Alfred Brownell is an environmental and human rights lawyer and executive director of Green Advocates (GA), a Liberian NGO that he founded in order to represent communities seeking to protect their environmental and human rights. Brownell also established a network to connect community-based organizations throughout Liberia—the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD)—to collaborate on environmental justice work. He grew up in Robertsport, Liberia, and studied science, agriculture, and law at university.
Under threat of violence, Brownell stopped the clear-cutting of Liberia’s tropical forests by palm oil plantation developers. His campaign successfully protected 513,500 acres of primary forest that constitute one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, enabling indigenous communities to continue their stewardship of the forest. That land sequesters carbon, shelters endangered species—including elephants, chimpanzees, pygmy hippopotamuses, and tree pangolins—and is part of the Upper Guinean biodiversity hotspot. Victory has come at a price, as Brownell and his family were forced to flee Liberia. Brownell is currently a distinguished scholar and research associate professor in the School of Law at Northeastern University in Boston, and has recently joined the faculty at Yale Law School. He is the 2019 winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize