Jonathan Deal, a South African anti-fracking activist, has received international recognition for being awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. Honoring grassroots environmental heroes from across the world, the Goldman Environmental Prize recognizes people for their sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $150,000 which is the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists.
Jonathan received the award for having led a successful campaign against fracking in South Africa to protect the Karoo – a semi-desert region treasured for its agriculture, beauty and wildlife. Following announcements in 2011 from various companies planning to apply for exploratory mining permits in the Karoo, Jonathan felt compelled to start an anti-fracking campaign to raise awareness about the potential impacts of fracking on South Africa’s water resources, people’s health and livelihoods and information on alternatives to fracking to meet energy needs.
With no prior training in grassroots organizing, Deal immediately got to work, starting a Facebook group to educate the public about the risks of fracking. The page quickly gained an active membership of more than 7,000, some of whom Deal convened at a meeting to form Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG). Over the course of a few short months, they built a viral online presence and coupled it with on-the-ground efforts to inform rural communities about fracking. Deal led a dedicated team of scientists, legal experts and volunteers to prepare a comprehensive report, delivered by TKAG to South Africa’s president that called for a moratorium on fracking.
The moratorium, however, was short-lived – but it did prompt the commissioning of new governmental studies (from the science and technology department) to examine fracking’s environmental impacts.
The Goldman Environment Prize supports individuals like Jonathan Deal who are struggling to win environmental victories against the odds and inspires ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the world.