Eco Trailblazers Awarded Top UN Prize for Pioneering
and Inspirational Environmental Action
NEW YORK: Pioneers and trailblazers whose work has had a significant and positive impact on the environment were given the United Nation’s highest environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth Award, at a ceremony hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at the Museum of Natural History in New York, Wednesday.
Recognized for providing powerful tools to monitor and scope the state of the environment, co-founder and Vice President of Google Earth, Brian McClendon and Geographic Information System (GIS) pioneer, Jack Dangermond, are among this year’s laureates.
Other winners of UNEP’s 2013 Champions of the Earth Award include: Janez Potocnik, EU Environment Commissioner; Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food Movement; Izabella Teixeira, Minister of Environment, Brazil; Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, and Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo from the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.
UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said, “Leadership and vision will be the hallmarks of a transition to an inclusive Green Economy in developed and developing countries alike. That transition is under way and has been given fresh impetus by the outcomes of last year’s Rio+20 Summit.”
“This year’s Champions of the Earth are among those who are putting in place the actions, policies and pathways to scale-up and accelerate such transformations. As such they are lightning rods towards a sustainable 21st Century,” he added.
Presenting the Award was UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, Giselle Bündchen.
The Award includes the following categories: Policy Leadership, Entrepreneurial Vision, Science and Innovation and Inspiration and Action.
The full list of the 2013 Champions of the Earth winners is as follows:
Ms. Izabella Teixeira, Minister of Environment, Brazil is recognized for her key role in reversing deforestation in the Amazon and her role on high-level UN panels on sustainable development., According to government figures, Brazil has cut deforestation by 84 per cent over eight years, from an annual loss of over 27,000 sq km in 2004 to around 4,500 sq km in 2012. Apart from the prevention and control of deforestation, the land use planning policies implemented by Ms. Teixeira resulted in 250,000 sq km of conservation areas — the equivalent of 75 per cent of global forest protected areas.
Janez Potoènik, European Commissioner for the Environment is recognized for his work advocating a shift from the current global model of intensive resource consumption, including setting 2020 targets for the European Union to halve food waste and practically eliminate the need for landfills. His role in tackling resource inefficiencies across the food chain has contributed substantially to the ongoing UN campaign on food waste, Think.Eat.Save: Reduce Your Foodprint.
Brian McClendon, co-founder and VP of Google Earth is recognized for providing a powerful tool to monitor the state of the environment, allowing researchers to detect deforestation, classify land cover and estimate forest biomass and carbon and thus demonstrate the scale of problems and illustrate solutions. Google Earth, for example, was used to help rescue workers save more than 4,000 people after Hurricane Katrina and, in Australia, a scientist used the tool to discover a previously unknown coral reef in a region that had been identified for oil and gas development.
Jack Dangermond, Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) is recognized for his commitment to ensuring that international, research, education, and nonprofit organizations working in the fields of conservation and development have access to the best geospatial analytical and visualization technology. In 1989, the ESRI Conservation Program was started to change the way non-profit organizations carry out conservation missions. This program provides GIS software, data, and training, and helps to coordinate multi-organizational efforts
SCIENCE AND INNOVATION
Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD was recognized for his pioneering work on black carbon, which included leading a team that first discovered widespread Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs) and research into how cutting black carbon can significantly mitigate climate change. Dr. Ramanathan showed that ABCs led to large-scale dimming, decreased monsoon rainfall and rice harvest in India and played a dominant role in the melting of the Himalayan glaciers. A member of the Science Advisory Panel on the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, he is now running Project Surya, which aims at reducing soot emissions from bio-fuel cooking in rural India.
INSPIRATION AND ACTION
Carlo Petrini, Founder of the Slow Food movement is recognized for his visionary work to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the world’s agriculture and food supply “one bite at a time”. Slow Food has over 100,00 members and supporters in over 150 countries, defending local food traditions, protecting local biodiversity and promoting small-scale quality products. Petrini is also a coordinator of National and International level research projects in the bioethical field. In 2012, Petrini was invited to speak at the Sustainable Development Dialogue on Food and Nutrition Security at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).
Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo, Director of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda is recognized for her work in the Sierra Gorda region of Central Mexico, which demonstrates how a broad range of advocacy, public education and income-generation approaches, can produce support healthy ecosystems and alleviate poverty. She was responsible for achieving Biosphere Reserve status for Sierra Gorda under an innovative public-private system. Through her work and advocacy, 33 per cent of the State of Querétaro is now protected as a Biosphere Reserve. Hundreds of families in Sierra Gorda now receive a total of over US$2 million from the sale of carbon credits.