UNEP honours five protectors of Mother Earth

Juvenile king penguins in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
© Unsplash/Ian Parker
Juvenile king penguins in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

UNEP honours five protectors of Mother Earth

Climate and Environment

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced on Tuesday, the 2022 Champions of the Earth for their transformative action to prevent, halt or reverse ecosystem degradation.  

A conservationist, a sustainable waste management enterprise, an economist, a women’s rights activist, and a wildlife biologist were selected from nearly 2,200 nominations – a new submission record. 

UNEP’s annual Champions of the Earth award is the UN’s highest environmental honour, which recognizes individuals and organizations from a number of fields, including civil society, academia and the private sector, that are blazing a trail in protecting our natural world. 

Meet the champs 

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Three champions were honoured within the category of Inspiration and Action. 

Pioneering environmental non-profit group Arcenciel garnered the accolade for two decades of helping Lebanon manage its waste.  

“We identified lots of problems affecting the environment and especially the community and the health of society,” said Robin Richa, Arcenciel’s General Manager. “We have tried to be strategic in identifying activities where we can make a sustainable impact”. 

Meanwhile, Cécile Bibiane Ndjebet, co-founder of Cameroon Ecology and President of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests, was recognized for her work in repairing damage caused by chopping down forests, draining wetlands, and polluting rivers at unstainable rates. 

“I realized that women were struggling a lot”, recalled Ms. Ndjebet, expressing her desire to “advocate for these rural women, to improve their lives”. 

The organization Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos, founded in 2000 by biologist Constantino Aucca Chutas, has planted more than three million trees in Peru and protected or restored 30,000 hectares of land. 

“When we plant a tree, we give something back to Mother Earth. We are convinced that the more trees we plant, the more people will be happy”, said Mr. Aucca calling it “a day of happiness”. 

Category: Entrepreneurial Vision 

Wildlife biologist Purnima Devi Barman leads the “Hargila Army”, an all-female grassroots conservation movement that has brought the greater adjutant stork back from the brink of extinction by empowering thousands of women, creating entrepreneurs and improving livelihoods. 

As a child in Cameroon, she recalled that her grandmother took her to nearby paddy fields and wetlands where she “saw storks and many other species”. “I fell in love with the birds”, said Ms. Barman.

Category: Science and Innovation 

Over the decades, Partha Dasguptahas made ground-breaking contributions to economics – awakening the world to the value of nature and the need to protect ecosystems. 

“Economic forecasts consist of investment in factories, employment rates, [gross domestic product] growth. They never mention what's happening to the ecosystems,” said Mr. Dasgupta. “It really is urgent that we think about it now”.  

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Blazing trails for solutions 

Since its inception in 2005, the annual Champions of the Earth award has been given to trailblazers at the forefront of efforts to protect our natural world.  

To date, the award has recognized 111 laureates: 26 world leaders, 69 individuals and 16 organizations.  

Last year’s laureates included Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, The Sea Women of Melanesia, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka from Uganda, and Maria Kolesnikova from the Kyrgyz Republic.