Photo: PA MEDIA / copyright
Two best friends who grow coral in the Bahamas, the city of Milan for its food distribution plan and Costa Rica for its tree planting program are among the winners of the first Earthshot awards.
The annual awards were created by the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, to reward those who try to save the planet.
The five winners were announced this Sunday in London and each of them received 1 million pounds sterling, representing about US $ 1.3 million.
Prince William was joined by artists like Emma Watson, Emma Thompson and David Oyelowo for the ceremony at Alexandra Palace.
British singer Ed Sheeran and the band Coldplay were among those who gave presentations and, in keeping with the ecological message of the awards, the electricity used for the music was powered by 60 cyclists pedaling.
No celebrities flew to London for the ceremony, no plastic was used to build the stage, and guests were asked to “consider the environment” when choosing an outfit, with Watson wearing a gown made from 10 different dresses from the Oxfam organization.
The name of the Earthshot award is a reference to America’s “Moonshot” ambition of the 1960s, in which then-President John F. Kennedy pledged to put a man on the moon within a decade.
Every year, and for the next decade, the £ 1 million prize will be awarded to each of the five selected projects that are working to find solutions to the planet’s environmental problems.
These first winners were selected from five different categories and chosen by 15 judges that included environmentalist David Attenborough, actress Cate Blanchett, and singer Shakira.
Category “protect and restore nature”: Republic of Costa Rica.
- In the past, Costa Rica eliminated most of its forests, but now it has doubled the number of trees and is seen as a role model for others. The winning project is a scheme that pays local citizens to restore natural ecosystems, which is contributing to a rebirth of the rainforest.
Category “clean our air: Takachar, India.
- It is a portable machine created to convert agricultural waste into fertilizers so that farmers do not burn their fields and pollute the air.
Category “revive our oceans”: Coral Vita, Bahamas.
- It’s a project run by two best friends who grow coral in the Bahamas, designed to restore the world’s dying coral reefs. Using special tanks, the friends developed a way to grow coral up to 50 times faster than it normally takes in the wild.
Category “build a world free of waste”: the food waste centers of the city of Milan, Italy.
- Another challenge is waste and the city of Milan in Italy won the award for collecting unused food and giving it to the people who need it most. The initiative dramatically reduced waste while fighting hunger.
Category “solve our climate”: AEM Electrolyser, Thailand / Germany / Italy.
- It is a smart design in Thailand that uses renewable energy to produce hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is a clean gas, but it is generally produced by burning fossil fuels.
In a recorded message played at the ceremony, Prince William said the next 10 years will be a “defining decade” for the planet.
“Time is running out”, said. “A decade doesn’t seem long enough, but humanity has an outstanding track record of being able to solve the unsolvable.”
Earlier this week, the duke suggested that instead of the world’s leading minds set their sights on space tourism, they should focus on saving Earth.
Analysis by David Shukman, BBC Science Editor
With stars from the world of football and music walking on a green carpet, the message was that environmental challenges deserve the same kind of attention as the Oscars.
And the winning teams were obviously delighted to get such outstanding recognition.
Now it remains to be seen if their projects will scale up in a way that makes a difference around the world.
Whether it’s restoring corals and forests or reducing waste and carbon emissions, the plan is for big-name companies to support these mostly small-scale programs and help them go global.
It may take years before we see how well it works in practice, and inevitably some projects may prove more effective than others.
Regardless, in the countdown to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next month, the winners offer something that has been in short supply recently: a sense of optimism.
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