Acceptance Speeches for the Goldman Environmental Prize
San Francisco, California - April 19, 2004
June 4, 2004
"The Earth is the Lord and all its fullness." The environment is everything around us -- the air, water, and the land. The Earth is the foundation of life. As created beings in the image of God, we must do everything to improve human life.
|The winners of the 2004 Goldman Environmental Prize salute the audience.|
Environmental issues should never be ignored. I am committed to do everything I can to preserve, conserve, protect and sustain our natural resources. This should be the main concept of government, industry and people. If these are destroyed, then human life would be reduced to its lowest form -- ill-health, destruction and death.
Because I believe in a created order, careful consideration must be given to issues such as climate change, waste disposal, ozone depletion, population explosion, the energy crisis and world hunger. The sustainer of the universe has given us an inner spirit to use Godly wisdom in solving problems. To monopolize the Earth for selfish greed or gain is against humanity. We must learn to care. We should be compelled by compassion to reach out to those around us. Love has no race, no color, no nationality and no creed. Environmental racism creates injustice.
We all need each other and Mr. Goldman, may your spirit continue to unite all of us. I'd like to just give you a few words of a tribute that goes like this: [Richard sings "To God Be The Glory."]
|Recording artists and environmental activist Kenny Loggins joins the Oakland Youth Chorus to celebrate the Goldman Award winners.|
Rudolf N. Amenga-Etego: Accra, Ghana
This award is not simply an honor and recognition of my work. It is an honor and recognition for the hundreds of human rights and environmental activists across Africa. On their behalf and on my own behalf, I wish to thank the Goldman Environmental Foundation for this extraordinary act of solidarity and honor.
The IMF and World Bank have been writing the rules of engagement for the countries of Africa. The result has been mass poverty, homeless children who ought to be in school, squalor, war, disease, and the death of our forests and rivers. This is exacerbated by the greed of those with power and influence. We cannot run away from the fact that the poverty, thirst and hunger of one continent are a threat to the security of the rest of the world. In this situation, the most noble of causes left to us as civilized people living on an endangered planet is to fight for clean water and a safe environment for all. This for me is the greatest calling of the 21st century.
I would like to make an urgent appeal to all of you to rise and challenge the paradigm that compels poor countries to sell their water to the highest bidder for profit in the name of free trade. Indeed, what ought to be free is water not trade.
This award will provide fresh impetus for my work and new resources to strengthen our community networks in defense of the right to water in a safe environment.
As you go to bed tonight, remember -- as you flush your toilets or as you decide whether you want to have a cold bath or hot bath -- that millions of kids in Africa and elsewhere are desperately in need of just a liter of water to survive their day. I hope this thought will convince you, will provoke you, to join me in the campaign to ensure safe water for all.
Manana Kochladze: Tbilisi, Georgia
I would like to express my gratitude to the Goldman Environmental Foundation and Mr. Goldman personally for supporting the fight for environmental rights around the world. This prize is recognition of the work of the grassroots activists from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey as well as International NGOs, all working together to make the BTC [Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan] pipeline project less harmful for local communities and the environment.
Around the world, when politics and money prevail, the environment is ignored. The legacy of oil exploitation and transportation during the Soviet era has already caused significant damage to the South Caucasus' environment and directly harmed the lives of millions living in the region. The residue of past damage still remains.
Over the last decade, the BTC pipeline has been promoted as a chance for the region to eradicate poverty, increase economic growth, and bring peace within the region. After one year of BTC construction, all these hopes have been demolished.
The BTC pipeline project, with the involvement of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank, is [also a case of] business-as-usual -- the "oil economy" recipe prescribed for developing and transition countries. The case is echoed in a number of similar projects around the world -- including the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline a few years ago constructed in the region by the same players.
The billions of US dollars invested within the region over the last decade have still not improved the lives of ordinary citizens of Azerbaijan and Georgia, while the degree of environmental destruction, nepotism and corruption has rapidly increased.
Deep disappointment over the roles of international financial institutions is increasing. While the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development claims that its mandate is to bring sustainable development, to promote democracy, and to reduce poverty within its countries of operation, the Bank has refused to investigate serious cases of corruption and the project's compliance with the highest international standards. This refusal damages the sensitive and unique nature of Georgia and the South Caucasus and will adversely restrict the rights of future generations.
The recent political changes in Georgia underline that the Georgian people are taking responsibility for its future. The message is clear: the days of corruption and disregard for human rights are over. The old methods will no longer work. The changes are encouraging. They also bring a new challenge -- the challenge to ensure real sustainable development in Georgia. My colleagues and I will continue to work hard to help Georgia rise to that challenge.
South and Central America
Libia R. Grueso Castelblanco, Buenaventura, Colombia
The book of Genesis 1:28 says that on the sixth day God created the plants, the creatures of the sea, the air, and all those that move on the surface of the Earth so that humanity may have stewardship over them. All creatures were given to us to take care of. But how many species, how many forms of life, have disappeared as a direct consequence of our carelessness, of our fleeting sense of life, of the thirst for money, of the schizophrenia of power, of the false and misleading sense of development and well-being? Have we understood what it means to be stewards?
Our elders, the Black grandparents and great grandparents of the Colombian Pacific taught us that we cannot take from nature more than we need, that nature is a living entity with its own laws and that these are superior to the laws of humanity. We learned that we need the other living beings so that we may live, and that all of us -- children, men, women, young and old -- are responsible for life.
Each activity that we are involved in -- when we eat, when we dress ourselves, when we work, when we have fun -- is linked with our responsibility to conserve the planet. It is a theme that permeates all of our actions. How much pollution has our car produced? How many transgenics are we eating in our food? What is the impact of the work that you and I carry out? Conservation is not an act of heroes and heroines; it is an act of everyday responsibility: wherever you may be, whatever you may do, whoever you may be.
This is what my elders taught me and this is what I want to share with you today. Conservation is a result of each of us becoming conscious of our own responsibility and solidarity with life. Convincing myself of this was the first step in the commitment I made as a Black woman of the Pacific and as a Colombian. I made a commitment to preserve the rainforest of the biogeographic Pacific, one of the five richest areas of the world in biodiversity. A natural wealth that is dependent on the decisions that we make today: on the survival of the ancestral cultures; on you, on me, on my country, on your country, on my government, on your government. It is not too late.
We thank the Goldman family and Foundation, we thank those who nominated us and made it possible for us say to you that we can have a better world; a world which is possible if you and I make a commitment with life as an everyday act of responsibility and solidarity.
Islands and Island Nations
Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho: Dili, East Timor
First, allow me to convey my deepest feelings of thanks to my late mother, who played an important role in teaching me to love nature, my beloved wife, my children and all compatriots who share my vision.
Respected Attendees: As I stand before you here, I recall an event 27 years ago in my country, when Indonesia -- supported by other big countries -- invaded my country. For 24 years, over 200,000 people were killed and many more were tortured and tormented. I saw bombs strike innocent pregnant mothers carrying their small children as they ran for cover under trees. Frail elderly men and women who could not run were burnt alive in their huts.
Not only were many lives lost but many of our forests were razed to the ground by napalm as the Indonesian army tried to quash the resistance by destroying their hiding places. Needless to say, much of our natural environment and wildlife habitat was destroyed. Our people were not only killed by bullets. Many who hid in the remote mountains died from starvation and illness. We had paid a huge price for our independence. Now we have to rebuild our country almost from ground zero with a badly degraded environment.
Honored Attendees: When I was told that I won the Goldman prize, I was both very happy and dumbfounded. On the one hand, I felt honored to be recognized but, on the other hand, it has now added a new challenge and big responsibility for me in the future.
I would like to close with a story from an old Hindu legend from the Borobudur Temple in Indonesia: There was a goose with two necks, one short and one long. The head with the long neck easily picked the freshest and the best food, while the head with the short neck could only scrape around for rotten food left over by the long neck. Eventually, the goose was poisoned and died.
The wisdom of this story applies to our world today. There are rich and poor nations on this Earth. If rich nations grab all the wealth and resources, leaving poor nations to survive on scraps, the Earth will one day perish just like the goose in the Hindu legend. So let us work together to build a more equitable and ecologically sustainable world. The Earth will perish otherwise.
Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla: Bhopal, India
On behalf of the people of Bhopal and ourselves, we greet our brothers and sisters here. When I learned that sister Champa and I had won this huge award our first response was that of a long silence. We knew a few individuals who had won awards. They were all educated people, spoke English and had email accounts. Has there been a mix up? We wondered.
As you have just seen in the video, we -- the victims of the world's worst industrial disaster -- are fighting against the world's number-one chemical corporation. We know that Dow and other such corporations are responsible for slow and silent Bhopals all over the world. We know that not just in Bhopal, but mothers everywhere in the world, carry chemical poisons in their breasts. Bhopal is but the most visible example of corporate crime against humanity.
We are aware that the day we succeed in holding Dow Chemical liable for the continuing disaster in Bhopal, it will be good news for ordinary people all over the world. From that day forward, chemical corporations will think twice before producing and peddling poisons and putting profits before the lives and health of people.
We are not expendable. We are not flowers to be offered at the altar of profit and power. We are dancing flames committed to conquering darkness. We are challenging those who threaten the survival of the planet and the magic and mystery of life. Through our struggle, through our refusal to be victims, we have become survivors. And we are on our way to becoming victors.
Champa Devi Shukla
When sister Rashida and I got the news of the award, faces of friends and comrades in the struggle for justice in Bhopal swam before our eyes. In our hearts we include them all as co-recipients of this great honor. Once again, we would like to acknowledge and honor the contribution of our sisters and brothers in Bhopal and other parts of the world who have helped us become more than what we are.
Sister Rashida and I have decided that we will hand over the entire sum of the award money to a trust that will provide medical assistance to children born with deformities, run income-generating projects for women survivors and institute an award for ordinary people fighting extraordinary battles against corporate crime in our country.
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