We are thrilled to congratulate Ashoka Germany Fellow Ursula Sladek and Ashoka Indonesia Fellow Prigi Arisandi, who were just announced as 2 of 6 winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize! The annual award, often referred to as the Nobel Prize for the environment, recognizes “grassroots environmental heroes around the world for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $150,000, the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize views “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.” (Source: Goldman Prize website.)
Ursula and Prigi are both great examples of Fellows changing systems to solve the world’s most pressing environmental problems.
In the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear crisis in 1986, Ursula Sladek grew concerned regarding Germany’s expanded reliance on nuclear energy. In response to this concern, Ursula created her country’s first cooperatively-owned renewable power company, Schönau Power Supply (EWS), in 1991. In the process, she created a new paradigm that shifts energy production, management, and ownership into the hands of citizens, thereby promoting energy savings and use of renewable energy sources.
Prigi Arisandi initiated a local movement to stop industrial pollution from flowing into his city's river that provides drinking water to three million people. Growing up near the Surabaya River, Prigi saw its degradation when factories began operating in the region in the early 1980s. With a deep commitment to the communities living along the river, he founded Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation (Ecoton) to protect the water resources and wetlands ecosystems of Indonesia. In 2007, Prigi and Ecoton made history when they took the regional government of East Java to court, and successfully changed the government policy regarding the release and monitoring of toxic materials into the Surabaya river. Prigi has demonstrated the power of connecting hands-on childhood science education, scientific data collection, and political action.
These are not the first Ashoka Fellows to receive this coveted prize. On the contrary, the Goldman Foundation has now honored a total of 12 Ashoka Fellows:
Ursula Sladek, Germany (2011 winner)
Prigi Arisandi, Indonesia (2011 winner)
Yuyun Ismawati, Indonesia (2009 winner)
Ignace Schops, Belgium (2008 winner)
Orri Vigfússon, Iceland (2007 winner)
Maria Elena Foronda Farro, Peru, (2003 winner)
Jadwiga Lopata, Poland (2002 winner)
Pisit Charnsnoh, Thailand (2002 winner)
Oscar Rivas, Paraguay (2000 winner)
Michal Kravcik, Slovakia (1999 winner)
Tuenjai Deetes, Thailand (1994 winner)
Carlos Alberto Ricardo, Brazil (1992 winner)
These Fellows and their ten other colleagues in the Ashoka Fellowship demonstrate the critical role that social entrepreneurs are playing in addressing the serious issues affecting the planet, and changing patterns in society. As the world faces this global crisis, it is not only the central governments and multinationals that can have transformational impact. Citizens and communities have important roles to play. Through the initiative and path-breaking innovations of people like Ursula and Prigi, thousands of others are being inspired to take action. By identifying them as leading social entrepreneurs and championing their efforts, Ashoka has contributed substantially to their ability to achieve their vision and create important change for the world.