Roman armies, and famed painters like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, this tiny village made from stone has enjoyed a colorful history thanks to its location along the ancient La Via Domita, the first paved trade route that passed through the Luberon Valley to link Italy and Hispania. The cluster of stone structures clings to a hillside overlooking spectacular valley vistas of lavender fields and the Luberon ranges. Like an open-air museum, the village is filled with physical reminders of its rich history, from its massive fortification walls built during religious and territorial battles to the still-visible 17th century dates etched into keystones and window frames during the village’s building boom in the 1600s. The village of Lacoste survived the French revolution of the late 18th century—though the infamous Marquis de Sade’s Lacoste chateau was destroyed in the riots—and continued to expand into the late 19th century, however, suffered terribly during the two World Wars when it was used to harbor the Resistance. The construction revolution during the 1950s and 1960s dealt another heavy blow, as skilled laborers and their families abandoned the village for the city. Related: SCAD Students Transform an Atlanta Parking Garage into Ecologically Responsible Micro-Housing Community Fortunately, American artist Bernard Pfiem fell in love with the Lacoste ruins in the 1950s and purchased the derelict buildings for a pittance—around $500 for twenty-odd structures—transforming the village into the Lacoste School of the Arts in 1970. Pfriem waxed poetic on the location: “Lacoste’s remoteness, isolation, and even primitiveness force all of us to face ourselves and our own resources as artists. This is a vital experience for the creative person, as important as the rich awesome novelty of responding to a foreign culture and landscape.” International visiting artists flocked to the campus, however, after the death of Pfriem in 1996, the village fell into decline once more until it caught the eye of the Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2002, the Lacoste School of the Arts donated their eighteen properties to SCAD, which set off on an ambitious community effort to restore and renovate the buildings, much of which lacked modern plumbing and electricity and some of which were completely uninhabitable. SCAD preservationists, alumni, staff, and students worked alongside local masons and specialists to restore the village and sensitively transform the buildings into artist studios, classrooms, offices, and dormitories. Rather than dive headfirst into structural repairs, SCAD first developed a comprehensive plan that addressed the needs of the campus and community, climatic concerns, and long-term growth. At the heart of the plan was a desire to make the village’s rich history a tangible experience as opposed to a sterile museum-like environment detached visitors from the history. One great example of their success is the adaptive reuse of the 1840s boulangerie located at the heart of the village into SCAD’s library, which continues the boulangerie’s purpose as the “village hearth” and gathering space. The boulangerie’s beehive oven is turned into a reading nook and books on all SCAD subjects line the walls. On Rue Basse, the main cobblestone road of Lacoste, sits the Olivier Caves, medieval caves that have been restored and outfitted into working studios for artist residences to carry on Provence’s great atelier tradition. Related: SCAD artist weaves sustainably sourced yarns into vibrant environmental art and stories Currently in its fourteenth year, the magical and well-preserved Lacoste village has already welcomed thousands of students and visitors but its historic preservation and restoration efforts are far from finished. New discoveries continue to be made with every excavation, from unearthed 3rd century Roman glass relics to sprawling underground tunnels beneath Rue Basse. SCAD has thus far restored over 30 buildings, though the number is not exact since many structures are merged together and unexpected rooms and spaces are uncovered during restoration work. Traditional building methods and locally quarried Luberon stone are used in repairs wherever possible. While the village’s architectural character is preserved and respected, SCAD injects new life into the stone buildings with colorful lush landscaping and contemporary student artwork that tastefully punctuate Lacoste. Perhaps the best place to see the confluence of contemporary art and historic preservation is in Maison Basse, a former farmhouse in the valley that is SCAD’s most extensive restoration project to date. The building, which houses a cafeteria, living rooms, studios, and student housing, features a tasteful and elegant mix of local vintage furnishings, historic relics found on site, and SCAD artwork in every room. SCAD Lacoste invites no more than eighty SCAD students to study at the beautifully preserved medieval village every quarter. Visitors in Provence are also free to visit the grounds and attend guided tours. Modern amenities, such as plumbing, electricity, WiFi, computer labs, and more have all been integrated into the campus without disturbing the historic character. Adaptive reuse is a core theme found throughout not just on the Lacoste campus, but also on all SCAD campuses including those in Atlanta, GA; Savannah, GA; and Hong Kong. + Savannah College of Art and Design Images © Lucy Wang

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Medieval village ruins converted into an art school unveil past secrets

Annie Leonard of “The Story of Stuff” Named New Executive Director of Greenpeace USA

May 7, 2014 by  
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Annie Leonard, the creator of the viral video “The Story of Stuff,” has just been named Greenpeace USA’s new executive director. A longtime environmental activist, Leonard has proven her gift for crafting compelling narratives, particularly in her series of animated pro-sustainability documentaries that question excess consumerism. After years of watching Leonard’s progress at The Story of Stuff Project, we at Inhabitat are excited to see how Leonard’s storytelling prowess and leadership will grow Greenpeace’s reach around the world. Read the rest of Annie Leonard of “The Story of Stuff” Named New Executive Director of Greenpeace USA Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: annie leonard , anti consumerism , Climate Change , environmental activism , Environmental activist , environmental progress , global anti-icinerator alliance , greenpeace annie leonard , greenpeace executive director , greenpeace usa , the story of stuff , the story of stuff project , Waste

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Annie Leonard of “The Story of Stuff” Named New Executive Director of Greenpeace USA

Billionaire Climate Activist Tom Steyer Launches Anti Keystone XL Pipeline Campaign

June 21, 2013 by  
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Oil Spill photo from Shutterstock Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer just launched an anti-Keystone XL Pipeline campaign that mobilizes President Obama’s grassroots supporters to help the President strike down what many believe would be one of the most environmentally destructive energy projects of all time. Called “We Love Our Land,” the campaign will flood social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter with petitions and videos depicting the March 2013 tar sands spill in Mayflower, Arkansas , along with a host of other incriminating information. Read the rest of Billionaire Climate Activist Tom Steyer Launches Anti Keystone XL Pipeline Campaign Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: ” Mayflower oil spill , “We Love Our Land , Arkansas tar sands spill , CE Action , environmental activism , environmental destruction , Keystone XL Pipeline , Pollution , president obama , Tom Steyer , toxic chemicals        

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Billionaire Climate Activist Tom Steyer Launches Anti Keystone XL Pipeline Campaign

Greenpeace Launches Competition to Design New Look for Iconic Survival Pod

April 17, 2013 by  
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Read the rest of Greenpeace Launches Competition to Design New Look for Iconic Survival Pod Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: compact pod , Design , design competitions , dome-shaped vessel , eco design , eco-messaging , environmental activism , Graphic Design , Greenpeace , Greenpeace design competition , shelter , survival pod , sustainable design        

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Greenpeace Launches Competition to Design New Look for Iconic Survival Pod

What Are You Doing for Earth Day 2010?

April 22, 2010 by  
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Happy Earth Day! Or maybe not. The way we see it, today is just another day in the long uphill battle against environmental degradation, and if we are really going to see any positive change, we should start thinking about EVERY DAY as Earth Day.

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What Are You Doing for Earth Day 2010?

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