During the Rio+20 summit, Conservacion Patagonica’s very own Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Thomas Lovejoy was honored with the Blue Planet Prize. Awarded by the Asahi Glass Foundation, thee Blue Planet Prize celebrates individuals and organizations who have made major contributions through scientific research and application to solve our global environmental problems.
In honoring Tom, the Blue Planet Prize committee lauded his work in introducing the concept of biological diversity to the broader scientific community and sounding the alarm on biodiversity loss and habitat fragmentation as one of the greatest threats to the future of our world. In 1980, Tom coined the term “biological diversity” (today often shortened to “biodiversity”). Since then, this powerful word has become common vernacular for conservationists worldwide. As a concept, biodiversity has proven to be an essential tool for evaluating and improving the health and resilience of ecosystems.
Tom serves as the chairman of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, and is also a professor at George Mason University. Over the years he has lent his expertise to a wide variety of organizations, including as conservation director at the World Wildlife Fund, Counselor to the Secretary for Biodiversity and Environmental Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution, chair of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, and as president of the Society for Conservation. Tom also founded the public television series NATURE, and has served in an official capacity for the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations.
Tom has been on the forefront of biodiversity research since he coined the field, pioneering the first “Projection of Species Extinctions,” and publishing unique research on the concept of minimum critical area of ecosystems. Also of note is his development of the “Debt-for-nature” model of conservation, in which nations exchange foreign debt in favor of local investment in environmental conservation efforts. Since developing the concept in 1984, debt-for-nature schemes have led to the conservation of millions of acres of critical habitat for endangered species across the globe.
Tom accepted the Blue Planet Prize in Rio de Janeiro during the much-anticipated Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. A congregation of scientists, environmentalists and decision-makers from around the world assembled to reflect on the current state of environmental policy and research, and to discuss solutions for our growing environmental crises. To the group that gathered for the Blue Planet award ceremony, Tom shared some words of advice, and of caution:
The state of biodiversity is the ultimate indicator of the habitability of a region or, for that matter, the planet as a whole. We ignore that to our peril. The alternative is to open our eyes not only to the central importance of biodiversity to human well being, but also to the sheer wonder, beauty and fascination of life on Earth. To embrace biodiversity is to embrace a better future.
Since his first visit to the Patagonia National Park project in 2010, Tom has proved an invaluable advisor to Conservacion Patagonica. . Tom has donated his time and knowledge to the conservation efforts of our staff and volunteers, inspiring faith and dedication in the recovery of the ecosystems of Patagonia.