Scientifics to the Rescue
Under the proliferation of threats to our fragile environment lies a glimmer of hope. Wildlife species can count on tenacious allies, ambassadors of their distress who militate on behalf of their survival. These individuals don't hesitate to mount the barricades, alert governments and mobilize entire populations. Together, they give voice to conservation efforts. Here are a few of the people in Canada and around the world who dedicate their life and career to promoting the safeguard of our planet.
Born March 24, 1936 in Vancouver (British Colombia), this geneticist by training is renowned for his promotion of scientific activities and environmental activism. Since 1979, he has also hosted the TV science program The Nature of Things, which is aired in some fifty countries; the show stimulates interest in the beauties of nature while raising awareness in the public to environmental threats. More recently, David Suzuki has become a spokesperson for climate change. Convinced the problem is authentic and urgent, he calls for action from governments, industry and the public wherever and whenever possible. David Suzuki is a recipient of UNESCO's prestigious Kalinga Prize (1986), the highest international distinction for the popularization of science. He is also an Officer of the Order of Canada (1976).
"The human brain now holds the key to our future. We have to recall the image of the planet from outer space: a single entity in which air, water, and continents are interconnected. That is our home."
This astrophysicist was born July 13, 1932 in Montreal. He taught physics in the Université de Montréal and acted as a scientific advisor for NASA. He has lived in France since 1965, where he is a research director at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). In recent years, Hubert Reeves has given multiple lectures and interviews about his increasing concern with the fate of our beautiful planet. In 2001, he became president of the Ligue ROC, a national association in France that aims at wildlife conservation and defends the rights and interests of non-hunters. A self-proclaimed eternal optimist, Hubert Reeves remains fully conscious of the environmental changes wrought by humans, yet never fails to emphasize the positive results achieved. The distinctions he has received include Knight of the Legion of Honour in France (1985) and Officer of the Order of Canada (1991).
"Something is to be done with these few decades that nature accords us: to take action, resolutely and unflinchingly, to beautify reality."
She was born to a family of peasant farmers in Kenya on April 1, 1940. A gifted student, she studied the biological sciences in Kansas (Untied States) before pursuing her studies in Germany, and then in her native Kenya. She is, moreover, the first woman in that country to earn a doctorate. In 1977, Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement which aims to prevent deforestation and the erosion of Kenyan soils. Through the GBM, thousands of women planted over 20 million trees, an operation providing them at the same time with employment and greater autonomy. Elected to the Parliament of Kenya in 2002, she was named Deputy Minister with the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife. She sits on the board of numerous organizations, notably the Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters and the Board of Directors of the Jane Goodall Institute. More recently, she participated in the creation of the Noah's Ark for Seeds in the Arctic for the preservation of plant species. In 2004, Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
"You must not deal only with the symptoms. You have to get to the root causes by promoting environmental rehabilitation and empowering people to do things for themselves. What is done for the people without involving them cannot be sustained."
This Inuit eco-activist was born in Kuujjuaq (Canada's North), Quebec in 1953. She studied sociology and psychology at McGill University in Montreal. Sheila Watt-Cloutier has dedicated her professional life to bettering the fate of aboriginal communities in polar regions, mainly those in Canada, Alaska, Russia and Greenland. For over ten years now, she has worked successfully to create awareness of the presence of persistent organic pollutants in the Arctic and to raise awareness in the population and industries to the effects of climate change in this fragile ecosystem. In 2002, she became president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, a position she held until 2006. In 2005, she along with 62 other Inuits deposited a 167-page report with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights demonstrating that climate change linked to pollution is harmful to aboriginal peoples in the North. Sheila Watt-Cloutier received the United Nations Champions of the Earth award in 2005 and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006.
"The impact of climate change on the Arctic is a forewarning of what's in store for the rest of the world."
A primatologist, ethologist and anthropologist, this passionate wildlife advocate was born in London, England in 1934. She is internationally renowned for her studies of the Chimpanzees of Gomba. Her key discovery was inarguably the fabrication and use of tools by the large primates, a behaviour formerly attributed exclusively to humans. In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute, which is dedicated to wildlife research, education and conservation. Jane Goodall devotes over 300 days a year to lecture tours throughout the world; her goal is to spread a message of hope for the future and encourage young people to take concrete action to improve the fate of the planet. A recipient of numerous prizes, she was designated, notably, a Commander of the British Empire (1996) by Queen Elizabeth II and named a United Nations Messenger of Peace by Secretary General Kofi Annan (2002).
"Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved."
Born in 1947 in British Colombia, Canada, Patrick Moore is an internationally known eco-activist. A Ph.D, in ecology, he is the co-founder of Greenpeace; he served nine years as president of Greenpeace Canada and seven years as director of Greenpeace International. In 1986, Patrick Moore left the organization and founded Greenspirit, a consulting firm specialized in environmental politics, biodiversity, energy and climate change. A member of the board of directors of the Forest Alliance of British Colombia, he promoted the development of a "sustainable forestry", which was adopted by the vast majority of industry. He is, notably, the author of Green Spirit – Trees are the Answer, a book on forestry and the environment.
"Global warming is the most difficult issue facing the scientific community today in terms of being able to actually predict with any kind of accuracy what's going to happen."
This pioneer of fair trade in Québec was born in Switzerland in 1973. She is a sociologist specialized in international development with a Master's in environmental science as well. At the age of 24, she published her first book, Une cause café, which vigorously launched the fair trade movement in her country of adoption. A young leader of the environmentalist movement, she founded Équiterre (with Steven Guilbeault, Sidney Ribaux and François Lalonde), an organization devoted to eco-friendly and socially responsible choices. In 2002, Maclean's magazine called her "one of the 25 Canadians who are already changing the world." Laure Waridel was decorated a Knight of the Order of La Pléiade by the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie.
"We may bet empted to be cynical, at times, and cynicism is probably the first barrier to cross to be able to face challenges. Even if we seem small on this planet, we must realize that we all leave an ecological footprint and that it is by taking action, by multiplying our acts, individually and collectively, that we will succeed in changing the course of things."