16th Annual Heinz Award Winners

Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation announced the winners of the 16th annual Heinz Awards a couple weeks ago. 10 innovative individuals addressing critical environmental challenges of our time through invention, research, and education received awards this year as well as a cash prize of $100,000 each.

“We’re living in a time of unprecedented global change. Our planet is facing rising temperatures and our communities are affected by toxic chemicals that weren’t on the market a hundred years ago,” said Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation. “We’re recognizing innovators who are tackling some of the most vexing problems facing our planet.”

“Each of the awardees is distinguished not just by the impressive detail and scope of their work, but also by their courageous willingness to communicate the implications of their work, often in the face of determined opposition. This characteristic was highly prized by Senator John Heinz, and hence the award program seeks to identify and honor it,” the Heinz news release stated.

The following are the 2010 award winners and why they won, as well as a little more information on the Heinz Awards, as emailed to me. Some truly honorable people and achievements.

James Balog, Extreme Ice Survey (Boulder, Colo.)
For his dramatic use of photography to document the devastation of global warming

James Balog, a former skeptic of global warming, is honored by the Heinz Awards for his pioneering photographic documentation of the effects of global warming worldwide. Using materials from his local hardware store, he adapted 39 Nikon cameras to take photos of glaciers around the world each hour of daylight. More than 500,000 photographs from his Extreme Ice Survey illustrate the evidence of global warming over time, providing scientists with vital insight on glacial retreat. Mr. Balog is admired for his innovative approach to photography and risky maneuvers – from rappelling down crevasses to climbing icy precipices – to capture the perfect image.

Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., University of Missouri (Columbia, Mo.)
For uncovering health problems linked to the chemical BPA

Building upon an already distinguished career in basic reproductive biology, Dr. vom Saal discovered unexpected health problems linked to exposure to common chemicals in every day products such as bisphenol A (BPA), a widely-used ingredient in consumer products. Dr. vom Saal’s work has been crucial to opening new questions about the safety of many chemicals in widespread use, which had been thought safe based on traditional methods used in toxicology. His research challenges health agencies around the world to use 21st century biomedical science in assessing the risks posed by environmental chemicals. While some regulatory agencies have taken action, others have been slow to respond. The market, however, has moved quickly due to consumers demanding alternatives to materials that science reveals may be harmful.

Cary Fowler, Ph.D., Global Crop Diversity Trust (Rome, Italy)
For establishing the Global Seed Vault to conserve genetic diversity of the world’s food plants despite climate change

Dr. Fowler’s vision and efforts in the preservation of the world’s food supply are honored by a Heinz Award. Raised in Tennessee, Dr. Fowler developed a love for agriculture that shaped his acute awareness of the importance of crop diversity. His work emphasizes that a lack in plant population diversity weakens food security. His efforts to conserve crop diversity, including the development of the Global Seed Vault − holding one-third of the world’s seed varieties − are critical to preserving crop diversity as factors such as climate change and natural disasters threaten agriculture and its ability to feed humanity in the future.

Terrence Collins, Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
For using “green chemistry” to detoxify hazardous chemicals and training the next generation of scientists

Dr. Collins has a distinguished and unquenchable passion for training the next generation of scientists to combine the tools of chemistry with the knowledge of environmental health science so their work will reduce the use and generation of hazardous substances. A professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Green Science, Dr. Collins and his research group have played a crucial role in inventing safe, sustainable ways to mitigate toxic waste and biological agents including anthrax. Throughout his scientific career he has demonstrated an informed willingness to challenge entrenched ideas and misguided conventional wisdom, guided by a sharp and intellectually rigorous focus on what is necessary to move chemistry toward a truly sustainable path.

Gretchen Daily, Ph.D., Stanford University and the Natural Capital Project (Stanford, Calif.)
For her achievements demonstrating the financial value of natural ecosystems

Dr. Daily is chosen as a Heinz Awards recipient for her work to protect and place a value on the services provided by natural ecosystems, which include climate stability, flood control, water purification, pollination and production of food. Dr. Daily has shown important and unique global leadership in creating new tools and approaches for estimating the economic value of

conservation, and for implementing these in key demonstrations around the world. With the Natural Capital Project, she has co-developed InVEST, a computer software program helping decision makers identify ecological assets with the highest financial value. Dr. Daily’s current work in China is helping to inform a $100 billion investment in conservation, over 25 percent of the country’s land area, to harmonize conservation and human development.

Daniel Sperling, Ph.D., University of California, Davis (Davis, Calif.)
For advancing sustainable transportation policies and accelerating the transition to low-carbon alternative fuels nationwide

Dr. Sperling has made significant contributions to revolutionize transportation and energy research through a unique academic approach that merges research, policy studies and entrepreneurship in pursuit of clean, equitable transportation options. A professor and founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis,

Dr. Sperling was instrumental in the passage of California’s groundbreaking Low Carbon Fuel Standard, the first major regulation built on the concept of measuring greenhouse gases over a product or fuel’s lifecycle, from production to end use. Dr. Sperling’s most recent book, Two Billion Cars, has received international acclaim and demonstrates his ability to communicate complex topics in a way that touches people and moves them to action.

Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, (Williamstown, Mass.)
For her groundbreaking environmental journalism and devotion to informing readers

Elizabeth Kolbert is honored for her steadfast, creative and challenging journalistic explorations of important environmental issues that are central to global change. Time and again she has written about key global issues of the day, in media outlets such as The New Yorker as well as in books. Ms. Kolbert’s investigations go beyond traditional reporting – even raising a hive of bees in her backyard to better understand their habits for a story about their mysterious disappearance. Her skill for providing readers with intriguing narrative generates intense interest, grabs national attention and has inspired a movie. While reporting on topics such as Arctic ice caps and extinctions, she is frequently invited to speak at universities and serves as a guest editor for other publications.

Michael Oppenheimer, Ph.D., Princeton University (Princeton, N.J. and New York, N.Y.)
For assessing the impacts of global warming and air pollution, and working for policies to prevent future harm

Dr. Oppenheimer is honored for his leadership in assessing the impacts of climate change and air pollution, as well as promoting policies to prevent future harm. Long before global warming reached global prominence, he drew international attention to the issue by co-organizing workshops that helped precipitate the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at Princeton, Dr. Oppenheimer was formerly chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund for 21 years. He is currently a lead coordinating author of the fifth IPCC assessment as well as on a special report on climate extremes and disasters. Dr. Oppenheimer, moreover, has repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to help policymakers and the public understand climate science and the gravity of its implications.

Richard Feely, Ph.D., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (Seattle, Wash.)
For his extraordinary efforts in identifying ocean acidity as global warming’s “evil twin”

Studying the world’s oceans since 1974, Dr. Feely is recognized by the Heinz Awards for his extensive study of ocean acidification caused by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Logging over 1,000 days at sea and over 50 scientific expeditions, Dr. Feely’s startling discoveries prove acidity levels are rising fast and represent a major challenge to the health of the ocean’s food web. Throughout his career, Dr. Feely has promoted improvements in public policy to protect oceans and marine ecosystems. His research documenting the pace and extent of acidification have brought this issue world-wide attention and forced recognition of the fact that policy measures that only address global warming will fail to fully confront global change.

Lynn Goldman, M.D., George Washington University (Washington, D.C. and Silver Spring, Md.)
For promoting regulation of dangerous chemicals and expanding citizens’ right to know about pollution in their communities

The Heinz Awards honor Dr. Goldman for her work to protect people from toxic chemicals. As a pediatrician and epidemiologist, she saw children with preventable infectious diseases and lead poisoning and it inspired her to research and develop programs to stop negative health effects caused by chemical contaminants. Appointed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she strengthened regulation on pesticides and toxic substances and expanded citizens’ right-to-know about pollution in their communities. Returning to academia after government service, she has carried out groundbreaking research on how chemicals affect newborn children. In August, she became dean of the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University, a position that will enhance her ability to protect public health.

About the Heinz Awards

The Heinz Family Foundation, one of the Heinz Family Philanthropies, began as a charitable trust established by the late U.S. Senator John Heinz. His widow, Teresa Heinz, established the Heinz Awards in 1993 to honor and sustain the legacy of her late husband.

Nominations for the Heinz Awards are submitted by invited experts, who serve anonymously.  Award recipients are selected by the board of directors for the Heinz Awards upon recommendation by a blue-ribbon panel of jurors.

In addition to the Heinz Awards, the foundation directs a grant-making program that is active in a wide range of issues, principally those concerning women’s health and environment, health care costs and coverage, as well as pensions and retirement security.

In addition to the $100,000 award for their unrestricted use, recipients are presented with a medallion inscribed with the image of Senator Heinz on one side and a rendering of a globe passing between two hands on the other. The Heinz Awards will be presented at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 15. For more information about the Heinz Awards, Heinz Family Foundation or the recipients, visit www.heinzawards.net.

Image Credit: screenshot of Heinz Awards website.

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