“If it is to be, it’s up to me”
By Marsha Felton
Ramesh Agrawal is the epitome of this saying. His brave courage in challenging the powerful coal-mining industry in his region of India resulted in crucial, pioneering victories.
For his outstanding activism with saving the environment, Ramesh, 56, is a 2014 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest and most prestigious prize for grassroots environmentalists, also known as the “Green Nobel.”His passionate advocacy succeeded in shutting down one of the largest proposed coal mines in Chhattisgarh.
Ramesh is dedicated to empowering his fellow citizens who don’t have a voice, or even know that they have a choice, in confronting serious environmental harm and injustices. Translated from Hindi during our interview, he stirringly expressed what he has witnessed.
“The consequences of toxic pollution resulting in increased premature deaths, asthma, skin and lung diseases, and irresponsible land-grabbing which destroys economic livelihoods.”
Using a small Internet café as his headquarters, Ramesh, a former social worker with no legal training, devoted years to educating and engaging uninformed villagers about the environment and environmental violations and facilitating their Right to Information applications.
Powerful enemies, including industry supporters, recognized his successes. Ramesh was falsely arrested and endured tortuous months in prison. Then, gunmen broke into his internet café, and shot him in his left leg, severely shattering his bones. He has limited mobility, a long road to recovery, and unstoppable determination.
What brings him the most joy is his family. “I am blessed to have a wife, two sons, two daughters-in- laws, one daughter and a four-year old granddaughter. Other than my daughter, we all live together in the same home.”
Also known as the “Nobel of the Environmental World”
- Created in 1989 by the late philanthropists, Richard N. Goldman and his wife, Rhoda H. Goldman. Legacy continues with their two sons, John and Doug Goldman and daughter Susie Gelman.
- Recipients are awarded $175,000 to pursue their vision and heroic efforts.
- Award Ceremonies: San Francisco & Washington, D.C. International media coverage.
- Number of Prize winners: 163
- Number of countries represented by Prize winners: 81
- Amount of money given to Prize winners: $20 million
Marsha Felton is proud & delighted to interview inspiring people like Ramesh and to further the altruistic impact of the Goldman Environmental Prize. Marsha, presently Acting Managing Editor for GRAND Magazine, is also a marketing and PR consultant, freelance journalist, and entrepreneur.