“Someone from some news organization asked me if I thought that 400,000 people from all over the world marching in New York City demanding action on climate change was a signal that it was time to take stock. And I said no. The time for taking stock is many many years in the rearview mirror. The time to take appropriate action on climate change and environmental degradation is already fading in the rearview mirror. The time that we’re at is for aggressive action. 400,000 people in the street and many hundreds of thousands more all over the world is an aggressive demand. It is an informed civilian populace that knows and is demanding action that can only come from national and international leadership.” This was the actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, Edward Norton, speaking on Monday night from the stage at the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Equator Prize Ceremony, which took place at Avery Fisher Hall on Monday night, September 22. Norton was joined by many more actors, Ministers, Ambassadors, UN agency heads, philanthropists, leaders from the private sector, academia, musicians, politicians, and activists at the awards ceremony, which recognizes outstanding sustainable development from across the globe that demonstrate community-based, grassroots action to address environmental, poverty and climate change challenges head-on.
Al Gore, actress Connie Britton, actress Kyra Sedgewick, Her Majesty Queen Noor, The Queen of Jordan, Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and Former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Charles McNeil, Senior Policy Advisor, UNDP, Jane Goodall, Anthropologist & UN Messenger of Peace, Mary Robinson, UN Special Envoy fofr Climate Change and Former President of Ireland, actress Carla Gugino, Grammy Award nominated singer, Feist, Multiple Grammy Award winning rock band, Linkin Park, Grammy Award nominated singer-songwriter, Natasha Bedingfield, Colombe Akiwucan, Miss Rwanda 2014, and Global Development & Conservation Activist and Sports Illustrated cover model, Veronica Varekova were just a few of the special guests who took part in the ceremony.
“Congratulations to all 25 winners tonight. You are inspiring. Thank you for what you have done. You are an inspiration. I’ll tell you if you all can do so much with so little, why can’t governments do more with all of their resources that they have. What about that march! Wasn’t that great? Thank you for taking… how many of you all took part in the march? Could I see a show of hands. Alright.” This was Former US Vice President Al Gore congratulating the winners of the Equator Award. For many of the award winners, this was the first time they have left their communities, traveling to New York to collect their prize. Selected from a record 1,234 nominations from 121 different countries via an extensive technical review process guided by international experts, the winners will receive a monetary prize and join a global network of best practices in conservation and development.
Highlights of 2014 winners include:
• Tulele Peisa (“sailing the waves on our own”) (Papua New Guinea): One of the first community-driven climate refugee relocations in the world, where islands are being swallowed by the ocean so residents are planning and executing their own relocation, in conjunction with their new host community.
• Asociación de Mujeres Waorani del Ecuador: Developed in response to the uncontrolled poaching of wildlife in the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve (driven by local demand for bushmeat), the Waorani women now cultivate organic cocoa as a wildlife protection measure and a pathway to local sustainable development.
• Conservation Area Management Committee, Parche (Nepal): The remote, indigenous Gurung people have planted 200,000 trees to combat landslides and flashfloods in their high altitude community, and installed micro hydro-electric generators to generate an income from clean, sustainable energy.
• Water is Hope (Tajikistan): A grassroots initiative that is using community-elected water custodians to establish an equitable water distribution system.
• Northern Rangelands Trust (Kenya): A network of 26 community conservancies driving a community-based movement that puts indigenous communities at the forefront of land management, wildlife conservation, and sustainable livestock practices.
• Farmer Movement of the 3rd Section of Camp-Perrin (Haiti): A farmer-driven initiative focused on food security, organic farming and reforestation
Since 2002, the Equator Initiative has brought together the United Nations, governments, civil society, academic institutions, and grassroots organizations to recognize local efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Connie Britton called the winners of the Equator Prize “the true heros in our world, courageous leaders and they are all representing in their own way grassroots innovation in extraordinary ways. Indigenous and community based organizations that are forging bold and creative pathways to a more sustainable and equitable world.”