Britain’s newspaper The Observer has taken a lead in acknowledging the movers and shakers of the green movement by setting up The Observer Ethical Awards, now in their sixth year.
In advance of the next set of awards, the paper on Sunday, January 16, published “Green Giants: the eco power list,” in which they named the 20 activists, filmmakers, writers, politicians and celebrities who they believe will be setting the global environmental agenda in 2011.
Take a look and see what you think:
ECO ICON: DAVID TAKAYOSHI SUZUKI
Suzuki is a scientist, as well as the author of dozens of books in defense of the planet, and now the focus of a film, Force of Nature, which The Observer describes as “the first green film of 2011 and may turn out to be the most important.”
DEFENDER OF THE RURAL POOR: HENRY SARAGIH
Saragih is the general coordinator for La Via Campesina, an alliance of millions of small-scale farmers and rural workers, which has fought against forced evictions by transglobal corporations; as head of the Indonesia Peasant Union, Saragih has also fought against the “palm oil barons.”
BIRD-LOVING NOVELIST: JONATHAN FRANZEN
Perhaps not the obvious choice for eco-novelist, but Franzen’s Freedom does put the environment in general, and birds in particular, in the spotlight. The writer has also mentioned climate change in previous works.
THE GREEN PRESIDENT: EVO MORALES
From The Observer: The leader of Bolivia’s Movement for Socialism has become a self-proclaimed defender of Mother Earth. His dramatic rhetoric was perhaps the highlight of a lacklustre Cancun conference: “We are familiar with the slogan ‘Country or Death’, but it is better now to talk about ‘Planet or Death’.
RE-FORESTING GURU: CAROLE SAINT-LAURENT
Ms. Saint-Laurent is senior advisor on forests to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and in that position, she has headed up a study that maps 1.5 billion hectares of potential new forest. (That’s an area the size of Russia.)
CLIMATE CHANGE-BUSTING MAYOR: MICHAEL BLOOMBERG
The C40, set up in 2005, brings together leaders of 40 of the world’s largest cities to organize a response to climate change. And New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is in charge. Let’s hope he takes his job very seriously.
NGO LEADERS: NNIMMO BASSEY (FRIENDS OF THE EARTH), KUMI NAIDOO (GREENPEACE)
It may be difficult to say definitively which NGO’s take top ranking, but The Observer points out that for the first time, the heads of the two most famous planet-saving NGOs, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, hail from Africa: Bassey from Nigeria and Naidoo from the Durban townships. Both also have grassroots experiences as activists.
GREEN RETAILERS: WALMART VERSUS TIMBERLAND
These are two enormous retailers that both have plans for green labeling, but I am puzzled as to why this category is included at all. What does consumerism really have to do with saving the planet?
ECO FESTIVAL FOUNDER: EDUARDO FISCHER
Here’s what The Observer has to say: Eduardo Fischer has been described as the Richard Branson of Brazil, which may or may not be a compliment. As well as owning the advertising group Grupo TotalCom, he is the founder of SWU – Starts With You – a populist sustainability movement. SWU hosts an annual awareness-raising music festival in Brazil which, with a capacity of 300,000, is one of the biggest in the world.
TREE-PLANTING TWEENIE: FELIX FINKBEINER
At the age of nine, Felix Finkbeiner announced that he wanted to plant a million trees in his native Germany. It took him just three years to do that, and now his organization, Plant for the Planet, is international, and he was invited to speak at the Cancun conference in December. Not too shabby!
YOUTH EDUCATOR: ELLEN MACARTHUR
Macarthur is a British sailor who created The Ellen MacArthur Foundation with the goal of equipping young people for work in a world of increasingly limited resources and inspire them to re-think, re-design and build a more sustainable future.
SUSTAINABLE BUILDERS: BRAD PITT AND WILLIAM MCDONOUGH
Pitt set up the Make It Right Foundation, which recently completed 13 new homes in the Lower 9th district of New Orleans. He worked with sustainable-building visionary McDonough and together they created homes that produce more energy than they consume. Kudos to these two!
ECO DIPLOMAT: SALEEM H. ALI
From The Observer: Professor of environmental studies at the University of Vermont and experienced mediator Saleem H Ali thinks natural resources have the capacity to unite, not just divide. A fan of peace parks (border regions used to resolve disputes by giving conflicting countries incentives to maintain them), he considers consumption of material goods to be a good thing.
“LUNATIC” FARMER: JOEL SALATIN
Salatin, who applied the “lunatic” term to himself, runs Polyface, a “multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm” in Virginia. “The soil is the only thread upon which civilisation can exist. If a person could ever realise that our existence depends on literally inches of active aerobic microbial life on terra firma, we might begin to appreciate the ecological umbilical to which we are all still attached,” Salatin told treehugger.com.
ELECTRIC CARMAKER: ALAN MULALLY, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY
As to why The Observer selected Mulally, rather than any of the other options, I’m not sure. But the publication pays tribute to the fact that last week, Alan Mulally unveiled his company’s new electric Ford Focus.
HOLLYWOOD’S CONSCIENCE: DEBBIE LEVIN
Levin is president of the Environmental Media Association (EMA), set up twenty years ago with the goal of educating people about environmental issues and inspiring them into action. Levin is especially focussed on getting young Hollywood on board and involved in sustainable projects, like the 16 organic gardens EMA runs in Los Angeles.
THE GREEN ROYAL: PRINCE CHARLES
As The Observer quaintly calls him, “His Royal Greenness” is well known for his concern about the environment, and has written a book, Harmony, on sustainability. Apparently he’s also going to release a picture-version for children in the next few months.
ONLINE ACTIVISTS: AVAAZ
What can I say? Doesn’t The Observer know about Care2? The journalist, Lucy Siegle, writes about the campaigning global web community Avaaz with its 6.5 million members worldwide. Since Care2 is approaching 15 million, perhaps someone should bring Ms. Siegle up-to-date!
THE GREEN GUZZLER: JAY LENO, TALKSHOW HOST
Yes, that’s right: Jay Leno often says proudly that he owns 240 cars. He also declares that it’s possible to be interested in the environment and still like cars. To prove the point, he recently purchased the electric Chevrolet Volt.
THE (EX) GOVERNATOR: ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
In spite of his many disasters on other fronts, the ex-governor of California can take credit for his climate change and solar power accomplishments. He committed California to a 25% cut in the state’s greenhouse emissions by 2020, and stood firm against members of his own party in several green decisions.
Do you agree with the choices The Observer has made? Who do you think should be on this list?