Dating back to 1989, the Goldman Environmental Prize is an annual award recognizing grassroots activism across six geographical regions around the globe.
Among this year’s prize winners is Nemonte Nequimo, an indigenous leader from the Ecuadorean Amazon who last year made headlines for her success in protecting 500,000 acres of native land from oil extraction.
In 2018, together with fellow members of the Waorani indigenous group, Ms. Nequimo took the Ecuadorean government to court over its plans to put their territory up for sale. Some 16 new oil concessions were put up for auction, covering seven million acres of Amazon rainforest.
Leading the fight against the concessions, Ms. Nequimo launched a digital campaign called “Our rainforest is not for sale”, which gathered almost 400,000 signatures from around the world opposing the auction.
In April 2019, the case judges ruled in favor of the Waorani, protecting 500,000 acres from oil extraction as well as requiring the government to have to ensure free, prior, and informed consent before auctioning off any other land in the future.
The court victory sets a legal precedent for indigenous rights in Ecuador and other parts of the world, spurring other tribes to follow in the footsteps of Ms. Nequimo’s efforts. “This prize will hopefully give us and our fight more visibility and create a consciousness that we’re acting for the good of the planet,” she says.