Susan Solomon

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland
Atmospheric scientist Dr Susan Solomon and former Norwegian Prime Minister Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland have been awarded the 2004 Blue Planet Prize, given each year to people who ‘make outstanding achievements in scientific research and its application, and in so doing help to solve global environmental problems’. The prize, 50 million yen to each recipient, is sponsored by the Asahi Glass Foundation, chaired by Hiromichi Seya.

Dr Solomon was the leading scientist and has been given the prize for ‘pioneering work’ in identifying the mechanism through which chlorine compounds from CFCs coupled with the extremely low temperatures of Antarctica to create the Antarctic ozone hole. Her finding provided one of the scientific cornerstones of the process that led to the accelerating phase-out of CFCs through the Montreal Protocol. She says: ‘I have had the great fortune to learn that science is not a one-man or one-woman game: it’s a team endeavour of sometimes epic meaning.’

Dr Brundtland – the first former environment minister to head a government, and a member of the board of the UN Foundation – won her award for ‘putting forward globally the innovative concept of sustainable development’, notably through her chairing of the World Commission on Environment and Development in the 1980s. She is also cited for her later work as Director-General of the World Health Organization and recalls how ‘as a young doctor, I became aware of the public health significance of a safe and secure environment’.

The awards ceremony will be held on 10 November in Tokyo and the following day the recipients will give commemorative lectures at the United Nations University in the city.

Popeye, the cartoon character, may have found the secret to making solar cells take off. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by Professor Marc Dando, have discovered that spinach – which gave the sailorman his energy – could be the missing ingredient towards getting cheap electricity from the sun, through harnessing the power of photosynthesis. He says that conventional solar cells, made from silicon, had not provided the breakthrough needed ‘to change the energy market’ but that his team hoped to do so by ‘taking advantage of 2 billion years of evolution by plants in developing how best to use the power of the sun’.

Nicole Meyer

The Olympic flame began its global journey from Olympia in March, travelling through Africa and Latin America for the first time ever. After a journey of 78,000 kilometres involving 3,600 torchbearers, it arrived back in Athens for the Olympic Games in August.

On 24 June 2004, the flame passed through Geneva and Nicole Meyer, UNEP Youth Advisor, carried it on behalf of UNEP.

Film star and heartthrob Jake Gyllenhaal was so impressed by what he learned during his starring role in ‘Roland Emmerich’s global warming blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow that he has become an environmental activist. ‘I decided I had to get involved with something,’ he says. ‘something that would help the environmental cause. I’d much rather talk about the environment than some gigantic action movie. Global warming is a hugely important issue.’

Gyllenhaal – who is joined in his environmental concern by his friend actress Kirsten Dunst – has decided to help Future Forests, which encourages people to offset their carbon emissions by paying to plant trees or buy energy-saving light bulbs. He has chosen to support a forest in Mozambique and talks enthusiastically of how he has ‘bought mango trees, fruit trees, nut trees’. He adds: ‘they also give jobs and food. People can get an income from them, which is important for sustainable development’.

Samuel J. Salkin has been appointed Executive Director of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund and of the Goldman Environmental Prize. He has held senior management positions in the fields of retail, wholesale distribution, technology and banking and was most recently Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, northern California’s largest public charity.

PHOTOGRAPHS: Blue Planet Prize, Blue Planet Prize

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Miles to go before we relax | Practical consensus | Power shift | Equally effective | People | Peace of mind, piece of land | The young ones | Fuelling change | At a glance: Women, health and the environment | Aishwarya Rai | Unprecedented opportunity | Books and products | Chemical inheritance | Toxic trespass | First empower | Citizen engagement | Adding feminine perspective | After all ‘nature’ is female... | A unique voice

Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on Culture, values and the environment 1996
Gro Harlem Brundtland: Answering poor health (Poverty, Health and the Environment) 2001
Issue on World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002
Issue on Energy 2003
Issue on Water, Sanitation, People 2004

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Population and natural resources
Population, waste and chemicals