• Kirsten Taylor

Snowchange Cooperative Wins $100,000 Environmental Prize

The Finnish project, ‘Snowchange Cooperative’ has won the prestigious St Andrews Prize for the Environment. According to the University Website, the aim of the prize, which is now in its 23rd year, is “to champion the people and ideas addressing the greatest challenge of our age.” The project, which promotes ecological restoration, was announced as the winner on the 5th of October, edging out Planet Indonesia and Cities without Hunger to win the $100,000 prize. Led by the University of St Andrews, the prize is an initiative which acknowledges innovative projects which are making substantial contributions to environmental issues, sustainability, community development, conservation and biodiversity. Snowchange Cooperative is an organisation based in Finland which was started in 2000 to work with Northern Indigenous communities in the Circumpolar North. The Cooperative is comprised of a network of indigenous communities both local and global who address issues of biodiversity, climate change, indigenous culture and tradition, and rewilding.

Chairperson of the Cooperative, Tero Muston said, “We bow humbly in receiving this Prize which we dedicate to the Northern Indigenous and community women who lead the Snowchange work. “Rewilding landscapes in Finland using traditional knowledge and science matters for all of Europe because of the migratory bird flyways and large number of peatlands we can restore.

“Our work also ratifies Saami indigenous rights in practice, even though, unfortunately, they are still not recognised by Finnish Government. “We hope the global society joins us in a broad alliance to protect the boreal for- ests and Northern ecosystems of Finland.” The St Andrews Prize for the Environment has awarded more than $2 million to projects around the world to individuals and organisations whose actions are leading the way in issues of environmental conservation and sustainability. The two runners-up this year will also receive $25,000 each. These are Planet Indonesia, whose work involves village-led projects and partnerships to conserve at-risk ecosystems, and Cities Without Hunger, who focus on jobs, income and providing food with its emphasis on garden projects.

The Prize’s Chair of Trustees Dr Hayaatun Sillem, and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, says: “In what has been a turbulent year for all, I am delighted to award the 2021 Prize to such a globally significant project making a change in people’s lives. 2021 is a milestone year for addressing the climate crisis and it is heartening to see the sheer number and diversity of projects around the world looking to address the environmental challenges that affect us all.

“I would like to congratulate this year’s winner, Snowchange, who really impressed us with their integrated approach to working with Indigenous com- munities and the global scientific community to protect a vital ecosystem. We believe this is a very powerful approach that has the potential to deliver impact at scale, and we commend the talented and passionate team who have worked so hard to bring the project to life.” Principal of the University of St Andrews, Sally Mapstone said that “The Snowchange Cooperative is an outstanding winner of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment, addressing the very real issues of the need to protect ecosystems while working in partnership with indigenous and local-traditional communities. “The St Andrews Prize for the Environment provides a platform for global projects with unique ideas and approaches dedicated to tackling the environmental crises at a local level, perhaps where the impact of the climate emergency is felt the most, but in ways designed to be scalable and replicable. Projects such as Snowchange empower communities and help them to create a more sustainable way of life.”

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