Apr 25, 2023 - World

Amazon defender wants her Goldman prize to spur more battles

Photo illustration of Alessandra Korap Munduruku with geometric shapes and a photo of the Tapajós River.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Goldman Environmental Prize, Ricardo Beliel/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images

An activist who this week won the most prestigious environmental award for her work defending the Amazon said she hopes to motivate more people to stand up to polluting industries.

The big picture: Alessandra Korap, a leader of the Munduruku people in the Brazilian Amazon, was named a Goldman Environmental Prize winner on Monday for her fight against mining in the tribe's territory.

  • Korap helped lead a campaign to pressure British mining company Anglo American to withdraw 27 permit applications for "mineral exploration and research."
  • Gold mining in Munduruku and other territories has caused deadly mercury poisoning, according to NGOs and community leaders.
  • Along with illegal logging and cattle-ranching, it has also contributed to record deforestation in the Amazon, which carries a worldwide impact.

What she's saying: Korap told Axios Latino that the prize is a recognition of environmental and Indigenous land protection fights other communities around the world also face. She also hopes people in other countries are encouraged to protect the planet.

  • "The language is different, the people are different. But the battle is the same," said Korap, who speaks Portuguese.
  • "The people shouldn't be afraid to fight. Shouldn't be afraid to defend their communities, children and forests. We have to continue resisting," she added.
  • "It's not easy when the great and powerful have your land… but the strength should come from the river, the freedom of the bird to go where it wishes, from the forest [and] from the people."

Between the lines: Korap and other activists face great danger for their work in Latin America, which has been the deadliest region for environmental and land rights defenders in the past few years, according to annual reports from NGO Global Witness.

  • Attacks on activists in Brazil are attributed mostly to illegal loggers, ranchers and miners.

Background: The Goldman Environmental Prize, or the "Green Nobel" as some know it, is awarded yearly to activists from six regions of the world in recognition of their grassroots work.

  • The other winners this year are Delima Silalahi of Indonesia; Diane Wilson of the United States; Tero Mustonen of Finland; Chilekwa Mumba of Zambia; and Zafer Kizilkaya of Turkey.

Editor's note: At the request of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the dollar amount awarded to winners has been removed from this story for security reasons.

Axios Standards Editor Carlos Cunha contributed to this report.

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