Photo: Guillaume Mégevand
Special contributor Roy Brooke reporting from Switzerland: The planet's environmental challenges are global but solutions to some of the most urgent issues depend on a small group of dedicated individuals and organizations. The Green Star Awards, launched by the United Nations and Green Cross International, shines a light on the often heroic efforts being taken in one of the most difficult and sometimes dangerous realms: the interface of environment and disasters. The second annual Green Star award ceremony was held earlier this week in Bern, Switzerland, recognizing six outstanding environmental emergency leaders selected by an international panel of judges.
Dr. Ian von Lindern CEO & Dr. Margrit von Braun Professor Dean Emeritus University of Idaho representing TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering, Inc. Photo: Guillaume Mégevand
The Blacksmith Institute, Terragraphics and the Dutch arm of Doctors Without Borders got their Green Star for efforts to resolve a largely ignored crisis killing children in northern Nigeria . Here, many residents are forced to survive through unsafe forms of artisanal mining. The by-products of their labors contaminate food, water, and in some villages, are wiping out a generation of children. These three organizations are working to treat the cases of acute poisoning, make livelihoods safer and villages cleaner to stem the wave of sickness and death plaguing the region.
Richard Fuller, President of the Blacksmith Institute. Photo: Guillaume Mégevand
Professor Mary Comerio from the University of California Berkeley has spent a quarter of a century researching, promoting and implementing disaster recovery strategies to "build back better" after earthquakes and other crises. This is a key way to help disaster-prone areas - especially the world's poorest - escape the downward spiral that occurs when they are hit by disasters and made even poorer and more vulnerable to the next crisis.
Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou was acknowledged at the Green Star Awards as an example that many politicians would do well to emulate. A member of the Greek Parliament, she has led a variety of pro bono projects to help communities that have been devastated by forest fires in Greece build back their lives.
Linda Norgrove, finally, paid the ultimate price for her work helping Afghanistan repair its war-ravaged natural environment. She was captured by the Taliban last fall and killed during a rescue attempt . Linda had led efforts to establish a national environmental agency in Afghanistan, helped communities manage their natural resources and worked with Afghanis to lay foundations for protected areas in their country. Linda's post-humous award was accepted by her parents, who now run a charity in their daughter's name.
This is a guest post by special contributor Roy Brooke!