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United Nations top environmental prize goes to Barbara Pyle, environmental media activist from the USA

Nairobi, 3 October 1997 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today that the 1997 UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize has been awarded to Ms. Barbara Pyle, Vice President of Environmental Policy, Turner Broadcasting System and CNN's Environmental Editor.

Ms. Pyle will be honoured for her pivotal role in spreading the environmental message around the world. This is the first time a member of the media has received this award usually reserved for environmental leaders and scientists.

The UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize is one of the most prestigious environmental awards in the world. Past winners include: Chico Mendes, the rubber tapper from Brazil who died leading the fight against the cattle ranchers' destruction of the rainforest; Dr. M.S. Swaminathan of India, the father of the economic ecology movement; and Lester Brown, Director of the WorldWatch Institute, whose writings were instrumental in alerting the world about the threats to the biosphere.

The official award ceremony for Ms. Pyle will take place in New York on 12 November 1997, and will be attended by dignitaries, including the United Nations Secretary- General, Mr. Kofi Annan, Mr. Ted Turner, Ms. Jane Fonda and UNEP's Executive Director, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

"In today's electronic age and considering the crucial role the media plays in shaping public opinion, the Committee felt it important to recognize the media's contribution to the environmental cause. Ms. Pyle brings environmental issues closer to the hearts and minds of people the world over. She has been a major force in the debate on sustainable development beyond the confines of international discussions to include the public at large," said Lord Stanley Clinton-Davis, Acting Chairman of the Prize Selection Committee.

For more than two decades, Ms. Pyle has encouraged the media to assume a major responsibility for informing and educating the public, including decision-makers.

"Ms. Pyle's commitment to making environmental issues understandable and accessible to the widest possible audience is a long-standing one. As a writer, director and producer of numerous television programmes, she has inspired countless individuals to care about the environment, and take responsibility for its protection," said Ms. Dowdeswell.

Ms. Pyle's philosophy is "Our planet will not be saved by any one big decision, but by many individual choices. The media has an important responsibility to provide the information necessary to enable us to make those choices". Using the unique global reach of CNN, CNN International and World Report, Pyle's work has been seen by approximately two billion people worldwide.

Since joining CNN in 1980, Ms. Pyle has been at the forefront of environmental programming. She has produced more than 35 films which have won more than 75 awards, including Without Borders and One Child, One Voice. She also founded Earth Matters, CNN's daily environmental news feature and weekly programme on the environment which continues today.

Since 1989, she has been executive producer of Captain Planet and the Planeteers - an animated action adventure series of 113 episodes that makes environmental issues accessible to children. She is also the founder and Chairman of the Board of the Captain Planet Foundation, an organization which awards grants to children's grassroots environmental projects.

In 1994, she launched People Count, Pyle's current series of TV specials highlighting success stories behind United Nations Summits and Conferences. Pyle explores the world to profile remarkable individuals who are making a difference to improve their own communities. The goal is to put a human face on the complex issues being debated at these meetings. Like her previous programmes, international versions (hosted by Jane Fonda) are distributed to TV stations worldwide, absolutely free, to promote models of sustainable development.


Note to Editors

* A complete bio and photograph of Ms. Pyle is available.

* The Sasakawa Prize, founded by Mr. Ryoichi Sasakawa, has been awarded annually since 1984 to individuals who have made an outstanding global contribution to the management and protection of the environment.

* Selection process: This year's Prize winner was selected by an independent and distinguished panel of international leaders and environmentalists on 30 June 1997.

The panel includes: the late Dr. Misael Pastrana Borrero, Former President of Colombia who passed away on 21 August 1997; Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn of Thailand; Lord Stanley Clinton- Davis of the United Kingdom; Dr. Russell Peterson, President Emeritus of the National Audubon Society (USA); Professor Wangari Maathai, founder and director of the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya; and Dr. Abdulbar Al-Gain, President of the Meteorology and Environmental Protection Administration of Saudi Arabia.

For more information, and to obtain 1998 nomination forms, please contact:

Ms. Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox
Mr. Tore Brevik
UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize
Information and Public Affairs
P. O. Box 30552
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254-2) 62 3401
Fax: (254-2) 62 3927

UNEP News Release 1997/60

Saturday 13 Sep 1997
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