Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Professor Crawford “Buzz” Holling, 2008

November 4, 2009

Award-winning ecologist on the financial crisis:

The financial markets have a lot to learn from eco-systems and crisis

Politicians and policy-makers all over the world struggle to stabilize the global financial
system. But perhaps regulations and command-and-control won’t do much good.
Instead, governments should take a closer look at the research on resilience – the
capacity of an eco-system to cope with shock and then rebuild and renew itself.
This is the message from two prominent researchers on resilience, Professor Crawford “Buzz”Holling, who receives the Volvo Environment Prize 2008 in Stockholm, and Professor Johan Rockström, executive director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University.
“In the financial system slow changes have been accumulating for years, such as levels of
indebtedness. None on their own seemed big enough to trigger a response”, says Johan
“But then you get a trigger, such as the fall of an investment bank, and the whole system can then flip into an alternative stable state, with new rules, such as mistrust.”
The analogy might seem far-fetched, but the fact is that the events on the financial markets
can be compared to life in a pond. Normally life in a pond ticks over just fine. But the wrong set of circumstances such as a minimal change of chemicals, can all of a sudden trigger an explosion of algae, which then goes on to strangle all other life in the pond. In spite of human attempts to control eco-systems – such as fishing quotas or supervision to protect crops- fish populations suddenly disappear or crops are attacked by insect outbreaks.
This is because most systems – in nature but also human and social systems – are complex
and interconnected. A small change can lead to rapid changes, says Buzz Holling, a Canadian ecologist and widely regarded as the father of resilience thinking.
“Crisis is inevitable”, he says. “This is how eco-systems work”.

Buzz Holling’s research has received more attention during recent years and has started to
influence the governance of natural systems. Creating resilience is not about avoiding crisis and rapid changes – that is simply not possible – rather about making sure that the systems contain diversity so that they can recover and rebuild after chock.
“This should be considered by the people trying to stabilize global finance” says Johan
Rockström. As in any other complex system the instability can spread, and lead to a collapse of the whole financial system.
The Stockholm Resilience Centre is doing research on resilience and sustainable development and was founded in 2007 with a grant of 100 million Swedish Kronor (€10 million) from MISTRA, the Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research.

Amory Lovins, 2007

November 4, 2009

2007_LVolvo Environment Prize Foundation awards the 2007 prize to a visionary in the field of energy The Volvo Environment Prize Foundation is awarding the 2007 Volvo Environment Prize to Amory B. Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, USA, for his exceptional breakthroughs in the field of energy.

Over the past 30 years, his contributions have encompassed both new theoretical know-how and practical applications for ways of reducing the use of energy. In order to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and help resolve the climate issue, more efficient utilisation of energy is a vital tool.

Amory Lovins has developed a number of groundbreaking technical and economic concepts as well as action plans for various measures.

He has:
– for a long time been the leading proponent for the view that energy efficiency is the foremost means of resolving the energy issue.
– participated in 25 books, written hundreds of scientific and general-interest articles and held thousands of presentations and lectures that put the focus on energy.
– shown that climate-related measures can be profitable. In order to win support for his views, he has worked intensively with politicians and key industries and also served as advisor to companies and international organs.
– developed a model (Natural Capitalism) that demonstrates that investments in systematic, large-scale energy-efficiency measures promote both resource gains and financial profit.
– argued in favour of the USA becoming independent of oil by 2040 through market-driven measures and without this shift impacting negatively on the country’s economy.
– developed Hypercar®, an ultra-light concept car with low energy consumption and minimum emissions that was first unveiled in 1990. This concept has since then undergone continuous development by Hypercar Inc. in cooperation with other actors.
– for 30 years worked to systematise, develop and introduce new market-driven and financially viable energy solutions that take account of the overall picture and the complexity of the problems involved. The energy issue has been the main focal point and the applications have been shown in spheres such as construction and transportation as well as in a number of other areas.

Human-induced climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge facing mankind today. This year the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) presented a report which pointed out that greenhouse gases must be cut by 50-80% from 2000 to 2050 if the global rise in temperature is to be limited to 2.5 degrees Celsius compared with the pre-industrial era. In order to meet international climate targets, the industrialised world
must set the example and reduce its consumption of fossil fuels. This is only possible if we can improve the efficiency of our energy consumption.

The 2007  award-winner represents a particularly important area and the Volvo Environment Prize Foundation is particularly gratified that the jury chose to focus so firmly on this issue. Amory Lovins’ views, suggestions and technical solutions have often been called into question at the time of their presentation although time has shown that he leads the way and is a remarkable forward-thinker. Ideas and solutions that seemed spectacular when originally unveiled later gained general acceptance and are standard today.

Amory Lovins has dedicated his entire professional life to energy efficiency. His pioneering work has opened the door for others to follow in his footsteps and this has prompted new research areas and practical applications. As the founder and head scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute he has created a platform for research and interaction that has done a lot for innovation in the energy sphere. Amory Lovins is the visionary and creative physicist who has long been a leader in the field of energy efficiency and a man who walks the talk. At an altitude of 2200 metres above sea level in a ski resort in Colorado, he cultivates bananas and mangoes – among much else – in the institute’s jungle which is housed in a building constructed according to energy-efficiency principles and with the sun serving as the main source of heating.

Rocky Mountain Institute

Dr Mary T Kalin Arroyo and Professor Aila Inkeri Keto, 2005

November 4, 2009

2005_KA copy

The Volvo Environment Prize for 2005 is awarded to two outstanding conservationists from the southern hemisphere who have made extraordinary contributions to conservation. Their work in these biodiversity hotspots has built strong public support and has enhanced global understanding of the importance of protecting biodiversity.

For the first time in the history of the Volvo Environment Prize, two women are sharing the award: Dr Mary Kalin Arroyo who works in Chile, and Professor Aila Keto whose work takes place in Australia.

Dr Mary Kalin Arroyo is a professor of biology at Universidad de Chile. She has combined research on the reproductive systems of plants with the study of complete communities and applied this information to conservation. Her studies have led to the design of an improved system of protected areas in Chile, one of the world’s most important biodiversity regions.

Professor Aila Keto has worked since 1982 as President of the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society to build support for the conservation of the natural heritage of Queensland. As a research scientist, she has identified numerous natural value in the rainforests of Queensland. She has made important contributions to at least three World Heritage Sites in north-eastern Australia. Professor Keto’s work led to the protection of more than 1.5 million hectares of Queensland’s rainforest.

Dr David Satterthwaite, Mr Jamie Lerner, Dr Luisa Molina and Dr Mario Molina, 2004

November 4, 2009


The Volvo Environment Prize 2004 is awarded to Dr. David Satterthwaite, Mr. Jaime Lerner as well as Dr. Luisa and Dr. Mario Molina. The common denominator for these four winners is that they work with finding measures to counter the environmental problems resulting from rising urbanization, particularly in developing countries.

Dr. George M. Woodwell, 2001

November 4, 2009

2001_W copyThe 2001 Volvo Environment Prize was awarded to Dr.George M.Woodwell for his pre-eminent and pioneering work addressing questions of how the world works as a single biophysical system with relevance to man,and how to tailor human activities to environmental imperatives.He has been instrumental in forging abundant pathways between ecological research and public affairs. He has participated in the founding of a number of thriving institutions that continue to lead in today ’s world of science and policy.
At the same time,he has effectively promoted the environmental cause in political arenas, in the popular press and through other media and through a multiplicity of activities in NGOs.

The Prize Jury’s Citation:
The Volvo Environment Prize for 2001 is awarded to George M.Woodwell, a biologist of international distinction who was one of the earliest to recognize, understand,and point out remedies for several of the most important threats to the global environment from human activities well before his methods and conclusions became generally accepted. His pioneering scientific work on the negative impacts of persistent pesticides,ionizing radiations,and other human induced stresses,and of forest clearance on global warming,as well as his equally pathbreaking activities in science-based public policy development,the founding of two important environmental defence organizations and two celebrated ecosystem research institutes have been emulated worldwide.They mark him out as an outstanding scientist and policy analyst of great vision,courage,and determination,operating well before his time.

Dr Veerabhadran Ramanathan, 1997

October 8, 2009


V. Ramanathan is a bright star in climate research. His field of research especially regards the energy budget of the earth’s atmosphere system. He was among the first to point out the role of other gases in the atmosphere than CO2 for the climate, namely methane, nitrous oxide, CFC, and others.

Global Warming – Dimming the Sun

Personal web site:


Nature Geoscience Paper, March 23, 2008
Ramanatans research show that Black Carbon Pollution Emerges as Major Player in Global Warming. Soot from biomass burning, diesel exhaust has 60 percent of the effect of carbon dioxide on warming but mitigation offers immediate benefits. Black Carbon Pollution is most often produced from biomass burning, cooking with solid fuels and diesel exhaust.
“Ramanathan says previous conservative estimates of black carbon’s warming effect overlooked key factors–most importantly, the interaction between black carbon and other particles in the atmosphere. “Black carbon doesn’t exist by itself,” says Ramanathan. “It’s always mixed with other aerosols,” such as sulfate particles, and other organic combustion byproducts. Many of those other aerosols reflect light, increasing the chances that it will be absorbed by nearby flecks of soot. Black carbon high in the atmosphere also absorbs light reflected by Earth’s surface and clouds. Because most climate models don’t adequately represent such effects, they often underestimate how much reflected light soot absorbs, Ramanathan says.” Scince Magazine
“Study Fingers Soot as a Major Player in Global Warming”  

Brown clouds
Together with Dr. Paul Crutzen he discovered the widespread existence of atmospheric brown clouds covering much of the Indian Ocean region. They found that the vast majority of the aerosols were anthropogenic in origin, and that the surface cooling caused by the aerosols is more important than the atmospheric heating. These atmospheric brown clouds may have masked as much as 50% of the surface heating caused by the increase in CO2, and caused reduced precipitation during the Indian monsoon. (Wikipedia)

Today Veerabhadran Ramanathan tours the globe to conduct experiments and advise world leaders about climate change. 

Project Surya
Ramanathan’s desire to go beyond publishing studies in journals and make a tangible difference has grown with time. Project Surya, which means Sun in Sanskrit, is a project that will promote the use of inexpensive solar cookers in rural India, and document the reductions in carbon dioxide and soot emissions. The idea is to give about 3,500 solar and other “clean energy” cooking devices to families in Mukteshwar, a rural area in the Himalayas, and study if the smokeless cookers effectively slash levels of atmospheric soot. 

Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 1990-present;
director of the Center for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate at Scripps, 1991-present;
co-chief scientist for the Indian Ocean Experiment, 1996-2002;
professor at University of Chicago, 1986-1990



Dr Syukuro Manabe, 1997

October 8, 2009


Manabe has greatly contributed to the scientific understanding of climate changes, which threatens present and future generations. He has played a major role in the advance of theoretical climate research, involving the complex interactions among solar input, energy transfer, and dynamics in the atmosphere, hydrological and cryospheric processes, as well as couplings with the oceans. Manabe was the first to explore the climatic effects of an increase in the atmospheric CO2 content using a comprehensive global climate model, showing future temperature rise.

 Manabe is one of the foremost pioneers regarding the use of numerical models. Since the 1960s, he has played a leading role in the development of global circulation models. Over a period of three decades, these models have been at the leading edge of climate research. The results of his early work carried out three to four decades ago predicted a temperature increase which now is still in the middle of the range of estimates made by various modeling groups around the world. In addition, Manabe has studied in the best available detail critical issues in the earth’s hydrological cycle, especially related to soil humidity, which is of course a factor of the greatest importance for agriculture and the biosphere. His findings include regional variation of temperature rise and potential impacts on agricultural production.

In the early 1960’s, Manabe and his team of researchers  developed a radiative-convective model of the atmosphere, and explored the role of greenhouse gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and ozone in maintaining and changing the thermal structure of the atmosphere. This was the beginning of the long-term research on global warming, which have continued until now in collaborating with the staff members of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of NOAA.

In the late 1960’s, Manabe together with Kirk Bryan developed a general circulation model of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-land system, which eventually became a very powerful tool for the simulation of Global warming.

Most known for:
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Manabe’s research group published seminal papers using these models to explore the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to changing greenhouse gas concentrations. These papers formed a major part of the first global assessments of climate change published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Other important work done by Manabe included the suggestion that climate might have more than one stable state and the demonstration that switches between such states could be induced in a relatively realistic model by melting ice caps.

 After his Ph.D. in Meteorology in 1958 Manabe moved to the United States, where since 1968 he has worked at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at Princeton University. From 1997 to 2001, he worked at the Frontier Research System for Global Change in Japan serving as Director of the Global Warming Research Division. In 2002 he returned to the United States as a visiting research collaborator at the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Princeton Univeristy.

The research group started by Manabe is today known as the GFDL Climate Dynamics and Prediction Group

Manabe and Ramanathan, 1997

October 8, 2009

Climate modeling and climate change


Prize jury´s citation:
The Volvo Environment Prize for 1997 is awarded jointly to Dr. Syukuro Manabe and Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan for their pioneering work of outstanding importance to humanity, on how to predict the nature of future changes in the world climate. The findings of Dr. Manabe and Dr. Ramanathan are complementary. When combined, they create a powerful understanding of the factors determining climate change, thus laying strong foundations to formulate action plans for urgent implementation by the joint efforts of the international community including national governments, transnational corporations and the public. 

The greenhouse effect, climate change, and global warming are terms often heard in the public debate today. The greenhouse effect, that is, the trapping of infrared radiation due to gases in the atmosphere of the earth, is necessary for the existence of a reasonable temperature on the earth. The greenhouse gases are essentially transparent for the incoming short wavelength light from the sun but effectively absorb the radiation emitted from the earth, which has a longer wavelength. The debate and the controversies concern if manmade emissions, especially those from the burning of fossil fuels, will change or even have already changed the climate, and if so to what extent. A related question is if there is an interrelationship between recent extreme climatic events and global warming. The scientific problems are extremely complex due to the great number of influencing factors, their interrelations, and different positive and negative feedback mechanisms.

Dr. James E. Lovelock, 1996

October 7, 2009


The true opposite of a reductionist

The Prize Jury´s citation:

The Volvo Environment Prize for 1996 is awarded to Dr. James E. Lovelock, F.R.S., for his invention of the Electron Capture and Photo-ionisation Detectors, nowadays indispensable tools in modern analytical chemistry and essential for the recognition and measurement of minute traces of pollutant substances and other chemical compounds in the environment

Doomsday Pending? James Lovelock on The Hour, 27 May 2009

Lovelock’s scientific contributions, beginning with his early work in the medical sciences, is particularly rooted in two, as it would first appear, unrelated scientific fields: instrumental engineering and biochemistry. An important part of his work has been inventions. In total, Lovelock has filed more than 30 patents, mostly for detectors for use in chemical analysis. He worked with NASA in their preparations for the first lunar landing. NASA wanted Lovelock to design a device to detect if there might be substances dangerous to man on the surface of the moon.  It was while working as a consultant for NASA that Lovelock developed the Gaia Hypothesis, for which he is most widely known.

Lovelock invented the electron capture detector, which ultimately assisted in discoveries about the persistence of CFCs and their role in stratospheric ozone depletion. After studying the operation of the Earth’s sulfur cycle, Lovelock and his colleagues developed the CLAW hypothesis as a possible example of biological control of the Earth’s climate.

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962 had a massive impact on the environmental debate and movement. It is not equally well known that James Lovelock’s invention the Electron Capture Detector was used by scientists to reveal the core information, on the distribution of pesticide residues and other halogen-bearing chemicals, of the book.

Gaia hypothesis
Author of the GAIA theory, named after Gaya greek godess of the world, which states that life on Earth functions as a single organism. Basically Lovelock says that the earth is one giant interdependent living system that regulates itself. It keeps chemical levels temperature and other conditions optimal to keep life going. Until the humans came along…

Lovelock is also renowned for supporting nuclear power as a way of cutting carbon emissions

Lovelock is an independent scientist working out of a lab in Cornwall, England, that used to be a barn. For years he has been sounding the alarm on climate change.
New book: The vanishing face of Gaya: A final warning

“We have passed the point of no return. We have reached a point where civilization itself is threatened and we have no one to blame but our own ignorance and greed.”

 On his work at the National Institute of Medical Research:
“Physicists, chemists, biologists and medical scientists talked and planned together in the coffeeroom or the cafeteria. For a while the institute was a fertile island of creativity in a sea of mediocracy…At the institute it was the tradition of those days never to read the literature, especially not textbooks. Senior scientists warned that our job was to make the literature, not read it, which was a recipe that worked well for me. Had I read the literature on ionization phenomena in gases before doing my experiments, I would have been hopelessly discouraged and confused. Instead I just experimented.”

More information:
Read more on James Lovelocks facinating life as an independent scientist & environmentalist and about the Gaia theory:

Professor Gilberg White, 1995

September 26, 2009


Natural resource planning

The Prize Jury’s Citation:
From his pioneering work during the 1930’s on natural resource planning, with special attention to flood plain management, to his superlative leadership in directing wideranging programs in natural hazards at the University of Chicago in the 1960’s, right through to his important work at the University of Colorado on radioactive-waste management in the 1990’s, his careers has been studded with accomplishments of extraordinary significance.

Most known for:
Gilbert White was a prominent American geographer, sometimes termed the “father of floodplain management” and the “leading environmental geographer of the 20th century”. White is known predominantly for his work on natural hazards, particularly flooding,  and the importance of sound water management in contemporary society.

“The contributions which geographic thought can make to the advancement of society are relatively few, simple, and powerful. They are so few and simple that a significant proportion of them can be taught to high school and beginning undergraduate students. They are so powerful that failure to recognize them jeopardizes the ability of citizens to deal intelligently with a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world.” 1962. “Critical Issues Concerning Geography in the Public Service-Introduction.” Annals, Association of American Geographers 52 (3):279-280.

White was the Gustavson Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Colorado from 1980 until his death in 2006. Prior to that, from 1970 to 1978, he was Professor of Geography and the Director of the Institute of Behavioral Science at the university. He was also the founder and Director of the university’s Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center (now called simply the “Natural Hazards Center”) from 1976 to 1984 and again from 1992 to 1994.

In 2001 Gilbert donated his research library and personal papers to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The collection, considered one of the largest in the world on water resources planning, is now housed in the Arthur Maass – Gilbert F. White Reference Room at the Corps’ Institute for Water Resources in Alexandria, Virginia.

Professor Gita Sen, 1994

September 26, 2009

banner1994The Prize Jury’s Citation:
Dr. Sen’s outstanding contribution takes the rich body of scholarship on how patterns of resource exploitation are affected by household- and community-level partitioning of rights and ownership, and successfully connects it to crucial national and international policy debates on population growth, the status of women, and sustainable development.

The growing population on the earth has developed into a main environmental problem. Professor Sen combines a distinguished academic career with policy advocacy and NGO activism. She is a pioneer in the field gender and development. Her pioneering research has created a broader understanding of the manner in which the relationship between environment and development is conditioned by social structures and, in particular, by the changing role of women within them.

Sir Ratan Tata Chair Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India; Adjunct Lecturer at the Center for Population and Development Studies, Harvard University, USA. She was formerly Adjunct Lecturer at Harvard (1996-2002) and has been a Visiting Professor there and also at Vassar College, New York
Prof. Sen holds an M.A. in Economics from the University of Delhi and a Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford University, USA

The complete picture
Gita Sen is the scientist with a basis in economy who has investigated and in a new way given a much more complete picture of the large complex of population problems. With a multidisciplinary attack she has brought out the fundamental importance of the environment, sociological conditions, and most importantly the often disregarded and misunderstood role of women, the mother, in the poor communities where the birth rates are the highest.

Her work on women and the environment has underscored the tremendous role women in the developing world play in husbanding their ecological assets, in managing the biomass production, and in the protection and conservation of the environment. Professor Sen has also articulated important linkages between environment and macroeconomic policies, poverty, and livelihood generation among the disadvantaged.

Specifically, from the environmental perspective, Gita Sen’s contribution is to see people as part of the solution, not the problem. Gita Sen has pointed at the fact that people in the South do not trust the intentions of the North with regard to population and many poor women and men in the South do not trust their officials involved in family planning programs. Far better and more practical, it would seem according to Gita Sen, to create the social and developmental preconditions for people to need and want fewer children than to attempt to convince them against their own best judgment. Population policies must be voluntary and firmly grounded in the human rights of the individual and in particular the reproductive rights of women whose physical and emotional well being is most at stake.

Professor Sen is the current chairman of the Volvo Environment Prize Jury.

She is the author, co-author or co-editor of several books on these gender-related issues. She is a founding member of DAWN (Development Alternatives with Woman for a New Era); a network of Third World researchers, activists and policy-makers committed to alternative development and gender justice.

She is a trustee of Health Watch (Indi) and of the Institute of Social Studies Trust (India). She is on the Board of the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and on several other international organisations and advisory groups. Among many honours she received the Volvo Environment Prize in 1994, and an honorary doctorate from the University of East Anglia in the UK in 1998.

Politics and policy
Her academic and policy activism in this field has been an inspiration to a whole generation of researchers, policy-makers of South and North, and non-governmental activists. Her recent work includes reserach and policy advocacy on the gender implications of globalisation and economic liberalisation, the gender dimensions of population policies, and the links beteen population and the environment.


Professor Paul R. Ehrlich, 1993

September 26, 2009

banner1993Paul R. Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Population Studies and professor of biology at Stanford University and a fellow of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics. Starting in the mid 1960s, Ehrlich has been a very productive author of professional papers and popular articles on different aspects on humankind’s environmental predicament.

Ehrlich has been tireless in presenting both to the scientific world and to the general public and politicians his well-founded concern for our common future. He has worked through popular presentations, scientific papers, and hundreds of lectures. He has focused on questions of environmental degradation, natural resource limitations, population growth, and development processes, especially highlighting the interface between scientific enquiry and societal values. He has taken the environmental cause into the wider public sphere through frequent appearances on television and radio. He is also an active leader in a number of non-governmental organizations and citizen groups.

The Bomb
His well-known book “The Population Bomb” from 1968  has sold more than 3 million copies and been translated into several languages.  The concept of the book was that the excessive population growth is inseparably connected with natural resource depletion and environmental degradation. These are three interlinked problems that can only be confronted together. In 1968, this was a very radical idea.
In the book he predicted that “In the 1970s and 1980s . . . hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

The Popular Explosion: This sequel to Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 landmark best-seller The Population Bomb examines the critical choices we face today and proposes an agenda for the 1990s to avoid global ecocide. The Population Explosion vividly describes how the Earth’s population, growing by 95 million people a year, is rapidly depleting the planet’s resources, resulting in famine, global warming, acid rain, and other major problems.

The Dominant Animal: In 2008 Paul and Anne Ehrlich publiched “The Dominant Animal” that explores why we are creating a world that threatens our own species and what we can we do to change the current trajectory toward more climate change, increased famine, and epidemic disease.

Ehrlich has been frequently criticized for venturing into professional fields other than that of his background training, and his research findings have been hotly contested by his professional peers on numerous occasions. But his conclusions have been confirmed through experience until they have become part of mainstream scientific thinking. For instance, The Population Bomb was roundly criticized at the U.N. population conference in Bucharest in 1974, but its  message was broadly accepted at the next population conference in Mexico City 10 years later.

Paul Ehrich Blogg:

Professor John P. Holdren, 1993

September 26, 2009


Scince leading the world

Professor John Holdren is considered one of the world’s leading energy scientists, environmental scientists and ecologists, which is reflected in a number of books and a long list of other publications. He has been a leader in the science of nuclear fusion. He has been a pioneering scholar in understanding the interaction of biology and ecology with environmental pollution.

Professor Holdren is since December 2008, Assistant to President Barack Obama for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Holdren was previously the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at the School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

What has made John Holdren’s opinions so valuable is his scientific background. His interventions into policy questions such as nuclear power, population and environment, energy efficiency, risk assessment and weapons proliferation are each supported by excellent research papers.

His concerns for the impacts of pollution and other problems associated with energy use on human health led him to develop an important methodology for risk assessment and to write a series of important articles on risk assessment. The work is characterized by its fairness to all energy sources comparing nuclear power, fossil fuel use, and even renewables in an even-handed manner that often produce significant, if not always popular, scientific surprises. This work also spawned several students who have become very successful in their own right in broadening the approach.

Convincing the skeptics,
The New York Times, August 2008

In 1969, writing with Paul Erlich, Holdren claimed that, “if the population control measures are not initiated immediately, and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come”.  In 1973 Holdren encouraged a decline in fertility to well below replacement in the United States, because “210 million now is too many and 280 million in 2040 is likely to be much too many“. Currently, the U.S. population is 306,829,000.

Holdren has written and lectured extensively on the topic of climate change . In 1969 he advocated with Paul R Erlich substantial spending for expansion of nuclear power on the grounds that nuclear plants generate electricity without greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2006, Holdren reportedly suggested that global sea levels could rise by 13 feet by the end of this century. (The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007) suggests a potential seal level rise over the same interval on the order 13 inches).

Erlich and Holdren, 1993

September 26, 2009

Understanding the threats to human survival

The Prize Jury’s Citation:
The Prize of 1993 is awarded to an evolutionary biologist, Professor Paul R. Ehrlich, and an anergy resources scienstist, Professor John P. Holdren, for their outstanding and pioneering contributions to our understanding of the threats to human development and survival, particularly those arising from the rapid growth of populations in developing countries and of the high level of per capita resource consumption in industrialized countries.

Sixty years ago, the world population was slightly above 2 billion people. When Holdren and erlich recieved the Volvo Environment Prize it was approximately 5.5 billion. As of 26 September 2009, the Earth’s population is estimated to be 6.8 billion. The majority of the present population and by far the majority new children being born live or will be born in developing countries with low per capita consumption. In the industrialized world we are a little more than 1 billion people with a very high per capita consumption, and it has been increasing over a long period of time. The total resource consumption of the few in the industrialised world is much higher than that of the many in the rest of the world. The effects of this are no longer either small or local. The industrial world makes its enormous natural resource demands with its unacceptable environmental effects. The developing countries its population problems and poverty leads to degradation of the environment.

Two individuals who have greatly contributed to the scientific work and the broad understanding behind this are our two laureates, Paul Ehrlich, biologist, and John Holdren, nuclear physicist. Their work has laid the foundations of our understanding of how the dynamics of population growth, rising living standards and changing technology, as well as the relationships among them, interact in the context of environmental problems.

Professor Paul Ehrlich

Professor John Holdren

Dr. Norman Myers and Professor Peter H. Raven, 1992

September 26, 2009

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.

Professor Paul Crutzen – interview

September 26, 2009

Paul Crutzen wishes for a better understanding of the process

1. In your opinion which are the major scientific breakthroughs within  the field of sustainable development during the last 20 years?
The theories that were developed to explain the polar stratospheric ozone hole were confirmed by measurements.
They showed that they are due to industrial emissions of chlorine and bromine containing organic gases 

2. What do you predict/hope will be the most important scientific progress of the future?
A better understanding of the processes, which lead to climate change, especially in the polar regions.

3. What is the single most important sustainable challenge right now?
What will be the outcome of the Copenhagen negotiations regarding ‘global change’.

Professor Paul Crutzen, 1991

September 10, 2009

A scientists’ scientist who always seems to be one step ahead

The 1991 Prize was awarded to Professor Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, one of the world’s leading research scientists in the field of atmospheric chemistry. Professor Crutzen has achieved this eminence by undertaking a series of major research projects over a period of more than 20 years, including studies of ozone layer depletion and the greenhouse effect. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.


The Prize Jury’s Citation:
Professor Crutzen was awarded the Prize for an outstanding ability to identity and elucidate critical features governing the chemical behaviour of the atmosphere. He has shown great ability to excel in a wide scope of interrelated researh activities in topics relevant to atmospheric science.

Most known for:
Paul Crutzen, has made pioneering work for our understanding of ozone formation and destruction in the atmosphere, how it affects the green house effect with a potential risk for global warming and the ozone layer in the stratosphere, leading to increased ultraviolet radiation on the earth surface and thereby increased risk for cancer and damages to the microbial life in the ground. He has also studied how sulphur emissions affect the climate and the formation of clouds.

“It was thanks to Paul Crutzen that we skirted a previous global atmospheric threat: the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer. If the warnings from him and his fellow winners of the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry, Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, hadn’t come when they did, the Antarctic ozone hole might have proved disastrous.” James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

In 1982 Paul crutzen pointed out that a nuclear war might cause extensive fires with accompanying disastrous effects on the climate of the earth. The smoke from the fire is expected to efficiently shield the lower parts of the atmosphere and the surface of the earth from a large fraction of the sun radiation. This will cause a drastic cooling which we know under the name “nuclear winter”.

Nobel Prize
Four years after being a Volvo Environment Prize laureate Paul Crutzen was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Mario Molina (Volvo Environment Prize laureate of 2004) and Sherwood Rowland “for their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone”.

He caused a stir with the publication of a paper in 2006 suggesting that injecting the common pollutant sulfur into the stratosphere some 10 miles above the earth could snuff out the greenhouse effect. He believes that dispersing 1 million tons of sulfur into the stratosphere each year, either on balloons or in rockets, would deflect sunlight and cool the planet. Scientists observed that world temperatures dropped by 0.5 degrees centigrade on average when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991, spewing sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

2008: Atmospheric scientist Paul J Crutzen said clouds gathering over the world economy could ease the earth’s environmental burden.
“Slower economic growth worldwide could help slow growth of carbon dioxide emissions and trigger more careful use of energy resources, though the global economic turmoil may also divert focus from efforts to counter climate change”, Global Environment 08

Paul Crutzen will attend a seminar at Chalmers Technical University 2 November 2009 together with this year’s laureate Dr Susan Solomon a former graduate student of Crutzen´s. More information about this seminar will be posted later.

More Crutzen:
Personal home page
Autobiography, Nobel Prize winners
Heros of the Environmnet, Time/CNN

Volvo Environment Prize presenting laureates

September 1, 2009
Some of the winners


Starting September 8, 2009. Volvo Environment Prize will present its 36 distinguished laureates.

Until then please visit the official web site: