2022 Goldman Prizewinners from South America, Alex Lucitante & Alexandra Narvaez, European Prizewinner, Marjan Minnesma! URB-E, “Last Mile” E-Cargo Delivery

by | Jun 1, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

2022 Goldman prizewinners from South America, Alex Lucitante & Alexandra Narvaez, also European prizewinner, Marjan Minnesma! URB-E, “Last Mile” e-cargo delivery.



The Goldman Environmental Prize recognizes grassroots environmental heroesThe Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. This year’s South & Central America winners, Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narvaez exemplify some of the risks taken to achieve their climate goals. The two spearheaded an Indigenous movement to protect their people’s ancestral territory of Cofan from gold mining. 

Located in northern Ecuador around the Cayambe-Coca National Park, the Cofan covers more than 1,500 square miles of rainforests, wetlands, glacial lagoons, and snowcapped mountains, including the Cayambe volcano. It’s home to 3,000 species of plants, 50 mammal species, 650 bird species, and 100 types of reptiles and amphibians.  

Narvaez, 29, helped form a forest patrol called La Guardia in 2017 to monitor and halt illegal activities taking place in their territory. La Guardia began spotting makeshift mining encampments along the riverbanks in remote parts of their land and within the national park, with loggers, poachers, and illegal gold miners operating actively.

Upon the discovery of mining operations and concessions, La Guardia stepped up patrols by foot and boat.  They placed camera traps along remote trails to photograph illegal incursions, used GIS tools to map threats to the land, and operated drones over rivers and creeks to document previously described illegal activities. 

In early 2018, Lucitante and Narvaez led the Cofán community in the filing of a lawsuit against Ecuador’s government for violating their rights as an Indigenous community and illegally granting mining concessions without free, prior, and informed consent. In July 2018, Ecuador’s provincial court nullified the 52 mining concessions that the government had granted in violation of the Cofán right to consultation.

The Court also ruled that the concessions violated the right to a healthy environment and clean water, calling for remediation of the area damaged by previous mining activity. All current mining operations were halted and pending concessions were canceled. The decision closed the door to gold mining in their homeland. 

DEEPER DIVE: Goldman Prize, Amazon Frontlines, Alianza Ceibo



URB-E, is a Los Angeles-based company started out as a company making mini e-scooters. If you’re a city dweller, you might have seen their competitors, Lime or Bird. Not as deep-pocketed as those, yet eager to be part of the e-mobility solution, URB-E pivoted. It’s now hell bent on becoming THE last-mile, 100% emissions-free, e-alternative to delivery trucks.  

URB-E makes its own workhorse e-bikes. The bikes are geared to haul large loads. Imagine an e-bike hitched to a trailer. Aircraft inspired double-wheel braking, hitch and suspension systems allow for more stability on fraying road infrastructure. The bike travels at up to 20 miles at about 15 mph. The trailer—about as wide as a conventional parking space—contains 20 folded containers and is capable of hauling up to 800 pounds.  

Why does developing a high-density niche for last-mile, electric cargo vehicles like URB-E matter to us? “Cargo e-bikes let delivery workers avoid car traffic congestion, reduce pollution and are safer vehicles on our streets than trucks.

The upside of pioneering the compact container e-delivery network is first to market advantage. The downside is the niche is so new nobody knows how to operate in it. So, URB-E has created an entire ecosystem. It offers its clients everything from sales to logistical hubs to bike rider training, to a valet service to help manage charging, mechanic services and CRM software, too.

Sarah Kaufman, associate director of Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University, said. “Cities all over the world are starting to reshape themselves for smaller-form vehicles and more human-powered transportation; cargo e-bikes fit perfectly into this vision.”

DEEPER DIVE: URB-E, Bloomberg Green, Squareroots Insta



This year’s European winner goes to Marjan Minnesma from the Netherlands. In stark contrast to its environmentally progressive image of bicycles, windmills, tulips, lush farmland, and agricultural exports, the Netherlands is in fact an industrial powerhouse and a major polluter. 

89% of its energy is generated by coal and natural gas. Until recently it was Europe’s second largest producer and exporter of natural gas, and the coastal hub of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest petrochemical port. In 2007, Minnesma founded The Dutch Urgenda Foundation. Urgenda aims for a fast transition towards a sustainable society, with a focus on the transition towards a circular economy using only renewable energy. 

In 2010, all EU member states adopted targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Dutch government continued to ignore its commitments.  Inspired in part by the book, Revolution Justified, by Roger Cox, Minnesma argued that the government was putting Dutch citizens in harm’s way due to its inaction on climate change, and that it has a legal obligation—“duty of care”—to protect them. The proposed remedy was judicial intervention to force action by the Dutch government.

After the Dutch government responded that it did not want to be a “frontrunner” in tackling climate change, Minnesma and Urgenda filed a lawsuit against the government in November 2013. In June 2015, Urgenda achieved a significant victory when the Hague’s district court ruled that the Dutch government had breached its duty of care by failing to enact measures to protect its citizens from climate change. The Dutch government immediately appealed.

But in December 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the government did have a legal obligation to protect its citizens from climate change and ordered it, by the end of 2020, to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 1990 levels. Why does Minnesma and the work of Urgenda matter to us? The Netherlands’ Supreme Court decision marks the first time that citizens succeeded in holding their government accountable for its failure to protect them from climate change. 

DEEPER DIVE: Goldman Prize, Urgenda, Dutch Supreme Court Ruling