October 13, 2007
Reactions to the Nobel Peace Prize Award
This morning I woke up to the disconcerting editorial in my local newspaper, the Statesman Journal, which had this to say about the Nobel Peace Prize Award to the IPCC and Al Gore:
Tossup: Al Gore. He shared this year's Nobel Pace Prize for his efforts to educate people about human-caused climate change. His commitment is admirable, even if you don't agree with his cause. However, the Norweigian prize committee certainly has expanded the definition of "peace.
Apparently the august body of the Stateman Journal's editorial board has two objections to awarding Gore the prize: they don't agree with his cause and they don't think it has anything to do with peace.
I won't even comment on the first objection -- that's silly.
As to the second objection, I've done a bit of research on past winners of the Peace prize to explore the contention that the Nobel Committee stretched the definition of peace for Gore's benefit. I've also looked at the research concerning the implications of climate change for global conflict.
The award to the IPCC and Gore is certainly in line with the Committee's previous Peace prize awards, which have focussed on sustainability as a means to achieve peace. The Committee rather unsurpisingly believes that creating sustainable environmental, economic, and social conditions within nations reduces international conflict. Go figure! Indeed, the Committee has focused recent awards on sustainability efforts. Two obvious examples are the 2006 Peace prize award to Professor Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank who invented the idea of microcredit and the 2004 Peace prize award to Professor Wangari for her work encouraging tree planting in Africa and cancellation of African debt. [Their full Nobel biographies can be found below].
2004 - Wangari Muta Maathai
Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya (Africa) in 1940. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. Wangari Maathai obtained a degree in Biological Sciences from Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas (1964). She subsequently earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh (1966). She pursued doctoral studies in Germany and the University of Nairobi, obtaining a Ph.D. (1971) from the University of Nairobi where she also taught veterinary anatomy. She became chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor in 1976 and 1977 respectively. In both cases, she was the first woman to attain those positions in the region. Wangari Maathai was active in the National Council of Women of Kenya in 1976-87 and was its chairman in 1981-87. It was while she served in the National Council of Women that she introduced the idea of planting trees with the people in 1976 and continued to develop it into a broad-based, grassroots organization whose main focus is the planting of trees with women groups in order to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life. However, through the Green Belt Movement she has assisted women in planting more than 20 million trees on their farms and on schools and church compounds.
In 1986, the Movement established a Pan African Green Belt Network and has exposed over 40 individuals from other African countries to the approach. Some of these individuals have established similar tree planting initiatives in their own countries or they use some of the Green Belt Movement methods to improve their efforts. So far some countries have successfully launched such initiatives in Africa (Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, etc). In September 1998, she launched a campaign of the Jubilee 2000 Coalition. She has embarked on new challenges, playing a leading global role as a co-chair of the Jubilee 2000 Africa Campaign, which seeks cancellation of the unpayable backlog debts of the poor countries in Africa by the year 2000. Her campaign against land grabbing and rapacious allocation of forests land has caught the limelight in the recent past.
Wangari Maathai is internationally recognized for her persistent struggle for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. She has addressed the UN on several occasions and spoke on behalf of women at special sessions of the General Assembly for the five-year review of the earth summit. She served on the commission for Global Governance and Commission on the Future. She and the Green Belt Movement have received numerous awards, most notably The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Others include The Sophie Prize (2004), The Petra Kelly Prize for Environment (2004), The Conservation Scientist Award (2004), J. Sterling Morton Award (2004), WANGO Environment Award (2003), Outstanding Vision and Commitment Award (2002), Excellence Award from the Kenyan Community Abroad (2001), Golden Ark Award (1994), Juliet Hollister Award (2001), Jane Adams Leadership Award (1993), Edinburgh Medal (1993), The Hunger Project's Africa Prize for Leadership (1991), Goldman Environmental Prize (1991), the Woman of the World (1989), Windstar Award for the Environment (1988), Better World Society Award (1986), Right Livelihood Award (1984) and the Woman of the Year Award (1983). Professor Maathai was also listed on UNEP's Global 500 Hall of Fame and named one of the 100 heroines of the world. In June 1997, Wangari was elected by Earth Times as one of 100 persons in the world who have made a difference in the environmental arena. Professor Maathai has also received honorary doctoral degrees from several institutions around the world: William's College, MA, USA (1990), Hobart & William Smith Colleges (1994), University of Norway (1997) and Yale University (2004).
The Green Belt Movement and Professor Wangari Maathai are featured in several publications including The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach (by Professor Wangari Maathai, 2002), Speak Truth to Power (Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, 2000), Women Pioneers for the Environment (Mary Joy Breton, 1998), Hopes Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet (Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé, 2002), Una Sola Terra: Donna I Medi Ambient Despres de Rio (Brice Lalonde et al., 1998), Land Ist Leben (Bedrohte Volker, 1993).
Professor Maathai serves on the boards of several organizations including the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board on Disarmament, The Jane Goodall Institute, Women and Environment Development Organization (WEDO), World Learning for International Development, Green Cross International, Environment Liaison Center International, the WorldWIDE Network of Women in Environmental Work and National Council of Women of Kenya.
In December 2002, Professor Maathai was elected to parliament with an overwhelming 98% of the vote. She was subsequently appointed by the president, as Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife in Kenya's ninth parliament.
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 2004, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 2005
For more updated biographical information, see:
Maathai, Wangari, Unbowed : a memoir. William Heinemann, London, 2007.
2006 - Muhammad Yunus "Banker to the Poor"
Professor Muhammad Yunus established the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1983, fueled by the belief that credit is a fundamental human right. His objective was to help poor people escape from poverty by providing loans on terms suitable to them and by teaching them a few sound financial principles so they could help themselves.
From Dr. Yunus' personal loan of small amounts of money to destitute basketweavers in Bangladesh in the mid-70s, the Grameen Bank has advanced to the forefront of a burgeoning world movement toward eradicating poverty through microlending. Replicas of the Grameen Bank model operate in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Born in 1940 in the seaport city of Chittagong, Professor Yunus studied at Dhaka University in Bangladesh, then received a Fulbright scholarship to study economics at Vanderbilt University. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt in 1969 and the following year became an assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University. Returning to Bangladesh, Yunus headed the economics department at Chittagong University.
From 1993 to 1995, Professor Yunus was a member of the International Advisory Group for the Fourth World Conference on Women, a post to which he was appointed by the UN secretary general. He has served on the Global Commission of Women's Health, the Advisory Council for Sustainable Economic Development and the UN Expert Group on Women and Finance.
Professor Yunus is the recipient of numerous international awards for his ideas and endeavors, including the Mohamed Shabdeen Award for Science (1993), Sri Lanka; Humanitarian Award (1993), CARE, USA; World Food Prize (1994), World Food Prize Foundation, USA; lndependence Day Award (1987), Bangladesh's highest award; King Hussein Humanitarian Leadership Award (2000), King Hussien Foundation, Jordan; Volvo Environment Prize (2003), Volvo Environment Prize Foundation, Sweden; Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth (2004), Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan; Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom Award (2006), Roosevelt Institute of The Netherlands; and the Seoul Peace Prize (2006), Seoul Peace Prize Cultural Foundation, Seoul, Korea. He is a member of the board of the United Nations Foundation.
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 2006, Editor Karl Grandin, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 2007
What's your question?
The Nobel Laureate site allows visitors to pose a question to any of all of the Nobel laureates. In honor of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC and Al Gore, I asked "If the U.S. Supreme Court had decided to elect Al Gore President, instead of George Bush, how would the world, particularly human impact on global climate, be different?" What's your question? Ask a Nobel Laureate
October 12, 2007
The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize goes to...
According to a press release issued today by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize "is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change." The full text of the announcement can be found below.
Watch the award announcement on YouTube.
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2007
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.
Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.
Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.
Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.
By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control.
Oslo, 12 October 2007
October 8, 2007
Making golf a bit greener
All of us who play golf, even if we seldom hit the green, welcome the greening of the greens reported by the Economist:
LAST summer the big three American automakers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, who have all watched their market shares diminish under the pressure of foreign competition, suffered yet another embarrassment at the hands of Toyota. Paul W. Smith, who hosts a radio show in Detroit, passed over the hometown companies and asked Toyota to sponsor his annual golf tournament. Ten years ago, asking a foreign company to host a local event would have been unthinkable.
A decade ago it would have been similarly unthinkable for a company like Toyota, which adheres to a “global earth charter that promotes environmental responsibility throughout the entire company,” to sponsor an event on one of America’s often over-watered, over-treated golf courses. But like the hybrid vehicles Toyota now produces, golf is getting greener.
While some American courses are in cool-humid climate zones similar to that of Scotland, the ancestral home of the modern game, many are not. The Detroit metropolitan area is the tenth largest in the United States and its amenable climate sustains 50 courses and 4.4m residents. By comparison, the Phoenix metropolitan region is the nation’s thirteenth largest, and it already boasts more than 75 blankets of lush fairways laid out on the desert sands. The booming greater Las Vegas area has more than 60 courses for less than 1.8m residents.
These courses have increased property values and brought more tourist dollars to the Southwest, but they also consume immense amounts of ever-scarcer potable water. During the summer of 2002, the third-hottest year on record, the city council of Santa Fe, New Mexico threatened to sue Las Campanas, a luxury golf and residential development, which during the height of the summer drought was consuming 1.8m gallons of water a day, ten percent of the city’s daily supply.
Some courses in dry regions have begun using more efficient irrigation systems and untreated effluent water to reduce their strain on municipal supplies, but water remains scarce. Dennis Lyon, the manager of the Denver suburb of Aurora’s municipal golf courses, has placed posters on all his courses that read, “Brown may not be beautiful to some, but an additional 40 yards roll off the tee can be a beautiful thing.”
But keeping those fairways green requires more than just water. Beyond Pesticides, an environmental advocacy group opposed to pesticide use, calls golf courses “the most chemically treated land areas in the United States, second only to fruit orchards.” Pesticides, especially older broad-spectrum, long-residual concoctions, can wreak havoc on sensitive native plants and animals.
Runoff from fertilisers can lead to algal blooms that cause dissolved oxygen levels to drop to suffocatingly low levels, strangling aquatic life. Courses in humid climates can avoid both of these problems by using wild, drought-resistant grasses that reduce the need for both irrigation and chemical treatments.
More effective organic fertilisers have led some premier courses, such as the Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii on the island of Maui (which hosts the PGA Tour Mercedes Championship), to drastically reduce chemical treatment, while about a dozen courses have gone entirely organic.
In response to these trends, the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) and the US Golf Association (USGA) have collaborated with Audubon International to establish an environmental-certification program, which rewards golf courses with free publicity if they commit to conserve water, reduce pesticide use, and create wildlife conservation plans for the approximately 70% of course land which is not used for play.
Of course, a little research, a few organic fertilisers and certification programs do not a revolution make. But they are heartening steps in the right direction.