Three Gwich'in tribal leaders who helped defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling - Jonathon Solomon, Sarah James and Norma Kassi - were among the eight recipients of the 13th annual Goldman Environmental Prize, which was presented in San Francisco on April 22. The Gwich'in oppose oil exploration in the Arctic Refuge in part because it would interrupt the life cycle of the Porcupine caribou, which have been the foundation of Gwich'in culture and subsistence for 20,000 years.
The Goldman Environmental Prize is given annually to grassroots environmental heroes from six geographical areas: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America. The prize includes a no-strings-attached award of $125,000. The largest and most prestigious award of its kind, the Goldman Environmental Prize has been called the "Nobel Prize for the Environment."
This year's other prize winners were Jadwiga Lopata, a conservationist who is fighting to save Poland's family farms; Pisit Charnsnoh, an ecologist working to protect and restore Thailand's coastal ecosystems; Alexis Massol-González, an entrepreneur who helped convert a mining zone into Puerto Rico's first community-managed forest reserve; Fatima Jibrell, a Muslim woman who saved war-torn Somalia from the devastation of logging by charcoal exporters; and Jean La Rose, a Guyanese woman who overcame harassment to protect Amerindian lands from mining.
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