Club-Nominated Activist Wins Goldman Prize
Puerto Rican grandmother and homemaker Rosa Hilda Ramos is among this year's winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize, awarded to grassroots environmental heroes in the six inhabited continental regions of the world. Ramos was nominated for the award by the Sierra Club.
Working without a budget or a professional attorney, Ramos led her community to defeat a major polluter in court, then helped convince the EPA to direct half of the $7 million fine to the permanent protection of Las Cucharillas Marsh, below, one of the last open spaces in that part of Puerto Rico and one of the region's largest wetland ecosystems, previously slated for industrial development.
On April 14, the day of the awards ceremony, Ramos spoke to assembled staff at Sierra Club headquarters in San Francisco, describing how her community of Cataño had been polluted by nearby power plants, and how local children first reported an acid spill that led to the court case against the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Asked who she had enlisted in her grassroots campaign, she said that all the local movers-and-shakers were arrayed against her, but she recruited citizens by going door-to-door and not just leaving a flyer, but taking time to talk with people one at a time.
Ramos was introduced by Club Executive Director Carl Pope and Puerto Rico Chapter organizer Camilla Feibelman, a former Sierra Student Coalition leader who began her professional life as an intern in the Club's S.F. office. "You know the manual you're given to learn grassroots organizing?" she asked. "Rosa Hilda wrote the book! She has been an incredible inspiration for younger organizers like me." Feibelman was instrumental in the Puerto Rico Chapter's recent victory in protecting the island's Northeast Ecological Corridor, vital nesting habitat for the threatened Leatherback Sea Turtle, as an ecological reserve.