2001 UNEP Sasakawa
Environment Prize

Huey D. Johnson, known for his pioneering work in protecting and managing the Earth’s natural resources, was awarded the 2001 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Sasakawa Environment Prize.

The Prize, worth $200,000, is considered one of the most prestigious environmental awards in the world. Past winners include: Nobel Laureate, Professor Mario J. Molina; Chico Mendes; Lester Brown; and Dr. M.S. Swaminathan.

Johnson, who has worked in the corporate, non-governmental and governmental sectors, was pivotal in the creation of the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit land acquisition corporation founded in 1972, which works to save open spaces for America’s urban centres. To date, it has conserved more than half a million hectares across the United States.

Preserving natural resources
As Secretary of Natural Resources in California in the early 1980s, Johnson crafted statewide programmes and policies, many of which have been emulated internationally, for preserving natural resources. Among these is Investing For Prosperity – a 100-year initiative which channels funds into investments to enhance the long-term productivity of California’s natural resource assets. One of its most dramatic successes has been the development of cost-effective renewable energy technologies.

The California Resources Agency implemented energy-saving policies under his guidance. A report by the Rand Corporation showed that energy conservation efforts since the late 1970s have saved Californians some $34 billion (roughly $1,000 for each resident) and played a significant role in helping the state’s economy expand; Johnson received the President’s Award for Sustainable Development in 1996 for his efforts in this area.

‘The environment is like a house. You can’t say you'll fix the leaky roof this year, repair the walls next year and care for the garden in three years time. You must have a plan that manages all of these issues at the same time,’ says Johnson.

In 1985 he founded the Resource Renewal Institute, whose mission is to catalyze the development of green plans both nationally and internationally. It developed the Campaign for a Sustainable Future, which targets policy-makers and opinion leaders and is designed to mobilize diverse constituencies strong enough to secure green plans. Under its umbrella, Johnson also developed the Grand Canyon Trust – dedicated to protecting and restoring the Canyon area of the Colorado plateau.

Johnson was also instrumental in the foundation of the Green Belt Movement International, which promotes citizen-based tree-planting as a way of mobilizing people to restore the environment and break the cycle of poverty and environmental degradation.

‘Through the numerous organizations he has created and the countless people he has supported, Huey Johnson has emphasized and clearly demonstrated that the problems we face, both environmentally and socially, require a systematic and global approach,’ said UNEP’s Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer.

Planning ahead
Johnson plans to use the Prize to further his interests in the environment: ‘We need a plan to manage and implement the restoration of the Earth’s natural resources. Whether you are designing a computer, a bridge or a new aircraft, you have to have a plan, otherwise you cannot raise the funds needed to turn it into a reality. Let us hope that such a plan can emerge when world leaders meet for the World Summit on Sustainable Development taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa.’

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Open doors | Progress and possibilities | A further step | Achieving the vision | Wake-up call | Special feature: Security in a shrinking world | 2001 UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize | Competition | Global housekeeping | Disrupting life’s messages | Ubiquitous and dangerous | Briefing: Much done, much still to do | Briefing: Getting on top of the POPs | Briefing: First line of defence | Reversing the burden of proof