North America’s Top Green Youth Leaders


.. and one of them is Canadian!

Congratulations to Robin Bryan – 2009 Brower Youth Award recipient.

Original press release below…

North America’s Top Green Youth Leaders Spotlighted As Prestigious Environmental Award Celebrates 10th Anniversary

San Francisco, CA – Who’s responsible for some of North America’s biggest environmental victories, such as saving one million acres of boreal forest from industrial logging, helping to prevent the permits for twenty new coal plants and five mountaintop removal coal applications, and transforming food purchasing across the University of California system? Young people who have yet to celebrate their 23rd birthdays.

On October 20, 2009, Earth Island Institute will bestow the 2009 Brower Youth Award to six of North America’s boldest young environmental leaders. The 2009 prize recipients include:

  • Sierra Crane-Murdoch, 21, of Vermont, for uniting the movement to battle coal
  • Adarsha Shivakumar, 16, of California, who implemented a biofuel solution in rural India
  • Alec Loorz, 15, of California, the youngest presenter of Al Gore’s “The Climate Project”
  • Diana Lopez, 20, of Texas, who created an organic food source for San Antonio
  • Hai Vo, 22, of California, for helping transform University of California food purchasing
  • Robin Bryan, 21, of Manitoba, who helped protect one million acres of forest in Canada

The award recipients will receive a $3,000 cash prize for their achievements, while being recognized at the Brower Youth Awards 10th anniversary gala celebration in San Francisco on October 20, 2009, with 900 people in attendance.

The six winners were chosen from more than 125 applicants for their creative and effective work tackling problems ranging from food justice to deforestation, global warming to pollution.

The thirteen judges for the award are leaders in business, journalism and the nonprofit sector, including Josh Dorfman of The Sundance Channel’s “Lazy Environmentalist”, Judith Helfand, the director of the global warming film “Everything’s Cool”, and Philippe Cousteau, CEO of EarthEcho International and grandson of Jacques Cousteau.

In the first ten years of the program, the 61 current and past award recipients have raised more than $1.4 million for environmental causes, trained more than 3,000 youth in advocacy, involved more than 32,000 in projects, implemented 20 university-wide environmental policies, passed eight pieces of legislation, organized more than 3,300 events and actions, produced more than 20 documentary films, and held 500 plus lobby meetings with elected officials.

The Brower Youth Awards is run by Earth Island Institute, a non-profit, public interest, membership organization that supports people who are creating solutions to protect our shared planet. Funding for the Brower Youth Awards comes from generous support by Earth Island members, as well as Visa, Clif Bar, and Klean Kanteen.


2009 Award Recipients

Sierra Crane-Murdoch, 21
Middlebury, VT
Power Past Coal –

Sierra co-founded Power Past Coal along with forty grassroots activists personally impacted by the mining, processing and burning of coal.  As National Coordinator, Sierra united diverse communities to convince President Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Congress to enact policies to swiftly and justly transition away from coal.  The team publicized or coordinated at least one action protesting coal everyday for the first 100 days of President Obama’s administration-eventually numbering 300 actions in total.  Tens of thousands of citizens participated in marches, lobby days, rallies, town hall meetings, and acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.  Through it all, Sierra provided leadership, support, and media coverage to the local organizations hosting these actions. Power Past Coal has been instrumental in building national pressure to move away from coal; over the course of the project, over twenty new coal plant permits and five mountaintop removal applications were denied or suspended, while the EPA committed to regulating carbon dioxide from coal plants and coal ash from slurry ponds.  “I had the rare opportunity to run a soulful campaign – one which was held afloat by the stories of the people who helped build the project from the grassroots up,” Sierra said.  “These stories were the true heart of this project, and I strongly believe that Power Past Coal must continue to provide a direct link between the people whose voices must be heard, and the leaders who must hear them.”


Adarsha Shivakumar, 15
Pleasant Hill, CA
Project Jatropha –

Adarsha recognized the complex relationship between the economy and the environment. In December of 2007, he co-founded Project Jatropha, an organization dedicated to promoting the plant Jatropha curcas as an ecologically friendly and economically profitable crop among the farmers of rural India. Project Jatropha collaborated with Parivarthana, an NGO that helps farmers, and Labland Biotechs, a plant biotechnology company, in order to convince farmers that raising Jatropha was an economically sustainable project. After demonstrating the conversion of Jatropha seeds into biofuel, Adarsha redistributed the biofuel so that farmers could test it on their irrigation pumps. The results were clear: the biofuel burned cleaner and worked smoother than the diesel that had previously been used. Armed with this knowledge, farmers set about planting the 1,000 Jatropha seedlings Adarsha had purchased for them using the money he earned by winning the 2006 California spelling bee. In Adarsha’s own words: “Carbon dioxide emissions are local, but their effects are global. Though this project is located in India, it is hoped that it will spearhead a movement that will eventually help mitigate global warming from CO2 emission and decrease the dependence on fossil fuels.” Recently, Project Jatropha expanded its operations and distributed 13,000 seedlings to a wider base of interested farmers.


Robin Bryan, 21
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Protect Manitoba’s Public Lands –

Robin lives in close proximity to the world’s largest single land storehouse of carbon and most abundant source of fresh water, the boreal forest of the East Shore Wilderness Area in Manitoba, Canada. It has been his mission to simultaneously preserve this valuable area and prevent the mismanagement of public land by putting an end to logging activity within the boundaries of provincial parks in Manitoba. While completing his degree at University of Winnipeg, Robin led the campaign against logging in Manitoba’s provincial parks. In order to accomplish his goal, Robin organized rallies, spoke with elected officials, delivered classroom presentations about the issue, fundraised tirelessly, organized volunteers to write and collect letters to the government and managed countless other feats of activism. In 2008, Robin was rewarded for his efforts when the Manitoba Legislative Throne Speech banned logging in four of the five parks with logging operations
-resulting in nearly one million acres of boreal forest protected from industrial logging. Robin said, “I began to realize just how much is at stake both locally and globally if the ecology of this province isn’t protected in historic proportions. I also began to realize just how unregulated and destructive industrial logging and mining have been in Manitoba. If I didn’t begin to dream big, act fast, and lead by example, I felt that I would have to sit back and watch a historic opportunity to stand up for public lands and protect the second largest wild area in the biosphere pass me by.”


Alec Loorz, 15
Ventura, CA
Kids vs. Global Warming –

Alec first saw Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” when he was 12 years old. Inspired by the message, Alec wrote to the organization and applied to be a presenter, but was denied due to his age. Undeterred, Alec created his own presentation and gave it over 30 times before Mr. Gore took notice. Eventually, Mr. Gore invited Alec to his next training session and Alec became the youngest presenter with “The Climate Project”. Since then, Alec has gone on to give over 100 presentations to upwards of 20,000 people and founded his own organization, Kids vs. Global Warming, a project of Earth Island Institute since 2008. Its mission is to educate youth on the science of climate change and empower them to take action. Through multi-media presentations to schools, keynote and panel presentations at conferences, videos and social media, Loorz translates the complex science of climate change into terms that motivate youth to get involved with creating solutions.  Another campaign Alec created, the Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels, was taken national with the Alliance for Climate Education, where Alec is youth leader.  The Declaration is a youth statement requesting that leaders consider the needs of future generations in their decision-making.  Signed by 350,000 youth, the Declaration will be presented to Congress by Alec in October of 2010. Alec believes that “youth have a unique sense of moral authority on this issue. It’s our planet now. And we are going to have to grow up and face the consequences of what the world does, or fails to do.”


Diana Lopez, 20
San Antonio, TX
Roots of Change Community Garden –

Diana Lopez organizes with the Southwest Workers Union for worker rights, environmental justice and community empowerment in San Antonio, Texas.  She has fought to clean up military base contamination, organized for energy policies, and in February 2007, along with community members and fellow organizers, started the Roots of Change community garden.  Diana attends school and works in the Eastside of San Antonio, Texas an area lacking large grocery stores and places to get fresh, organic, or local produce.  The new garden provides healthy organic food at no cost to community members, serves as an educational center, and creates a positive space for community involvement. Since 2007, hundreds of youth and adults have created a native plant garden, an arbor and raised garden beds.  The garden hosts educational sessions, student work days, and Texas-style barbeques where community members can come together to enjoy a meal and take home locally-grown produce. Diana says of her time spent working on the garden and other environmental justice issues in San Antonio, “I feel everyone deserves the right to a clean, healthy environment and your color or economic status. You work with other people who are fighting for the same thing: justice for people who, by systematic design, have more obstacles to overcome in their everyday life.  I have learned that through sharing our stories and history we become united in one struggle for justice.”


Hai Vo, 22
Irvine, CA
Real Food Challenge –

Hai Vo co-founded the Real Food Challenge (RFC) at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) after he radically transformed his health by learning to eat nutritious food. RFC is a national organization with representatives from more than 300 colleges in the United States dedicated to reallocating the four billion dollars spent annually on food at universities to “real” food: food that is ecologically-sound, community-based, humane and fair. Implicit in their mission is the idea that this food supports the greater health of consumers, producers, local communities and the environment.  In order to educate and connect students, Hai co-organized events that brought students together to “simply eat,” and to discuss their understanding of food.  The RFC at UCI has engaged over 500 campus and community members in leadership development, networking convergences, dinners, roundtable events, educational series, and online networks, all centered around sustainable food systems. The RFC has also worked with the University of California to develop a system-wide, institutional commitment to 20% real food procurement by the year 2020.   “Supplying real and sustainable food in a local and regional context is not a challenge, but we need the economic and regulatory incentives and infrastructure for producers, processors, and distributors to do so,” says Hai.  “It is about empowering our local economies, cultures, and communities.



Earth Island Institute established the Brower Youth Awards in 2000 to honor David Brower and to recognize and celebrate a new generation of young leaders following in David’s footsteps. In his distinguished career, David Brower served as an inspiration and mentor to four generations of environmentalists, many of whom — such as Amory Lovins, Dave Foreman, and Julia Butterfly Hill — have become well-known in their own right.

David’s legacy lives on in the thousands of young people across the country who, with few resources but their own energy and beliefs, are already accomplishing great things. The Brower Youth Awards seek to shine a national spotlight on six of the most successful environmentalists between the ages of 13 and 22, and encourage them to assume David Brower’s mantle of leadership and, like him, make activism a lifelong practice.

The winners each receive a $3,000 cash prize, participate in a backpacking trip at Point Reyes National Seashore, and are honored at an awards ceremony in the Bay Area, David Brower’s birthplace and home for over 50 years. In addition to this week of training and media opportunities, winners receive ongoing assistance from Earth Island staff who provide access to resources, mentors, skill-building workshops, and other opportunities for leadership development.

In addition to developing the environmental leaders of tomorrow, the Awards have a larger purpose. Through intensive outreach to both local and national media, people of all ages come to understand that environmentalists are ordinary people who, like David Brower, see a problem and take action to make a difference. We hope this message will inspire others to become involved in their communities.

Environmental leaders age 13 to 22 who live in North America are eligible for the Brower Youth Awards. Each spring, more than 100 youth apply for the Award. An internal Steering Committee reviews the applications and selects the finalists. An independent Selection Committee reviews the finalists and six winners are chosen.

For more information about the Brower Youth Awards, David Brower’s life and legacy, and Earth Island Institute, visit and



Earth Island Institute is a non-profit organization that serves as an incubator for start-up environmental projects seeking to conserve, protect, and restore global ecosystems.

Best know for its work as an organizational home for citizen-led campaigns and educational programs, Earth Island’s Project Support program has provided fiscal sponsorship to more than 100 projects in 25 years. In addition to our project support work, we also inform and inspire people to take action for ecological sustainability through our award-winning quarterly magazine, Earth Island Journal, our New Leaders Initiative, and our Restoration Initiative. The Journal balances investigative exposés with inspiring stories of change, giving people the information they need be effective environmental activists. Our New Leaders Initiative hosts the annual Brower Youth Awards, which highlights the amazing work of young people working for sustainability and provides emerging leaders with mentoring resources. Our Restoration Initiative funds community-based coastal protection and wetland restoration efforts in Southern California.

By sharing resources, Earth Island’s consortium of grassroots groups benefit from the synergistic exchange of experience and ideas, making them more effective together than they could ever be apart. We currently serve as the fiscal sponsor for nearly 50 groups, including Baikal Watch, Energy Action, Ethical Traveler, Fiji Organic Project, International Marine Mammal Project, Reef Protection International, Sacred Lands Film Project, and Women’s Earth Alliance, among others. Successful Earth Island Institute alum projects include International Rivers Network, Rainforest Action Network, and Blue Water Network.

Earth Island Institute was founded in 1982 by legendary environmentalist David Ross Brower as an innovative solution to this dilemma. Rather than create dozens of separate non-profit groups with the same basic administrative needs, Earth Island was designed to act as an umbrella organization, providing individual projects with the freedom to develop and pursue ideas and initiatives by offering a wide range of professional services, from office space and equipment to fiscal administration and program management.

By serving as a project incubator for creative individuals, we are helping to grow environmental success. Our sponsored projects investigate and respond to many of the world’s most pressing environmental and social issues and work toward a sustainable future through a combination of education and activism — informing decision-makers, the media, and the general public about global threats and opportunities; developing constituencies to respond to them; and providing ordinary citizens with opportunities to get involved, take action, and make a difference.

Earth Island Institute plays a unique and crucial role in the environmental movement as a model of innovative non-profit management and one of the most respected and internationally renowned environmental organizations.

For more information about Earth Island Institute, its nearly 50 independent projects, or its unique organizational structure, visit

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