Agenda for a Just Future,Environmental & Climate Justice

Liberty Hill Supporter Nalleli Cobo Wins Prestigious Environmental Prize

June 23, 2022
By Michele Prichard

One of the youngest organizers for ending oil drilling in Los Angeles, Nalleli Cobo, was honored with the Goldman Environmental Prize for North America last month, a distinguished honor which recognizes courageous environmental activists from around the world.

Selecting one activist from each of the six inhabited continental regions every year, the Goldman Environmental Prize is highly respected for its role in making visible, “People of ordinary backgrounds doing extraordinary things to save our Earth,” in the words of its founder, Richard Goldman.

Recipients serve as ambassadors for global climate and environmental action and are supported by the Goldman Environmental Prize to speak at conferences around the U.S. and the world, including an annual convening with young leaders to inspire them about the potential to make change against formidable odds.

“The activists honored today are living proof that by taking action, inspiring and collaborating with others, and not giving up, it is possible to turn things around. They…are a major reason why we should have hope for the future,” said Dr. Jane Goodall, world-renowned conservationist, humanitarian, and U.N. Messenger for Peace, speaking at the Goldman Environmental Prize Ceremony this past May.

Nalleli, now a 21-year-old college student, began her activist journey at just nine years old, living across the street from an active oil drilling site in South Los Angeles—the infamous Allenco Oil Company.

Nalleli suffered terrible health impacts as a child, requiring hospitalization and ongoing monitoring while her doctors struggled to understand the root cause of her illness. She and her mother, Monic Uriarte, began talking to neighbors, only to find out that many were suffering from the same health issues.

They founded “People Not Pozos” (People, Not Oil Wells) with the support of Esperanza Community Housing, to create a collective, community response. Testifying at public hearings, contacting local and national elected officials, and gaining media attention, the People Not Pozos campaign made a breakthrough in 2013, gaining the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. The organizing led to a slew of lawsuits, including one by the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, that eventually closed Allenco permanently in March 2020.

In 2014, STAND LA (Standing Together Against Neighborhood Drilling) was founded, and Nalleli became one of the most passionate leaders. With Liberty Hill support, the coalition has stressed the harmful health and climate impacts, and the stark racial disparity of LA’s active oil wells that are primarily located within low-income communities of color, exposing Latino, African American and immigrant communities to toxic chemicals that damage human and reproductive health.

Nalleli’s activism continued into her college years. In 2020, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, requiring her to undergo surgery and treatment. She is now in remission. Nalleli faced her illness with the same fierce resolve, continuing her activism throughout by supporting STAND LA and the Youth Climate Strike movement.

In a Los Angeles Times story, Nalleli quipped that she would one day become president: “Remember my name: Nalleli Cobo. It’ll be on the ballot!”

Liberty Hill congratulates Nalleli on her many achievements and her Prize award. As Nalleli demonstrates for us all, the unsung s/heroes who lead the global movement for social, environmental and climate justice keep us inspired during these challenging times as they sow the seeds of a new world vision.

This award belongs to all frontline communities advocating day-to-day for their right to breathe clean air.
Nalleli Cobo
2022 North American Recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize