Brower Youth Awards 2011

Meet six extraordinary young people who were recognized in 2011 for their outstanding activism and achievements in the fields of environmental and social justice advocacy.

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180x135_BYA_2011The annual Brower Youth Awards honor six young people for their outstanding activism and achievements in the fields of environmental and social justice advocacy. The 2011 award winners are:

Making environmental education fun and engaging for young folks is Victor Davila’s passion. Which is why he set up EcoRyders, a series of summer workshops that combine environmental and health education with skateboarding. Workshop participants build their own skateboards and learn about pressing environmental issues in their community. EcoRyders offers a way to tackle both high obesity rates among local youth as well as lack of public transportation in the area.

ALEXANDER EPSTEIN, 20, Philadelphia, PA
Inspired by a community service trips to post-Katrina New Orleans, Alex Epstein co-founded New York 2 New Orleans Coalition, an network of New York City high school students mobilizing around the parallel struggles of New Orleans and their own communities. When he moved to Philadelphia for college, Alex helped co-found The Philadelphia Urban Creators (PUC) — an outfit of young community organizers trying to build relationships with Philadelphia communities to help them develop sustainably, and equitably, from the ground up.

A desire to earn a Girl Scouts award led Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva to something much larger. The two friends created Project ORANG (Orangutans Really Appreciate and Need Girls Scouts) in 2007 to earn their award. Then they discovered that the Girl Scouts’ iconic cookies contain palm oil, and that palm oil plantations are one of the leading causes of orangutan habitat destruction. So Rhiannon and Madison started a campaign to get the Girl Scouts to replace palm oil with a more eco-friendly oil instead. They have since partnered with Rainforest Action Network, co-authoring a petition that has generated more than 70,000 emails to the Girl Scouts headquarters.

 TANIA PULIDO, 21, Richmond, CA
In a city plagued by high crime and industrial pollution, Tania Pulido runs a community garden that’s more than just a place to grow food. The Berryland garden in the Iron Triangle neighborhood of Richmond, CA, is also a space where local youth can take summer apprenticeships and learn about issues like climate change and environmental racism. Tania is deeply involved in issues impacting the health of her community, including a campaign against the local Chevron oil refinery.

KYLE THIERMANN, 21, Santa Cruz, CA
Kyle Thiermann isn’t all about surfing — though the sport is a huge part of his life and his inspiration. His five-part video series, called Surfing for Change, urges people to make small adjustments in their daily actions to help save the environment. The videos have produced tangible results: Thousands of viewers have transferred $340 million worth of lending power from coal-funding banks to local community banks and have been persuaded to purchase locally and use less plastic.

JUNIOR WALK, 21, Whitesville, WV
Junior Walk lives in one of many coal-dependent communities of West Virginia, where criticizing the coal industry can be grounds for ostracism. But Junior, who was mentored by the late anti-strip-mining activist Judy Bonds, continues to challenge Big Coal’s power in Appalachia. He was a keynote speaker at the 2011 PowerShift conference in Washington, DC, and travels across the nation educating people about the long-term environmental, health and community degradation caused by coal mining.

A Rikshaw Films production in association with Earth Island Institute’s Brower Youth Awards


Earth Island Institute’s New Leaders Initiative:



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Find out more about the Brower Youth Award winners and their causes:David Brower was a pioneering leader in the evolution of the 20th century environmental movement. Time after time in a career that evolved over more than 60 years, until his death in 2000, he saw the need for expanding what people thought of as environmental, to meet the needs of an evolving, fair, sustainable society. A key part of Brower’s vision for action was his mentorship of younger emerging leaders. Earth Island Institute founded its Brower Youth Awards program to celebrate the spirit of Brower’s mentoring, and it has expanded its New Leaders Initiative to provide other opportunities for young people finding their way in working for the planet’s agenda.In his sixty-plus years of activism, nothing gave David Brower greater joy than see the success of the many young leaders he mentored, among them Dave Foreman, Amory Lovins and Julia Butterfly Hill. “My secret,” Dave said, “is to surround myself with bright, young people, stand back, then wallow in their accomplishments.” Click here to find out more about Dave.

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