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Things are quiet a2013Coverround the office since we said goodbye to 40 ELAW partners from 27 countries. These environmental heroes came to Oregon late last month for the 2013 ELAW Annual Meeting and the 31st Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.

Before he flew home, longtime partner Kenneth Kakuru from Uganda said, “This is a pilgrimage. I come to renew my zeal!”

We traveled to a conference site in Blue River and built foundations for lasting collaboration using law, science, and economics to protect communities and the environment.Thuli on cover of Weekly

We explored old growth forests, learned about local efforts to defend ecosystems, and cooked great meals together.

Many colleagues met face-to-face for the first time, including Goldman Prize winners Thuli Makama from Swaziland and Ikal Angelei from Kenya.

Enjoy profiles of the international partners who attended our annual gathering and a cover story in the Eugene Weekly, “Fighting for Africa.”

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

We are wrapping up the look back at our favorite ELAW moments from 2010, with entries from ELAW’s Executive Director, Bern Johnson, and Associate Director, Lori Maddox. Bern and Lori have been with ELAW from the beginning. They have been a part of many landmark victories and memorable moments. Like so many members of the ELAW network, they have also become fast friends with partners around the world, working together for years and sharing more than legal resources.

Thanks for reading in 2010. We hope you will feel inspired to share these stories with others and continue following ELAW in 2011.

Lauren, ELAW Office Manager

…..

Bern Johnson, ELAW Executive Director
Saving Pellew Island

Saving Pellew Island is a favorite victory.  Pellew Island is a tiny little dot of 1.5 acres off Eastern Jamaica’s Portland Parish.  I’ve never seen it.  I’ve never even been to Jamaica!

Yet, I smile when I think about Pellew Island.  I know that people in Jamaica have been enjoying Pellew Island for generations.  I know it is home to native trees, a pristine beach, healthy seagrass beds, and coral reefs.  I know that one of our partners in Jamaica—Diana McCaulay—spent many happy hours on Pellew Island as a child.

I also know that the owners of Pellew Island proposed to build four villas on the island—they were advertised for sale on www.privateislandsonline.com for $2.5 million apiece.  Building these villas would have destroyed living things on Pellew Island and forever changed it—it would have ceased being a natural place that Jamaicans could enjoy.  And, I know that in Jamaica it is hard to win lasting victories for the environment, especially when someone stands to make big money by destroying natural treasures.

So, I am thrilled that Jamaica’s government rejected plans to build these villas on Pellew Island.  When I think of this tiny island, I am reminded:  Greed does not have to win–people can decide that some places are too unique and too special to be sacrificed for profit. Profits come and go, but I hope Pellew Island stays pristine forever.

Lori Maddox, ELAW Associate Director
ELAW – My Extended Family

Zschiesche family in Eugene

When I reflect on what might be my ELAW “pick” for 2010, what comes to mind FIRST is a steady stream of faces of the people in the ELAW network -who form an integral part of my extended family.  Watching Thuli Makama receive the Goldman Prize in San Francisco, welcoming Thuli and her daughters to the home of an ELAW Director in Berkeley, watching the teenagers compare notes about school in Berkeley and Swaziland.  Welcoming Jean Andre Victor, of Haiti, to my local Eugene international potluck group.  Birdwatching in Costa Rica at 6am with Ritwick (India), Ipat (Philippines) and Ian (Australia) – while swapping organizing strategies and stories of our work.  Welcoming the dawn on Solstice Day from the top of a mountain with my family and the Zschiesche family, in Eugene on a fellowship from ELAW Germany.

Because for me, the greatest thing about ELAW is how our relationships help us get up every day and fight the good fight even better.  Michael Zschiesche visited Eugene in the early 1990s, when we were both a lot younger, and had big ideas, but very small organizations.  Now Michael leads the Independent Institute of Environmental Concerns (UfU) in Berlin, and we both have the good fortune to be part of a much bigger international ELAW family.  When Michael was here the first time, ELAW was comprised of a dozen or so advocates in as many countries.  Now we are 300 strong, in 70 countries.  His visit in 2010 helped me reflect on how far we have come, and what we, together, are accomplishing.  The volume of excellent work that my ELAW heroes churn out is astounding.

Coqui, ACCSD's first staff member

In addition to the wisdom of experience like Michael’s, I cherish the constant inflow of fresh perspective and new ideas.  This year I helped some great folks in Belize launch new organizations that will help advance environmental law.  So another “pick” would have to be celebrating the first staff and the new office of the Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) in San Pedro, and (office coming soon) its sister organization in Placencia: the Peninsula Citizens for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

And one final Belize “pick:” the publication of Stand Up, Speak Up, a citizens guide to public participation in Belize by BELPO.  The Guide is already in its second printing, and citizens around the country are using it to challenge a constant stream of short-sighted development schemes that threaten Belize’s unparalleled natural treasures.

As promised, here are some of the fabulous photographs of Thuli Brilliance Makama from the Goldman Prize ceremony.  Thanks to ELAW Staff Attorney Liz Mitchell for all photos (except the photo of Thuli with the Ouroboros – which was provided by the Goldman Prize organization.)

Goldman Prize CeremonyThuli & ELAW staff

Thuli Makama with Goldman Prize

On this Earth Day, we invite you to join us in congratulating Thuli Brilliance Makama on winning the Goldman Prize!

Thuli is the only public interest environmental lawyer in Swaziland and is the Director of Yonge Nawe (SiSwati for “you too must conserve the environment”) an organization committed to environmental justice.  She has done fantastic work and risked everything to give citizens a voice in protecting Swaziland’s environment. You can read more about her great work here.  We are gathering messages of congratulations from around the world and will present them to Thuli before she returns to Swaziland next week.  If you wish to add a message, please  click here.

If the above link doesn’t work with your browser, just post a note in the comments section below and we’ll forward it on to Thuli.

What a great way to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day!

ELAW partner Thuli Brilliance Makama of Swaziland has been awarded the 2010 Goldman Prize!  The Goldman Prize is the highest honor a grassroots environmental advocate can receive — sort of like a “green” Nobel Prize.  ELAW is thrilled to have nominated Thuli and is thrilled that now the rest of the world will learn about her fabulous work.

Thuli told the Goldman Prize organizers:  “I defend the rights of local communities to participate in environmental decision-making so that future generations may benefit.”

The Goldman Foundation selected Thuli for the Prize because of her courageous efforts to fight Big Game Parks — a private corporation that owns and operates two game parks and has been granted authority to manage one of Swaziland’s national parks.  Thuli and her organization have been working to  ensure that local community members have a voice in the management of their environment.  Goldman notes that Thuli’s “success in challenging malpractices in environmental management is a huge step forward in the struggle to include local people in conservation efforts in Swaziland.”

ELAW staff members Lori Maddox, Jen Gleason and Liz Mitchell will attend the ceremony tonight — and have promised to send photos.


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