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Published on Apr 15, 2009
In the heart of Appalachia, where the coal industry wields enormous power over government and public opinion, lifelong resident Maria Gunnoe fights against environmentally-devastating mountaintop removal mining and valley fill operations. Her advocacy has led to the closure of mines in the region and stricter regulations for the industry.
The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world's largest award for grassroots environmentalists. Awarded annually since 1990, the Prize is given to environmental heroes from the six continental regions of Africa, Asia, Islands & Island Nations, Europe, North America and South & Central America.
The Prize is announced in April every year, to coincide with the international celebration of Earth Day. It includes a trip to San Francisco to accept the cash award of $150,000 per winner. Recipients receive a bronze sculpture that interprets the crosscultural motif of a snake with its tail in its mouth. Known as the ouroboros, this symbol is associated with nature's powers of renewal.
The purpose of the Prize is to recognize sustained and significant efforts to preserve the natural environment, including, but not limited to, protecting endangered ecosystems and species combating destructive development projects; promoting sustainability; influencing environmental policies;and striving for environmental justice.