All Articles Tagged "nobel prize"
(Reuters) – Joint Nobel Peace Prize winner and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said on Friday the award was recognition of the West African state’s “many years of struggle for justice, peace, and promotion of development” since a brutal civil war. Johnson-Sirleaf shares the award with fellow Liberian Leymah Gbowee, a peace activist, and Yemeni activist Tawakul Karman. ”I believe we (Gbowee and I) both accept this on behalf of the Liberian people, and the credit goes to the Liberian people,” Johnson-Sirleaf told reporters outside her private residence in Liberia’s capital.
Dr. Wangari Maathai was an activist from the African nation of Kenya who used her political power, education and fierce fighting spirit to preserve the purity of her native environment, while implementing sustainable measures in a way that uplifted women. For these grand achievements, Maathai was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2004, becoming the first African woman to win this prize in a moment of pride that inspired the entire continent. She succumbed to cancer late Sunday, leaving as her legacy the reminder that impoverished people and environmental vulnerability are inextricably linked in Africa, and that both needy entities are worth fighting for. Her life is a testimony to the fact that rapid growth in developing countries does not require the destruction of its lands through the rapacious stripping of resources fueled by greed.
Maathai’s work demonstrated that preserving the environment and developing depressed areas economically can and should go hand in hand for the overall betterment of society. And she was not afraid to get tear gassed or beaten by police while demonstrating to preserve the rights of citizens and the sustainability of their lands. She waged her many political battles through the influential organization she founded, The Greenbelt Movement.
Dr. Maathai started The Greenbelt Movement in 1977 to promote her ideals and in the process her organization facilitated the planting of 45 million trees in her native Kenya. Although much of her work focused on her homeland, Maathai’s ideas have spread internationally, leading to the launch of similar programs across the African continent.
Through attaining her PhD — a first for a woman from east and central Africa — Dr. Maathai gained access to European spheres of influence, which enabled her to join powerful organizations like The United Nations Environmental Program. These ties gave her the prestige to promote her Greenbelt Movement, which “went pan-African in 1986, with successful offshoots in at least six African countries,” according to AllAfrica.com.
The importance of The Greenbelt Movement is twofold, because rapid deforestation due to overdevelopment was not only leading to permanent desertification in Kenya; it was also deepening the cycle of poverty caused by the poor degrading the lands by mistreatment in order to survive — while simultaneous diminishing this fragile source of livelihood. Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement both preserved the land from erosion, and gave people jobs planting trees (particularly women) that helped them lead better lives. The New York Times has more on this gentle revolutionary, who it deems an “environmentalist, feminist, politician, anti-corruption campaigner, human rights advocate, [and] protester”:
By Steven Barboza
In the 109 years since the first Nobel Prizes were awarded, 813 individuals, including 40 women and 20 organizations, have won the award. Six laureates have won more than one award. Only 12 awards have gone to black people. They are:
Ralph Bunche, Nobel Peace Prize, 1950
Country: United States
Ralph Bunche (1904-1971) was the first black Nobel laureate. He won the Peace Prize in 1950 for negotiating an armistice agreement between Arabs and Jews after nearly a year of negotiating terms in Palestine. Bunche was born in Detroit to a barber and an amateur musician. His grandmother, who was born a slave, lived with the family. Bunche moved to Los Angeles and excelled in school. He sold newspapers, served as house boy to a movie actor and supported his college education with scholarships and janitorial work. He taught at Howard University while earning a doctorate at Harvard University. He eventually became a member of FDR’s Black Cabinet of minority advisors, and in the late 1940s worked on loan from the US State Department to the UN. Upon securing peace in the Middle East, he was greeted in New York with a ticker tape parade.
The Nobel Prize was established by the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish chemist, engineer and armament manufacturer who invented dynamite. He established the prize reportedly because a French newspaper erroneously published his obituary in 1888, calling him the “merchant of death” and saying, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Upon reading his own obit, he wanted to change how the world would remember him, so he decided to leave the bulk of his fortune to establish the Nobel Prizes. He wanted them to be awarded annually to those who confer the “greatest benefit to mankind” without distinction of nationality.
So who was overlooked? Certainly the 12 black winners of the Nobel Prize deserved to be recognized for their world-class work and their impact on humanity. But 12 blacks out of 813 laureates? That’s less than 1.5% of all winners.
Here are a few black people who perhaps were overlooked by Nobel juries.
1. George Washington Carver (1864 – 1943)
Nobel Prize in Agriculture
Country: United States
Believed to have been born into slavery, this American scientist, botanist, educator and inventor is best-remembered for his work with peanuts. He helped change the course of U.S. agriculture. He promoted planting peanuts and sweet potatoes as alternatives to cotton, both as sources of their own food and as products that could improve their quality of life. He published 44 bulletins for farmers. They contained 105 recipes for peanuts. He also created 100 products made from peanuts, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline and nitroglycerin. His work contributed to improving race relations. In 1941, Time magazine called him a “Black Leonardo,” referring to Leonardo da Vinci.