Matki Polki na wyrębie (“Polish Mothers at the Felling” in Polish) is a grassroots group of mothers who protested against the rampant logging practices near Warsaw. Logging tripled in 2016, especially in the region of the Białowieża forest. Jan Szyszko, the Polish environmental minister of Białowieża, claimed that logging would save the trees from beetles. However, the authorities failed to consider the historical and environmental importance of the trees. Most of the animals are dependent on the lichens, mosses, and fungi and other parts of the Białowieża ecosystem for their survival. Thus, mothers are coming forward to save their great heritage. Photo credit: Tomasz Wiech.
Małgorzata Górska from the Polish Society for Protection of Birds led the way to halt the controversial Via Baltica Expressway planned by the Polish government that would have interrupted the Rospuda Valley. The Rospuda Valley is one of Poland’s oldest and most unspoiled natural areas, home to ancient peat bogs, wetlands and unique and diversified ecosystem of flora and fauna. Górska, with support of the World Wildlife Fund, Polish Green Network, and the Polish Society for Protection of Birds, opposed the government’s move by presenting data on the illegality of the construction at the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice. Due to her concerted efforts and the growing pressure from civil society, the EU and the ruling from the Polish courts, the Polish government re-routed the controversial section of the Via Baltica Expressway. Photo credit: The Goldman Environmental Prize
Jadwiga Lopata, a former computer programmer who has worked on rural preservation since the mid-1980s, received the Goldman Environmental Prize. Jadwiga created an eco-tourism program that promoted the environmental, economic and health advantages of small family farms over large-scale factory agriculture. She is currently working on a campaign which fights the advance of supermarket chains, and at the same time she is helping to ensure a future for local food.