Biodiversity particularly in tropical regions
The Prize Jury’s Citation:
The Prize was awarded to Dr. Norman Myers and Professor Peter H. Raven who between them used comprehensive and penetrating scientific analysis of ecological states and trends and made pioneering warnings and courageous expressions of concern which have sensitized world opinion to the global consequences of the loss of biodiversity and the process of deforestation, particularly in tropical regions.
Norman Myers - a pioneer in many mayor research issues
Now we know from a long time back that many species that have existed on earth have become extinct. We also know that the extinction is often caused by the actions of man. It was, however, not until relatively recently that it has become obvious to the general public that the rate of extinction is very high and that this definite loss of species has unforeseeable consequences. Norman Myers was the first scientist to alert the global community to tropical deforestation, an impending mass extinction, and environmental security.
Myers has served in the Kenya Administration and as a teacher in Nairobi. He has for 20 years mainly acted as a freelance consultant in the field of nature protection and conservation of biodiversity. He was fairly recently appointed Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Otherwise, he does not hold a permanent position within the academic or economic establishment, but has always been able to act free from ties to institutions and companies.
Several of Myers’ early scientific papers, from the mid-1970’s and before, deal with the biology of the great spotted cats. This early, Myers also warned for the imminent loss of biodiversity as a result of the devastating activities of man, in particular in the tropics. From the late 1970’s onwards his papers, books, and lectures have more and more included matters of biodiversity.
Most known for:
Myers has been able to bring together vast amounts of information from various sources, scrutinize its contents critically, and draw conclusions that did not immediately appear to many of his colleagues. He has been leading the way on numerous major research issues, including:
- First warning of the mass extinction of species underway (early 1970s)
- Crisis of tropical deforestation / the hamburger connection (late (1970s). How more-developed nations are able to misappropriate the environmental costs of beef consumption to less-developed nations
- Analysis of economic value of species (early 1980s)
- Species preservation strategies / biodiversity hotspots (late 1980s). Myers defined a number of “hot spots,” where species richness is particularly high and where the threat to the survival of plants and animals is impending. Examples to be mentioned are Madagascar, southern Africa, and parts of Brazil. Myers’ well-documented studies form part of the basis for the action programmes of many countries within the field of protection of the environment.
- Environmental security, including environmental refugees (mid-1990s)
- Perverse subsidies foster both environmental decline and economic slow-down (late 1990s)
He has for a long time advocated that scientists must be ready to alert the public earlier to environmental danger. To quote two sentences from an argument article by Norman Myers in the Guardian 1992:
“Many an ecologist is expert at flows of energy through ecosystems but less acquainted with flows of influence through corridors of political power.”
“When politicians decide to do nothing, they decide to do a great deal in a world that is not standing still. To practise undue caution can be reckless.”
Myers support to the Forests Now Declaration, which calls for new market based mechanisms to protect tropical forests. He is a patron of the Optimum Population Trust. He is a Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences, NAS.
Peter Raven – one of the world’s leading botanists and advocates of conservation and biodiversity
Raven was an early bird. He published his first paper, containing floristic notes, in 1950 at the age of fourteen. He soon contributed extensively to scientific journals. In the late 1960’s, he started getting involved in matters concerning human population growth and food support and concerning the conservation of biodiversity. This has not in any way caused the flow of publications in pure science to abate.
Raven is Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden which has developed under Raven’s guidance to become one of the very foremost institutes in the world for botanical research, horticulture, and public information. A visitor cannot avoid the message of concern for biodiversity even at a first superficial glance. If one penetrates further into what is demonstrated, one becomes deeply impressed by the scientific activity going on. Here, the plant world of virtually the entire globe is under investigation. The Garden is, under Raven’s directorship, utterly effective in providing the community with information and argument for the maintenance of our environment and ourselves.
Raven was a member of President Bill Clinton’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. He also served for 12 years as home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and is a member of the academies of science in Argentina, Brazil, China, Denmark, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, the U.K., and several other countries.
Now: Cornerstone institution of the “Encyclopedia of life”: descriptions, pictures, video, and sounds of the world’s estimated 1.8 million named species on the Internet for free. http://www.eol.org/