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Heroes of the environment: who are yours?

Passionate and creative scientists, activists and others are confronting the threats facing our planet, writes Maryann Bird. A US magazine says they light the way, and despair is not the only option.

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“For those who care about the environment, the future can seem dark and doomed … Why not despair?” journalist Bryan Walsh wrote recently in the US magazine Time. In his introduction to the magazine’s annual list of “heroes” – which focused this year on the environment -- Walsh answered his question this way: “Because solutions do exist -- and there are those who are leading us to them … What they have in common is the passion and resourcefulness to confront the threats facing the earth.”

In offering its selection of 35 men and women from around the globe whom it deems “heroes of the environment” for 2008, the magazine chose activists, scientists, politicians, financiers, religious figures and others.

Some of them are widely known, like Arnold Schwarzenegger; the “green” governor of California; Marina Silva, Brazil’s former environment minister and fierce defender of the Amazon rainforest; Joachim Luther, Germany’s “godfather of solar power”; and John Doerr, the US venture capitalist who is putting millions of dollars into new green-technology companies. Others are less familiar figures who work locally on issues including climate change, environmental justice, water and sanitation, forests, biodiversity, alternative energy, transportation, aquaculture, pollution and waste.

Among the “heroes” working in China, Time chose Wang Yongchen, an environmental journalist and activist (and chinadialogue contributor) battling on several fronts to make the country’s nascent green movement more effective; Peter Head, the British engineer who heads the Dongtan eco-city project near Shanghai; and Peggy Liu, who set up the Joint US-China Cooperation on Clean Energy (JUCCCE), an NGO.

Do not despair about the state of the planet, the magazine urged its readers, because “what these men and women are is as important as what they do. They cannot solve climate change alone or save endangered species single-handedly. But by their example, by their willingness to dedicate themselves to what too many still dismiss as a hopeless cause, these heroes of the environment provide light in the darkness.”

“They are living proof,” says Time, “that despair is not the only option, that hope remains a choice. They remind us that in the face of human creativity and will, no change is too great, and no battle is unwinnable -- if only we’ll fight.”

Do you have environmental heroes? Or do you despair too much over the planet’s future? As climate change increases and the earth’s environmental problems gain a higher profile, who inspires you?

Let us know on the forum.

Maryann Bird is associate editor of chinadialogue.

Homepage photo by law_keven
 
 

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Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

英雄辈出(1)

这世上有着无数的环保英雄,每个区域每个国家都有。有立足当地,清理湖泊与江河,或复兴老工业区的人士;有悉心研究脆弱的生态系统并致力挽救频危动植物种群的科学家;有为经济活动不公、可持续发展不稳而战的活动家,还有的或专注于清洁用水或清洁能源、或专注于食品安全或野生动植物保护等单一环保问题。还有更多,不胜枚举。环保英雄还应包括我们大家,只要别再庸懒“不为”、别再以为我们的“善小”无关痛痒,就能做些个人力所能及的事。也就是说,我们要以对生态友好的方式生活,要支持环保组织,还有就是要发出我们的声音,确保各级政府迅捷及负责任地采取行动,解决同我们这个星球的健康相关的问题。这个挑战很宏大---从各地道路交通、楼盘与电站建设的决策一路直上至国际条约,特别是09年在哥本哈根会议上达成一个超越京都议定书的协定。让自己成为自己的英雄吧,而你也恰能发现你还会是别人的英雄。
马修

本评论由Ming Li翻译

A world full of heroes (1)

There are countless environmental heroes in the world, in every region and country. They're local people cleaning up lakes and rivers or reviving old industrial sites; scientists studying fragile ecosystems and working to save endangered species of flora and fauna; campaigners fighting for economic justice, for sustainable development, or on single issues like clean water or energy, food safety or wildlife protection. And many more, too numerous to list.
Environmental heroes should include us all, doing what we can do personally if we'd only stop being lazy or stop thinking that our small contribution won't make any difference.
That means living eco-friendly lifestyles and supporting environmental groups. It also means using our voices to ensure that governments at ALL levels act promptly and responsibly on issues related to the health of our planet. That challenge takes in a great deal -- from decisions on local roads and runways, buildings and power plants, all the way up to international treaties, particularly reaching a post-Kyoto accord at Copenhagen in 2009.
Be your own hero -- and you just might find you're also a hero to other people. -- Matthew

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

英雄辈出(2)

在众多公认的名字中,我的英雄有:以《不便说的真相》把气候变化问题摆上世界舞台中央的前美国副总统戈尔、向世界宣扬世界自身之美长达50年的英国自然主义者与广播节目人大卫·爱登堡、直言展示全球气候变暖证据的美国航空航天局的地球科学家,快人快语的詹姆斯·汉森、前巴西环境部长及强悍的亚马逊雨林捍卫者玛丽娜·席娃、以经济事例详细阐明应对气候变化须赶早不赶晚的前世行经济学家尼古拉斯·斯特恩、深明这个星球在欣欣发展中所面临的巨大(并不断增长)的碳排放问题以及其所在国的职责为何的马军、潘岳等中国人士,还有非洲最大的社区环保组织---绿带运动的创始人、投身于植树与妇女与女孩权利运动的肯尼亚人旺加里·马塔伊。他们只是其中的一小部分,而我们需要更多与他们一样的人在世界范围内承担起领袖群伦的角色。 马修

本评论由Ming Li翻译

A world full of heroes (2)

Among the more recognised names, my heroes include: Al Gore, the former US vice president who brought climate change centre-stage with "An Inconvenient Truth"; David Attenborough, the British naturalist and broadcaster who has been educating the world about its own unique beauty for 50 years; James Hansen, the outspoken NASA earth scientist who has bluntly laid out the evidence on global warming; Marina Silva, the former Brazilian environment minister and tough campaigner for the Amazon rainforest; Nicholas Stern, the former World Bank economist who has spelled out the economic case for confronting climate change now rather than later; Ma Jun, Pan Yue and others in China, who understand the huge (and growing) carbon emissions problem the planet faces -- and their country's role in it -- as development booms; and Wangari Maathai of Kenya, founder of the Green Belt Movement, Africa's biggest community-based environmental organisation, devoted to planting trees and empowering women and girls.
They're just a small selection -- and we need many more people like them in leadership roles all around the world. -- Matthew

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

中国的女英雄

特写在中外对话上的中国律师张兢兢,正是环保英雄的绝佳范例。她坚韧不拔、全力以赴,为解决环保问题及教育人民而奔走。 她为污染受害者法律援助中心所做的工作真是令人钦佩!还有更多象她这样的人存在吗?也让我们听听他们的故事吧。 玛蒂尔达

本评论由Ming Li翻译

A heroine in China

Zhang Jingjing, the Chinese lawyer featured on chinadialogue, is the perfect example of an environmental hero. She's tough and committed -- both to resolving problems and to educating people.
Her work for the Centre for Legal Assistance of Pollution Victims is truly admirable!
Are there more like her out there? Let's hear about them. -- Matilda