Heinz Awards $1 M for Environmental Achievements

Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation on Sept. 15 announced the recipients of the 15th annual Heinz Awards, which this year, focuses singularly on the environment.

Created to honor U.S. Sen. John Heinz, the 2009 Heinz Awards commemorate his long-standing commitment to the environment by bestowing $100,000 awards to 10 individuals whose achievements have helped bring about a cleaner, greener and more sustainable planet.

Teresa Heinz, chair of the Heinz Family Foundation, said: "These awards honor those guardians of our future who value our natural resources, work to remove toxic chemicals from our air and water, and create policies and the new technology that will ensure a sustainable planet for generations to come. In highlighting the work of some of our country's most thoughtful, innovative and creative individuals, we are pleased to shine a deserving spotlight on their extraordinary achievements."

This year's recipients are:

  • Robert Berkebile, 72, BNIM Architects (Kansas City, Mo.), won for his green building advocacy and promotion of sustainable design and planning. As the founder of the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) National Committee on the Environment, Berkebile has been one of the central forces behind a new focus on sustainable building that has influenced thousands of architects and changed the face of green architecture in America. He helped to found both the U.S. Green Building Council and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.


  • P. Dee Boersma, Ph.D., 62, University of Washington (Seattle, Wash.), won for developing greater understanding of the impact of humans on marine ecosystems.
    Boersma is honored for her extensive field studies on penguins and other sea birds which she has used to promote understanding of the human impact on marine ecosystems and for advocating conservation through education, research and policy. Her research in Argentina has shown that, in the last decade, climate-induced change has forced the penguins to swim about 25 miles farther during incubation in search of food. Working with the Wildlife Conservation Society, she provided the data that resulted in the government moving tanker lanes farther from shore to protect the penguins from petroleum pollution. She founded and is now the executive editor of Conservation magazine, an award-winning publication dedicated to conservation science.


  • Christopher B. Field, Ph.D., 56, Carnegie Institution for Science and Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.), won for his contributions toward understanding the impacts of climate change on Earth's ecosystems as well as for his national and international leadership in bringing science to the policy process. He has played a critical role in the emergence of global ecology as a unique discipline, applying it to diverse questions concerning the scientific foundations for a sustainable future. He Field plays a major role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), where he currently co-leads the international effort on assessing climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.


  • Ashok Gadgil, Ph.D., 58, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.), won for his work as an inventor and humanitarian.
    A professor of civil and environmental engineering, Gadgil leads a group that works to understand airflow and pollutant transport in buildings. The work helps to reduce health risks, improve energy efficiency and enhance the quality of life in developing countries. He is known for creating simple inventions to solve fundamental problems in developing countries, such as an inexpensive and reliable water purification system and an improved cook stove for Darfur.


  • Chip Giller, 38, Grist magazine (Seattle, Wash.), won for creating an innovative online media platform for delivering environmental information to new audiences.
    Giller launched grist.org in 1999 to counter the notion of environmentalists as dour doomsayers and to spread a new, positive form of green journalism with a humorous twist. In doing so, he established a new model for delivering independent environmental content free of charge via the Web, and other new-media channels, reporting on everything from climate change to green celebrity news, and showing how the environment intersects with critical issues like poverty, health care and economic growth.


  • Deborah Rice, Ph.D., 61, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental and Occupational Health (Augusta, Maine), won for research yielding new understanding about exposure to toxicants during human development.
    Rice researches neurotoxicology, the study of the interactions of chemicals within the brain and nervous system. Her seminal work has created enhanced understanding of the potential impact of toxicants on human development, demonstrating that early exposure to major environmental pollutants -– lead, methylmercury and PCBs -– can plant the seeds for later deficits in cognitive, sensory and motor function. Rice's work has also led to national and state policies that regulate exposure to developmental toxicants.


  • Joel Salatin, 52, Polyface Farm (Swoope, Va.), won for creating alternative, environmentally friendly farming techniques.
    Salatin, farmer, author and lecturer, is honored for spawning a movement toward local, sustainable agriculture that has been replicated by family farms around the country. He has developed a new paradigm for sustainable agriculture by challenging the commercial production of chickens and beef by food industry giants of the 1970s. His pioneering agricultural practices inextricably and beautifully interweave a food system with the land.


  • Kirk R. Smith, Ph.D., 62, University of California, Berkeley, (Berkeley, Calif.), won for exposing the relationships among household air pollution, fuel use, climate and health.
    Smith was the first to recognize and quantify the magnitude of the pollution exposure received by the poorest women and children in developing countries as a result of cooking indoors with solid (wood, coal or other biomass) fuels. He pioneered ways to measure and compare the effects, showing both the tremendous costs of ignoring the problems of indoor air pollution and pointing the way to inexpensive solutions for protecting health and climate.


  • Thomas Smith, 59, Public Citizen – Texas (Austin, Texas), won for his advocacy of wind and solar energy efficiency.
    Thomas "Smitty" Smith has been an essential player in the key pieces of legislation that have addressed both energy efficiency and the development of renewable sources of energy. His work in crafting and passing the Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is now being adopted in other parts of the country and has made Texas a leader in wind energy creation, putting it on the path to lead in solar energy as well. Since 1985, he has served as director of the Texas state office of Public Citizen, a consumer and environmental group active in areas concerning energy, environment and other socio-economic issues.


  • Beverly H. Wright, Ph.D., 61, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (New Orleans, La.) won for her work as an environmental justice advocate.
    A leading scholar on and advocate for environmental justice, Wright is honored for her work on behalf of communities, especially those in Louisiana's "Cancer Alley." As head of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University in New Orleans, she has been tackling issues of environmental racism and is working to raise the profile of environmental issues in poor and minority communities nationwide. For more than two decades, she has directed numerous grassroots, community-initiated programs and provided opportunities for communities, scientific researchers and decision makers to collaborate on programs and projects that promote the rights of everyone to be free from environmental harm.
"The Heinz Awards seeks to find those individuals who are quietly and boldly working to improve this world," said Heinz. "Our recipients this year have already accomplished so much, but there is still important work left to do. This year's recipients give me great hope that a transformation is under way, that it will continue and that it will grow and ultimately succeed in preserving our common home."

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