Theo Manuel has been working on an environmental project with a local community in one of the most disadvantaged areas of Cape Town. He is largely responsible for the rehabilitation and management of the Wolfgat Nature Reserve which comprises a strip of coastal vegetation with a representative patch of fynbos plants. Much, if not most, of this region is threatened with habitat destruction. The Reserve of 248 ha, the second largest in the area, is located between two townships comprising 1.5 million people, and the pressures of human numbers and poverty are acute.
After its establishment 10 years ago, the Reserve became steadily degraded. More than 200 plant species and a number of animal species are largely endemic to the area. The `saving' of the Reserve is entirely Manuel's doing, and reflects an exceptional degree of initiative and leadership on his part. He has rehabilitated and developed the Reserve in a manner that benefits the community.
Manuel's accomplishment is all the more notable because he is disabled from a spinal cord injury, and finds difficulty in simply walking around with crutches. He has shown a high degree of professional commitment and personal courage. He is an example to his peers, and as a Cape `coloured' he has bridged an ethnic gap between several communities.
His project is well known in the Republic of South Africa and he has inspired other individuals and groups to look at their own urban landscapes to find ways of protecting their environmental resources.
The Nation newspaper of Thailand has a tradition of publishing ground-breaking stories on the environment. Over the years, a number of environmental journalists have written bold reports that were ahead of their time. In 1993, The Nation formalized its commitment to the environment by printing a weekly environment page. James Fahn was appointed environment editor of the Earth Focus page, which contains: a lead story which reports on anything from herbal medicine to the latest energy efficiency technology; a foreign story on the environment; and a column which recaps weekly events in Thailand or the region. An overdose of alarming and negative stories tends to dull readers, thus The Nation made a conscious effort to also write more upbeat stories. The stories of which they are proudest are investigative pieces which have a significant impact. One the most controversial dealt with the construction of a hotel in southern Thailand which may have encroached on a national park. In another case, the Government revoked the license of a company after they revealed that it was importing radioactive waste from the United States of America. Following The Nation's report on a Japanese aid package to Cambodia, which included 40 tons of pesticides, the Japanese Prime Minister, who was in Thailand at the time, announced that he would look into the matter. The pesticides were subsequently impounded. The Nation's most ambitious task, however, is the attempt to make the newspaper's coverage of all events more green.
The Swire Group
The Swire Group of Hong-Kong is a multi-national company which believes in sustainable development and improved quality of life. It strives to: reduce the quantity of polluting substances, minimize the impact of its activities on the neighbourhood; increase the use of environment-friendly materials, equipment and technology; ensure that suppliers take into account the Company's environmental beliefs and discourage dealings with those who do not; and encourage the widest possible environmental awareness amongst its staff, their families and the public. Cathay Pacific, a Swire subsidiary, is replacing its aircrafts with models which will reduce CO2, CO, NOX and SO2 emissions; has recycling schemes for paper and aluminum; has introduced paperless contracts for aircraft leasing and financing agreements by using computer software and CD-ROMs; and is replacing non-recyclable plastic in-flight items with recyclable or bio-degradable ones. Swire Properties only use timber from sustainable forests. Swire Coca-Cola Hong Kong has been granted one year's exemption from paying Government trade effluent surcharges as its waste water is so clean. Hong Kong Aircraft engineering has replaced a chemical cleaning agent with an environment-friendly one to clean aircraft parts. Swire Pacific provides environment-friendly bags in its Marathon Sports and Athlete's Foot stores. The Swire Group produced a video to raise environmental awareness amongst its employees, and it sponsors projects such as tree planting.
Ube is an industrial city of 175,000 and a century old coal mine which closed in 1967. Since the 1940s coal, cement and chemical factories have been a significant source of pollution in the area. Ube City established a committee, comprising university professors, industrial leaders, citizens and city officials, to clean the polluted air. The Committee decided to have industry install dust control equipment and to have the City and citizens purchase water sprays for road cleaning, and to promote the planting of greenery and flowers as part of a post second world war recovery plan. Ube City is considered a leader in the scientific approach to air pollution control using epidemiology, pollution monitoring, engineering, operation, management and investment by industry and information and education by mass media. The area's comprehensive pollution control plan started in 1976 with a series of mid-term plans which included the installation of a sewerage system, a night soil treatment plant and urban incineration plants. A recycling centre with classes for consumers recently begun operation and automatic, mobile and manual monitoring systems for air, water and noise were installed to verify compliance with quality standards. About 50 volunteers monitor odours from surrounding chemical plants. The airport plan was adjusted based on the advice of the City Environment Council, and in 1971 a joint emergency task force was established by the City's fire department and industry to cope with plant accidents and oil spills.
Jan C. Van der Leun
In the 1970s, few were aware of the depletion of the ozone layer. Today this phenomenon is at the forefront of the global environmental agenda, thanks to the work of Professor Jan C. van der Leun, among others. He has played a pivotal role in the assessment of ozone depletion on both human and animal health. Professor van der Leun of The Netherlands understood early in his scientific research that ozone depletion, with its potentially grave long-term consequences, needed immediate attention from the global community. He keenly evaluated the effects of ultra-violet (UV) radiation on skin, and more specifically the correlation between UV rays and skin cancer. As co-chairman of the Panel on Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion since 1988, he has presided over the process to bring together all the facts available on the adverse impact of ozone depletion on the planet's ecosystems. It is this Panel's report which persuaded governments to agree to phase out, within a specific timeframe, the consumption of ozone depleting substances. As a result, the chemical industry is working on the development of alternatives to these substances, and in a most unusual turn of events, the actual progress is now ahead of the political agreements. Since 1993, Jan C. Van der Leun has been Professor Emeritus at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, and from 1972 to 1993, he was Head of the Photodermatology Unit at the Institute of Dermatology at the same University.
Xialu, a 52 sq km Township in China's Zhejiang Province, has a population of 18,000. The township has made great socio-economic and environmental progress since the 1980s. Some of the achievements include the development of an environmental education programme to raise people's awareness of environmental issues, and the publication of a book entitled Ecological Construction. They have included environmental courses in all primary and middle schools, and have organized a number of activities such as ecological gardens and ecological farms. They have rehabilitated the forest and improved vegetation in the area by setting up forest management systems and reducing activities, which put pressure on forests. As a result, more than 70 per cent of the Township has been reforested and many of the animals have returned and the water quality has improved. In addition, experimental gardens using modern agricultural methods were established, and as a result soil fertility has improved and crops returned to the paddy fields. They also reduced the amount of pesticides used. The Township does not allow industries, such as tanneries, printing and dyeing mills and cement plants, which pollute heavily to be set up in the area. Waste from industry and the community are collected and recycled. All of these activities have improved the lives and increased the lifespan of the township's residents.
The Oposa Group
In March 1990, Juan Antonio, Anna Rosario and José Alfonso Oposa, represented by their parents and 40 other children from all geographic regions of the Philippines sued the Department of Environment and Natural resources for its ecological neglect on behalf of their generation, and for generations yet unborn. The case was based on the fact that the timber license agreements issued by the Department covered 3.9 million hectares of virgin forest when, according to the records, there were only some 800,000 hectares of virgin forests remaining. In June 1991, the Regional Court dismissed the case without trial on the ground that the children did not have the legal personality to sue. However, the counsel elevated the case to the Supreme Court. In July 1993, the Supreme Court rendered a decision in favour of the children's environmental claim for ecological balance. This case has given birth to the doctrine of "generational genocide" and has set a precedent in environmental law.
Carolina Garcia Travesi
At 15 years of age, Carolina Garcia Travesi of Mexico is an old hand at addressing large groups as she travels around the world exuding energy and hope for the environment. Her interest in the environment began at the age of eight when she attended a class at her school entitled `Ecology and the Consumer'. From then on, she set herself on a path to explore the environmental issues of our time and what she could do to make a difference. In 1991, Carolina founded the Club Ecologista, a group of school children committed to taking action on behalf of the environment. Their efforts focused on educating children and their families about recycling, water conservation, tree planting, among others. Contact with the media and governmental agencies expanded her scope. In 1992, the President of Mexico designated her as a Youth Representative to the Earth Summit in Brazil. In 1993, Carolina attended the Earth Restoration Corps Teen Training in Colorado, and was the main speaker at the Sacred Earth Conference. That same year, she was the recipient of the Windstar Youth Award, and she initiated the creation of another organization - Force to Restore Our Gaia Society (FROGS) - in the hope of expanding the network of youth doing environmental work. She has written articles in numerous publications and has had hundreds written about her.
Health Messengers Association
The Health Messengers Association of Romania, comprising young people between the ages of 8 and 16, deals with health and environmental issues. The projects, which they have undertaken, have had a significant impact. Their Children against Smoking Campaign forced the broadcasting authorities in Romania to stop the publicity of tobacco products and they collected more than 10,000 signatures for an anti-tobacco law. They led a campaign to Save the Trees on Dr. Obedenaru Street, which forced the Government to investigate the matter and to stop the cutting of the trees. Through their Botanical Adoption Programme they found sponsors to rebuild the botanical garden. Their Spaceship No. 2044 project involved putting into the ground, for 50 years, a capsule, which includes a report about the state of the environment in 1994 and promises to improve it. Their Endangered Species Great March was undertaken in the name of plants and animals which they are committed to protecting. The street rally included the Mayor, the Minister of the Environment and many other important dignitaries. Through their Cleaning the Springs project, the children decided to clean 31 mineral water springs. Currently, they are working with the sanitation authorities to transform Sibiu town into a healthy area. They are working on a radio programme to educate patients in hospital about the environment. They are also involved in educational training courses and workshops, and participate in live radio and TV programmes.
Young Leaders, The Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd.
The Young Leaders Programme of The Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago was created in 1991, though its roots date back to 1981. The aim is to help young people develop leadership skills, learn the value of working as a team and develop projects, which benefit the community.
Today, almost every secondary school in the country, as well as youth groups, vocational centres and cadet forces participate in Young Leaders. Students are given six months to complete a project under a theme.
In 1996, Young Leaders chose `The Environment: 21st Century - The Future in Our Hands'. Some of the projects undertaken included paper, glass and plastic recycling schemes, tree planting, cleaning of beaches, rivers and parks, beautifying school compounds, creating jewelry and other utility items from driftwood, paper and other waste materials, and wildlife exhibitions.
The Bank had a difficult task in choosing a winner from the many exemplary projects. The Williamsville students project, however, stood out. Inspired by the drowning of a student and his sister when the garbage-choked Guayacare River overflowed, the school decided to clear the River. The students spoke to villagers, undertook research on water pollution and tested the quality of the water. They wrote newspaper articles and produced TV programmes and posters. Signs were erected and the people signed petitions, which were presented to the Government to prevent further dumping. Systems were put in place ensuring the continuity of the project.