Award-Winning Scientist Helps Communities Hold Toxic Industries Accountable

Thursday, April 14, 2011

(San Francisco, April 14) — As the first anniversary of the BP oil spill disaster approaches on April 20, the winner of Global Exchange’s domestic Human Rights Award, Wilma Subra, continues her work helping local communities hold toxic industries accountable for the effects they have on health and the environment.

In the year since BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and spilled more than 200 million gallons of heavy crude in the world’s worst oil disaster, toxicologist Subra has played a key role in helping to expose the full extent of the disaster, including the harmful effects of the spill on the health of communities and the environment along the Gulf coast.

A life-long Louisiana resident, Subra has testified before Congress, been interviewed by the media, and conducted public briefings on the affects of the spill.

Prior to the disaster, she applied her technical expertise to helping communities around the country impacted by natural gas drilling, polluted water, and nuclear waste. This included training residents of rural areas to gather their own scientific data, in order to monitor the impact of on dangerous chemicals on the health of their local communities.

Subra is the recipient of a 1999 MacArthur “genius” grant, and has served as vice-chair of the EPA’s National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology.

“We felt it of upmost importance to honor Ms. Subra with the Human Rights Award this year”, said Carleen Pickard, associate director of Global Exchange. “Her work alongside impacted communities, and in defense of the devastated environment of the Gulf, cannot go unrecognized.”

Global Exchange is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization founded in 1988. It inaugurated the Human Rights Awards (HRA) in 2001 to recognize the efforts of exceptional individuals and organizations fighting for human rights around the world. Past HRA winners have included Harry Belafonte, Paul Farmer, Eduardo Galeano, Van Jones, and Alice Walker.

Subra’s award coincides with the publication of a new book, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill (2011, Wiley), by Antonia Juhasz, director of Global Exchange’s Energy Program. It chronicles the deaths of eleven oil workers and countless wildlife, the vast damage to the environment, the corporate attempts at spin control, the political machinations at the state and federal levels, and the economic impact of the spill on the livelihoods of Gulf coast residents.

In addition to Subra and the international HRA winner, Bolivian Ambassador to the UN Pablo Solón, a “People’s Choice” award winner is nominated and voted on by the public. Voting ends April 19, and the People’s Choice will be announced May 3.

All three HRA recipients will be honored at a ceremony in San Francisco on June 1, which will include video presentations on each winner, and acceptance speeches by Wilma Subra and Amb. Pablo Solón. The event is open to the public.

For more information on the 2011 Human Rights Awards, visit For more information on Global Exchange, visit

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