Saluting the unsung local heroes

Published on BBC, as VIEWPOINT by Richard Goldman, 20 April 2009.

Richard Goldman, founder of the “green Nobel prize”, says it is vital to recognise the efforts of grassroots activists. In this week’s Green Room, he explains why he believes some of the world’s most powerful people could learn a lesson or two from the winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize.

As governments around the world struggle with the crushing economic downturn and increasingly scarce natural resources, leaders at the grassroots level are continuing the critical work that often goes unnoticed, promoting environmental health, civil society, and reform in the face of great hardship …

… Wangari Maathai, who won the Goldman Prize in 1992, went on to serve in Kenya’s parliament and win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Her international Green Belt Movement, which empowers women to plant trees and participate in environmental stewardship, continues growing across continents.  She has emerged as a force within the global sustainability movement, yet continues to engage the grassroots.

Recognising the importance of continuing to grow a vibrant and committed citizenry, Ms Maathai is helping to shift attitudes and personal actions around sustainability from the bottom up.

As governments develop economic recovery plans in the wake of the global financial meltdown, I strongly urge leaders to look to the grassroots for help in forging a new way forward.

Given a voice, financial support, and recognition, grassroots groups can help to enact lasting change through on-the-ground campaigning and advocacy.

Around the globe, grassroots groups are connecting via the internet and developing vast international networks that efficiently work together for common goals. The cross-cultural co-operation is astounding.

Leaders from seemingly disparate movements are coming together and recognising that environmental health is directly related to economic development and social justice.

As these previously separate movements merge into a potent force advocating on behalf of the world’s future, we should take notice and find ways to bring them into the process of developing a new, more secure future. (full text).

(Richard N Goldman is the founder and president of the Goldman Environmental Prize
The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website
).

Links:

Watch the video: Sustaining Cities: Environment, Economic Development, and Empowerment, 87.07 min, Jan. 20, 2009.

Economic sustainability, 2009;

The STUC (Scotland’s Trade Union centre) Congress has opportunity to learn from crisis and help reshape economic architecture, ‎April 18, 2009‎.

G-20: Round Two, April 19, 2009.

Taliban Exploit Class Rifts to Gain Ground in Pakistan, 17 April 2009.

SUNY ESF President to Speak on Ecology and Economic Sustainability
, April 13th, 2009.

Why GDP is an Inappropriate Measure of Economic Health, October 28, 2007.

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