Congratulations to independent media host Amy Goodman, recipient of the “Right Livelihood Award”

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Independent media advocate, broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, and author Amy Goodman joined three other women from around the world yesterday in Stockholm, Sweden to receive the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” given for personal courage and social transformation.

Post by Anne Polansky

Amy Goodman is the founder and host of Democracy Now!, a daily, grassroots news program broadcast on hundreds of public TV and radio stations globally and has one of the most popular news podcasts on the web.  Goodman was honored “for developing an innovative model of truly independent political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media.” 

Together with co-host Juan Gonzalez, Goodman covers news stories in the “War and Peace Report” often neglected by the MSM, “breaking the silence” in instances where major news networks and the print media fail to report on issues and developments of significance.  Climate change now takes a predominant spot alongside social justice, the anti-war movement, and economic equity issues covered extensively by Democracy Now!  Goodman has interviewed a number of climate scientists, policymakers, and advocates working for a more appropriate response to global climate disruption than we saw under the Bush administration.  CSW Director Rick Piltz has been referenced in two segments, one with Greenpeace USA director John Passacantando (here), and one with British author and journalist George Monbiot (here).

The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to honor and support those “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today”  by Jakob von Uexkull who opposed the addition of the Nobel Prize in economics to the exclusion of other worthy areas, such as environment, architecture, or social justice.  There are now 133 Laureates from 57 countries.  Presented annually in Stockholm at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament, the Right Livelihood Award is usually shared by four Recipients.

This year’s four RLA Laureates are all women; joining Amy Goodman to receive the award were:

*  Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan (India), “for two long lifetimes of work dedicated to realizing in practice the Gandhian vision of social justice and sustainable human development, for which they have been referred to as ‘India’s soul’.” 

*  Asha Hagi (Somalia), “for continuing to lead at great personal risk the female participation in the peace and reconciliation process in her war-ravaged country.”

*  Monika Hauser (Germany), gynecologist and founder of medica mondiale, “for her tireless commitment to working with women who have experienced the most horrific sexualised violence in some of the most dangerous countries in the world, and campaigning for them to receive social recognition and compensation.”

Amy Goodman took Democracy Now! on the road to Sweden this week, yesterday interviewing Jakob von Uexkull, the founder of the Right Livelihood Award.  He explained the origin of the RLA, and his motivation for creating it, on her program:

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. So, how did this begin?

JAKOB VON UEXKULL: It really is like your program, about breaking silences. You know, I was always wondering, why do we live with problems we can solve? Why are there solutions, but they’re not taken seriously? I was always interested in the question of, you know, solutions and how do you get taken seriously. Now, if you grow up in Sweden, you realize that, suddenly in October, when the Nobel Prizes are announced, then there are these people who get taken seriously, not just in their own areas. Suddenly, if you win a Nobel Prize, you can pronounce on anything, and you get taken seriously and you’re listened to.

And these awards were created in a very different age, when the belief in progress and technology were still sort of unlimited. There was no problem with a so-called third world. There was no ecological problem. And so, there was a gap. And strangely enough, only one gap was filled in these hundred years. The Nobel Committee created one new award not started by Alfred Nobel himself, namely the one for economics. And I said, well, that’s a bit strange. You know, there are very important other gaps here.

So I proposed to the Nobel Foundation an award for environmental work and for human development, and I offered to provide some money to start this from the sale of my business. Obviously I’m not as wealthy as Alfred Nobel, so it wouldn’t have funded the award in the long term. But it was to try to get them to take this seriously. And I received a polite reply back saying that they had decided not to introduce any more Nobel awards. And so, I then felt, you know, obliged to try it myself. So I went back to Sweden, where I hadn’t lived since I was a child, and I sent out an announcement. I found through my network two very good recipients.

The first year, I was told that it was debated in the Swedish media whether this was a KGB plot or a CIA plot to discredit the Nobel Prizes. You know, this was still in the Cold War. But one member of the Swedish parliament believed so much in this that in five years of work, she managed to convince enough colleagues from all the political parties to invite us to present these awards in the Swedish parliament, which has now happened, happening for over twenty years. So that, in brief, is the story.

It’s grown, the award, into other areas, because it’s a very open and democratic award. You know, Nobel Prizes, only a certain very small group of people can nominate for a Nobel Prize. And with our award, anybody can nominate anybody, except, of course, themselves or their own organization. So we get nominations from all over the world. We knew that the environment remains, you know, a very important issue. But we also realize that even in the areas where there are Nobel Prizes, like economics even, like medicine, like physics, only a certain group of people get these. You know, nobody from another medical tradition but modern Western medicine would ever get a Nobel Prize for medicine. No physics prize, no Nobel physics prize has ever gone to a solar energy physicist.

So we honored the most successful photovoltaic—solar photovoltaics researcher in the world, an Australian, Martin Green, a few years ago. And we’ve honored economists like Professor Herman Daly, who is now at University of Maryland, the pioneer of ethical ecological steady-state economics, because although he would deserve it in any objective world, he is very unlikely ever to get a Nobel Prize in economics. We have had a few other pioneers: Manfred Max-Neef from Chile, Leopold Kohr from Austria, highly recognized economics, but they were teaching the wrong kind of economics.

AMY GOODMAN: And you gave an award to Wangari Maathai, what, twenty years before she won the Nobel.

JAKOB VON UEXKULL: Indeed. That was kind of interesting, that we gave the award to her in ’84, which was the first year we had an all-women panel of recipients, and then exactly twenty years later, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

AMY GOODMAN: The Kenyan environmentalist.

JAKOB VON UEXKULL: Kenyan, yeah. The initiator of the Green Belt reforestation movement in Kenya   ….

The full interview, as well as interviews with two of the other Laureates, can be read on the Democracy Now! website

Each recipient, including Democracy Now! will receive 2 million swedish kronars (SEK), equivalent to about $250,000 (USD). 

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