February 20, 2020, Thomson Reuters Foundation News
The notion that values change with generations may have something to it. In this case, we note a kind of “old soul” coming up that values our environment and seeks to reverse the excesses of those who came before. So, it is little wonder that activist Greta Thunberg, who turned 17 in January, will use the 1 million Swedish kronor prize (USD $100,000) that comes with her Right Livelihood Award to create a philanthropic foundation “to promote ecological and social sustainability.” As time goes on, she will add to the fund with her proceeds from other prizes, donations, and book royalties.
The Right Livelihood Foundation, which awards this “alternative Nobel,” honors and supports those who work for others and the natural world, often under adversity. It takes its name from a part of Buddhism’s eightfold path:
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The idea of “right livelihood” is an ancient one. It embodies the principle that each person should follow an honest occupation, which fully respects other people and the natural world. It means being responsible for the consequences of our actions and taking only a fair share of the earth’s resources.
Thunberg is only one among many young activists to work toward right livelihood. Helen Gualinga, another 17-year-old activist, speaks for her indigenous people in the Amazon. She fights against oil companies and the government who threaten her community of Sarayaku, Ecuador. “What got me into environmental activism was just living and growing up in the community,” says Gualinga. “I think that is activism. That’s a sign of resistance.” Autumn Peltier is a 15-year-old activist for clean water. She is a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation from northern Ontario, Canada. She has been advocating for fresh water in her community on the shore of Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes, since she was eight years old. The Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on the earth.—Marian Conway