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The Mass Media

The Global 500 Laureates: The Power of One, and of Many, For All of Us

Every once in a while you stumble across something brilliant, some idea, some stroke of genius touched with compassion that reaffirms your belief in the human spirit, the possibilities of little people, and the potential for the future. Sometimes, it just takes the right resource to show you the light. Sometimes, it takes fourteen years of just not hearing of something. And so it goes that in 1987, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), (did you know the UN had an Environment Program?) launched the Global 500 Roll of Honor for Environmental Achievement, designed to reward individuals and organizations for achievement in frontline environmental activism internationally. These awards have been distributed on all environmental fronts to eco-crusaders doing battle all over the world to preserve and improve our environment. In fact, since its inception, UNEP has awarded over 600 Laureates with the Global 500 Award!

At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, award recipients were empowered by the formation of the Global 500 Environmental Forum. The Forum was created not only to draw even further media attention to the outstanding work of Laureates, but made it possible for all Laureates to network and to share information and resources through a collective database. By facilitating communication between those that have made a lifelong commitment to a greener planet, the Forum has become an invaluable tool for bringing together like-minds and combining grassroots forces to save the planet.

Here’s some brief summaries for just some of the 2001 Laureates and why these dedicated few were chosen:


Cubasolar is a nongovernmental organization that carries out projects such as electrification of rural communities, and establishment of medical clinics and schools throughout Cuba, basing their projects on the sustainable use of renewable energy resources. Started in 1984, Cubasolar has dramatically enhanced rural health and education systems while also contributing to the conservation of forests and ecosystems.

Dalian Municipal Government

Ten years ago, Dalian was an old industrial city in China, heavily polluted by the mass of factories in the city (textiles, chemical and petroleum). But in the early Nineties, incorporating a new theory for urban development that involved lengthy environmental considerations, Dalian has successfully reduced pollution by moving 98 factories outside of the city and strengthening pollution-emission regulations as well as the legal supervision to enforce them. By doing so, they have reduced the city’s population by half, (1,000,000 people) as more and more people move out to more and more affluent suburbs. In 1994, the city was designated an Environmental Demonstration Zone, and was honored as an international Best Model City in 2000.

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)

Based in the UK, the EIA was established in 1984 to work undercover to expose international environmental crime, with an emphasis on the illegal animal product trade. They have brought about many changes in international laws and governmental policy regarding the environment saving the lives of estimated millions of endangered animals. They are currently leading the campaign against commercial whaling industries in Norway and Japan, and are deeply involved in exposing the unsustainable practices of the timber industry.

Frederick Gikandi

Gikandi is the quintessential environmentalist and the prototype for utilizing the power of one. With no environmental or activist training, Gikandi spent 13 years of volunteer time saving an abandoned quarry in the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya. Using nothing more than public forums to voice his opinion, flyers to get the word out, and a heartfelt commitment to his cause, Gikandi saved the quarry 600 feet from shore from becoming a municipal refuse dump, thus saving coastal and marine wildlife as well as the surrounding neighborhoods from air pollution from the refuse. The area around the quarry is today a sustainable eco-cultural tourist village named Ngomono.

Loren Legarda-Leviste

A broadcast journalist for twenty years, she featured environmental issues on her weekly television programs “Pep Talk” and “The Inside Story.” She has introduced a subsequent television mews magazine program “EarthLink” that was the first television environmental documentary series, winning both the KBP Golden Dove Award and the Earth Savers Media Award. Now, the youngest member of the Philippine Senate, she continues to champion environmental causes, chairing the Environment Committee for the powerful Commission on Appointments, she is currently involved in a project called ‘Greening the Philippines’ that aims to create 1,600 forest parks in urban areas.

Sydney Olympic Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) and Olympic Coordinating Authority (OCA)

In its bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games, the city of Sydney, Australia placed the environment at the top of its list of considerations. Both organizations incorporated environmental considerations into every phase of planning, implementing and operating. They set new standards for water conservation, waste minimization, pollution avoidance and overall protection of the surrounding natural environment. All of the facilities constructed were built in a sustainable manner, (the Olympic Village suburb built to house athletes was itself a model for environmental principles using solar powered electricity to recycle water both to feed gardens and flush toilets). All food ware was compostable, and the games were the first car-free games ever. Organizers also set up a community project that resulted in four million trees being planted around Australia.

Arunee Dejdamrongsakkul

Ms. Dejdamrongsakkul, a student at a secondary school in Bangkok, Thailand, working as a member of a 900 student group dedicated to working on energy efficiency issues, “Divide By Two,” began her own 160 student group, The Earth Club, of which she is president. The Earth Club runs a radio program twice a week and puts out a magazine promoting sustainable energy and providing a forum for issues of energy efficiency to which Arunee submits a regular column. Most impressive though, is that Arunee has spread her goodwill, involving herself in projects in sustainability in twenty neighboring schools in Thailand.

Evergreen Club of Ghana

The ECOG, a nongovernmental organization, was founded in 1987 as a voluntary children’s club with the aim of beautifying schools. Today, the ECOG is a partnership that promotes environmental protection in a variety of ways. Children put on demonstrations and exercises in classrooms to help promote environmental involvement at a young age with the hope that an early involvement is a sustained involvement. Every year since 1992, the ECOG has participated in environmental awareness campaigns, in 1997 and 2000, organizing the first and second national conference on forest management for youth.

The Jose Marti Pioneer Organization

Formed in 1961, this volunteer organization touts a half million young Cubans dedicated to undertaking environmental protection activities. They have done such dynamic work as creating medicinal and fruit tree nurseries to create new forests, designing an educational program on conservation for schools as well as organizing World Environment Day activities.

Source: www.global500.org