By Elizabeth Weise
This year’s Heinz Family Foundation awards include honors for a scientist documenting the effects of endocrine disruptors, a champion on the global seed vault and one of the giants in the field of ‘green,’ or non-toxic, chemistry.
The awards come with an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000. They recognize outstanding individuals for their contributions in the areas of Arts and Humanities, the Environment, the Human Condition, Public Policy, and Technology, the Economy and Employment. They were established by Teresa Heinz in 1993 to honor the memory of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz.
This year’s winners include:
For his dramatic use of photography to document the devastation of global warming. James Balog, a former skeptic of global warming, is honored 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.
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, 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. Vom Saal’s work has been crucial to opening new questions about 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.
For establishing the Global Seed Vault to conserve genetic diversity of the world’s food plants despite climate change. Raised in Tennessee, 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.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, Collins and his research group have played a crucial role in inventing safe, sustainable ways to mitigate toxic waste and biological agents including anthrax.
Gretchen Daily, Ph.D.,Stanford University and the Natural Capital Project (Stanford, Calif.)
For her achievements demonstrating the financial value of natural ecosystems, which include climate stability, flood control, water purification, pollination and production of food. 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. 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. 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, 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. 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.
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. 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, 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.
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, 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, 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, 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. 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.
See original article in USA Today