Lawyer fighting palm oil among six to win environmental prize

phys.org | 4/22/2019 | Staff
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When Alfred Brownell arrived in a remote Liberian village, the surrounding tropical rainforest had been leveled by bulldozers. Burial grounds were uprooted, religious shrines were desecrated and a stream people depended upon for water was polluted.

Brownell, an environmental lawyer and activist, blamed the devastation on the palm oil company Golden Veroleum Liberia. The company had been given a green light in 2010 by the government to expand in the country and was poised to turn more than 800 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) of lush forest into palm oil plantations.

Brownell - Monday - Goldman - Environmental - Prize

Brownell on Monday was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for exposing alleged abuse by the company and helping to prevent it from converting about 20 square miles (about 50 square kilometers) of forest that is home to elephants, pygmy hippopotamuses and chimpanzees.

He said he was forced to flee the country in 2016 after the government threatened to arrest him for his activism.

Annihilation - Brownell - Visiting - Scholar - Northeastern

"It was total annihilation," said Brownell, now a visiting scholar at Northeastern University's School of Law in Boston.

"It was just not that they were destroying the forest, destroying habitat for species and everything," he said. "They had also a system where they were working with the local government officials who were threatening, harassing and intimidating the communities."

Spokesman - Company - Randall - Kaybee - Statement

A spokesman for the company, Randall Kaybee, acknowledged in a statement that "there have been lapses in following its own operating procedures, resulting in grievances among some communities and in the inadvertent clearance of some high carbon stock forest areas." He said measures have been put in place to address these problems.

Gregory Coleman, who now heads Bureau of Concessions under Liberia's current government, said authorities are working to avoid past problems like those that arose with Golden Veroleum.

Liberia - Goal - Government

"A green Liberia is the ultimate goal of this government and we have agreed to halt all...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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