SAN FRANCISCO — Two U.S. television journalists were among eight winners to take home environmentalism’s top prize Monday.
Recipients of the 2001 Goldman Environmental Prize came from Bolivia, Rwanda, Greece, West Papua in Indonesia and New Caledonia. The prize is awarded to those from the Earth’s six geographic regions who have fought to protect the environment and people around the world.
Florida journalists Jane Akre and Steve Wilson received the award for their research on a story about the potential health effects of recombinant bovine growth hormone. The genetically modified hormone is used to get dairy cows to produce more milk. When St. Louis-based Monsanto Co., the maker of the hormone, objected to the report three days before it was to air, the Fox Network affiliate in Florida pulled the story.
Monsanto representatives did not immediately return calls Monday.
The couple claims they were fired because of their story, and they later won a suit charging Fox with violating the state’s Whistleblower law. The jury found that Fox pushed them to broadcast false and misleading information.
The television station argued that the reporters were unprofessional and refused to balance the story during a six-month editing process.
The two were joined as winners by Oscar Olivera from Bolivia. Olivera helped return the water system in the country’s third-largest city to the public. It had been privatized, driving prices up as much as 300 percent and requiring some residents to pay a third of their monthly income for fresh water.
Olivera on Monday was on a 30,000-person march to the country’s capital to protect the gains won last year. He said marchers were met with tear and vomit gas, and that he has been charged with treason by the Bolivian government.
Yosepha Alomang, a spokeswoman for the Amungme in West Papua, was honored for her fight against the mining practices of New Orleans-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., a fight during which she said she has been detained and tortured by the Indonesian government.
The company has given Alomang’s human rights group, HAMAK, a $248,000 grant for education and office space that Alomang says she will use to continue her fight.
Other 2001 winners are:
• Eugene Rutagarama, a Rwandan conservationist, risked his life to save his country’s last 355 mountain gorillas. After fleeing Rwanda during the genocide in the 1990s, when most of his family was killed, he returned to help rebuild the national park system and protect the gorilla habitat from human encroachment.
• Myrsini Malakou and Giorgos Catsadorakis, two Greek biologists, have led the effort to create a wetlands conservation area located in remote northwestern Greece that crosses the borders of Albania and Macedonia. The two worked for years researching, organizing and advocating sustainable farming and economic activities to restore the area.
• Bruno Van Peteghem of New Caledonia in the South Pacific is working to protect one of the world’s coral reefs from destruction by mining. International companies have threatened to mine large portions of the reefs, which he has campaigned to place on the World’s Heritage List. Van Peteghem said there have been efforts to intimidate him, including the suspicious burning of his family’s home.
Each winner gets $125,000 and a small award statue.