Goldman Prize Recipients Call on World Leaders to Take Risks at Rio+20
Recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest award for grassroots environmental activists, are calling on world leaders to attend the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro and make real commitments to protect the environment.
A total of
107 Goldman Prize winners, representing a broad spectrum of environmental activists—indigenous leaders, attorneys, clergy, government officials, biologists, among others—from 68 countries have added their names to the statement. All have taken great personal risks to protect the environment, often facing arrest, torture, violent threats and assassination attempts along the way.
Signatories on the letter include:
- Alexander Nikitin (Russia, 1997), a former naval captain who was jailed on treason charges for revealing the environmental threats behind Russia’s decommissioned nuclear submarines
- Medha Patkar (India, 1992) who has been repeatedly beaten and arrested during protests against environmentally destructive redevelopment projects
- Marina Silva (Brazil, 1996), former Brazilian environment minister who, despite the assassination of her close colleague Chico Mendes, led demonstrations with rubber tappers to protect tropical forests in the Amazon
The statement recognizes that much of the progress achieved in environmental protection since the original Earth Summit in 1992 came from the grassroots level, but that there is now a pressing need for leadership at the government level to rise to the challenge of climate change and sustainable development.
The full letter follows below:
An open letter from Goldman Environmental Prize winners to government leaders regarding the 2012 Earth Summit
We are the recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize. We have been threatened. We have been tortured. We have been jailed. We have died from industrial toxins in our blood. We have been killed.
We are the recipients for the Goldman Environmental Prize. We are from 81 countries. We are grassroots activists. We are national ambassadors. We are indigenous people. We are environment ministers. We are women. We are men. We are elders. We are youth.
For over two decades the Goldman Environmental Prize has honored individuals for the great risks we take to protect the environment. Now we ask you to take a risk. Attend the Earth Summit in Rio and lead us into action.
The Earth Summit is a profound opportunity to move us forward in our global commitment to protect the planet, a commitment that was recognized 20 years ago at the historic Earth Summit of 1992. Since then the people of the planet have brought back endangered species, conserved fragile territories and developed alternatives to some of our most destructive practices. Again and again communities have won great battles.
But let’s face it, environmental leadership has come from civil society, people like us who put our lives on the line to protect the environment. Now, urgently, we request that governments take the lead in protecting the planet we all share. For future generations, we urge you to attend the Earth Summit and make real commitments toward sustainable development. We urge you to take a risk, as we have done, to defend Earth.
United States, 2001
Costa Rica, 2010
United States, 2012
South Korea, 1995
Matthew Coon Come
Western Samoa, 1997
Julio Cusurichi Palacios
Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho
East Timor, 2004
Elias Diaz Peña
Feliciano dos Santos
Raoul du Toit
Ivory Coast, 1992
Democratic Republic of Congo, 2005
Pablo Fajardo Mendoza
Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva
Maria Elena Foronda Farro
United States, 1990
United States, 2009
Syeda Rizwana Hasan
United States, 2010
United States, 2002
United States, 2011
Jean La Rose
Jesús León Santos
Puerto Rico, 2002
El Salvador, 1995
Harrison Ngau Laing
Marc Ona Essangui
Juan Pablo Orrego
El Salvador, 2011
Rosa Hilda Ramos
Puerto Rico, 2008
Carlos Alberto Ricardo
Humberto Ríos Labrada
Champa Devi Shukla
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 1994
José Andrés Tamayo Cortez
Bruno Van Peteghem
New Caledonia, 2001
Jorge Varela Márquez
Ka Hsaw Wa
New Zealand, 1991
United States, 2006
United States, 2001
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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