Michigan Clean Water Activist Wins 2010 Goldman Prize
Lynn Henning, a family farmer and self-described "redneck" from Clayton, Michigan, is a 2010 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize.
Henning, 52, boarded an airplane for only the second time in her life this week to travel to San Francisco, where she received her award on April 19 along with five other winners. The Goldman Prize is awarded to grassroots environmental heroes in the world's six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, South America, and North America.
After a dozen huge factory farms, or CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), began operating within 10 miles of Henning and her husband Dean's 300-acre corn and soybean farm, she and her neighbors formed Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan to fight back and urge state and federal agencies to clamp down on CAFO pollution.
Henning, who joined forces with the Michigan Sierra Club as a volunteer Water Sentinel in 2001, regularly drove a 125-mile circuit to take water-quality samples, which she analyzed and took to state regulators to encourage them to take stronger action.
As a result, she has been subjected to harassment and threats such as having her mailbox blown up, having dead animals left on her front porch, and being followed and run off the road while doing water-quality monitoring. As she says in this video, "it didn't work."
"Lynn's response was to fight harder, learn everything she could about CAFO pollution, teach others what she knows, and advocate for solutions with anyone who could possibly stop this horror," says Michigan Sierra Club Director Anne Woiwode. "She is one of the bravest, smartest, and most determined people I've ever known."
As a result of Henning's determination, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has levied hundreds of citations against CAFOs for environmental violations, and a new proposed factory farm in the state was recently denied an operating permit for the first time.
Henning joined the Sierra Club staff in 2005 as a Michigan Water Sentinel. "We're honored and humbled that the Goldman Prize has recognized Lynn's outstanding work on the world stage," says Water Sentinels Director Scott Dye.
The day after receiving her award, Henning boarded an airplane for the third time in her life to travel to Washington, D.C., where among other things she and her fellow award winners will meet with President Barack Obama.
Photographs by Tom Dusenbery, courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize.