The Goldman Prize at 25 (03/06/14)

Since 1989, The Goldman Environmental Prize has honored more than 150 grassroots heroes who are fighting on the front lines to deliver clean water, clean air and preserve the world’s ecosystems. Brothers John and Douglas Goldman are carrying on the work of their parents, environmental activists Richard and Rhoda Goldman, who founded the prize. “My mom was a recycler before the term was ever coined,” remembers John. “She was far ahead of her time.” The most important impact of the award, says Douglas, is its role in spotlighting the often unrewarding work of environmental activism. John adds that there’s a common thread among the past winners: “[These are] individuals whose force of nature really made a difference, their impact was significant, and they may have had significant personal risk.” One of those people is Maria Gunnoe, who received the prize in 2009. Beginning with her successful effort to stop the coal industry from devastating the hollows of her native Appalachia, she has become a leading voice in the push to expose the environmental hazards of coal production. But, she says, she didn’t start out to be an activist. “I didn't really get into fighting the industry; the industry took me on,” she laughs. “They challenged me and my love for my property.” Kimberly Wasserman’s battle to close toxin-spewing coal-fired power plants in southwest Chicago was an equally personal one. “Feeling the impacts that countless parents in our community feel, of having children with asthma, just triggered that voice in me to…want to do something about it,” says Wasserman, adding, “there is no greater threat than a mom who's mad!” She was awarded the prize in 2013. Both women have continued to fight for clean air and water, and have even linked their causes together, stressing that, no matter which end of the coal conveyer belt your family is on, we’re all in this together. “Environmental impact doesn't just happen to any singular community,” says Wasserman. “It's happening across the board to low-income people, and we need to be united and be coming together to fight this.” John Goldman, President, Goldman Environmental Foundation Douglas Goldman, Vice President, Goldman Environmental Foundation Maria Gunnoe, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Goldman Environmental Prize Winner, 2009 Kimberly Wasserman, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Goldman Environmental Prize Winner, 2013 This program was recorded in front of a live audience at The Commonwealth Club of California on March 6, 2014 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

by Climate One