Scientists, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Right Livelihood Award

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How many scientists have won Nobel Peace Prizes?

Not many, but more than most people- including scientists- can name. 

The Nobel prizes were started by the bequest of the will of Swedish scientist, chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel, best known for his discovery of dynamite, and were first awarded in 1901. (The award for Economics was started after the others, in 1968, by the Swedish Bank Riksbank.) 5 of the awards (Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Economics) are given in Sweden, while the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Parliament. 

While in Oslo, I visited the Nobel Peace Center about Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Peace Prize, near the waterfront. Most of the area in the small museum was taken up with a tribute to the 2013 Nobel to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).  The organization is a diplomatic and legal one, and the exhibition was quite slanted in its emphasis on offenders since WWII- citing, for example, the use of mustard gas by the Germans in WWII, but making no mention of the use of Agent Orange by the USA in Vietnam.

There was an installation with all Nobel Peace Prize awardees, and here and there were was a winner identified as a scientist. I wouldn’t have necessarily expected more- the description of the qualifications for the award as given in Alfred Nobel’s will (” and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses..”) is certainly not directed to scientists.

Still, scientists are in a great position of respect and power, are certainly implicated in the development of weapons and technology, and could take advantage of this privilege in promoting peace. I read the Nobel Peace Prize awardee biographies and made a list of scientists and science-related organizations who have won Nobel Peace Prizes. 

Scientists/Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

Name                                      Year of award                      Science focus

Wangari Maathai                     2004                                      Biologist

Joseph Rotblat                         1995                                       Physicist

Andrei Sakharov                      1975                                       Physicist

Norman Ernest Borlaug        1970                                       Botanist

Linus Carl Pauling                  1962                                       Chemist

(Albert Schweitzer                  1952                                      Physician )

Ralph Bunche                          1950                                      Social Scientist

John Boyd Orr                         1949                                     Physician and Biologist

Jane Addams                           1931                                      Sociologist

Fridtjof Nansen                      1922                                       Zoologist

 

Organization/Nobel Peace Prize                                                               Year

 (Médecins Sans Frontières                                                                         1999)

International Atomic Energy Agency                                                       2005

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)                   2007

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War              1985

( ) denotes a medical person/organization. 

For some, the activism that led to the peace prize was their occupation; in others, it was beyond the job. As for the other Nobel Peace Prizes, the laureates are generally already very well known. The awards are primarily diplomatic, and this combined with the celebrity factor makes the paucity of scientists perhaps understandable. 

But this political focus of the Nobel Peace Prize has been bothersome. The prize has sometimes given to world leaders whose role in peace was dubious, and it is certainly difficult to take seriously a peace award given to, for example, Henry Kissinger, one of the architects of American’s war on Vietnam.

The Alternative Nobel Prize- the Right Livelihood Awards

Journalist and professional philatelist Jakob von Uexkull felt that the awards were narrow in scope and were unrealistic in focusing on the interests of industrialized countries. He approached the Nobel Foundation to establish awards more relevant to the problems of poverty and the destruction of resources, and was rebuffed. He then financed the first “Right Livelihood Award” in 1980, and in 1985 was invited to present the award in the Swedish Parliament. These awards are sometimes described as the “Alternative Nobel Prize” and tend to be given to activists in developing world countries.” There  are usually 4 winners a year, and sometimes an honorary winner who does not receive money. 

 There are many scientists among the winners of the Right Livelihood Awards. The winners are realistically inspirational, ordinary scientists with feet to the ground who made huge local (but often international) differences to people. It is obvious from reading the individual biographies that activism is very doable for a scientist, and can be very effective. 

They come from countries from all over the world. They organize, they collaborate, and those collaborations are often with people outside their own fields. They are multidimensional, and are often experts in several fields, learning what needed to be learned to accomplish their missions. Science is not an end onto itself, but is a powerful tool to effect change, peace, and a better world. Some are self-trained. Many are women.

The choices of awardees are not politically “safe.”

Right Livelihood awardees 

Name                                                           Year of Award                       Science Focus

Paul Walker                                                2013                                       Political scientist

(Denis Mukwege                                         2013                                       Physician)

Hans Herrin                                               2013                              Agronomist/entomologist                                     Biovision Foundation

(Sima Samar                                                2012                                       Physician)

Huang Ming                                               2011                                       Engineer

David Suzuki   Honorary                         2009                                       Zoologist

Rene Ngongo                                             2009                                       Biologist

(Catherine Hamlin                                     2009                                       Physician)

(Monika Hauser                                         2008                                        Physician)

Ruth Manorama                                       2006                                        Sociologist

Tony Clarke                                               2005                                        Sociologist

Asghar Ali                                                  2005                                        Engineer 

Raul Montenegro                                     2004                                        Evolutionary Biologist

Walden Bello                                            2003                                         Sociologist

Nicanor Perlas                                          2003                                         Agriculturalist

Ibrahim Abouleish                                  2003                                          Pharmacologist

Martin Green                                           2002                                          Engineer

Tewolde Berhan                                       2000                                         Botanist

Birsel Lemke                                            2000                                          Political scientist

Wes Jackson/The land Institute          2000                                    Geneticist-agronomist

Hermann Scheer                                     1999                                            Social Scientist

Juan Garces                                              1999                                            Political scientist

Samual Epstein                                       1998                                            Physician, Occupational Medicine

Juan Pablo Orrego                                 1998                                             Environmental Scientist

(Katarina Kruhonja                                 1998                                             Physician)

(Vesna Terselic                                         1998                                             Physician)

Jinzaburo Takagi                                    1997                                             Nuclear Chemist

Michael Succow                                      1997                                             Biologist   

(George Vithoulkas                                  1996                                            Homeopathic Physician)                     

Sulak Sivaraksa                                       1995                                             Social Scientist

Hannumappa R Sudarshan/Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK)    1994 Physician /org

Vandana Shiva                                        1993                                             Physicist

(Zafrullah Chowdhury                             1992                                            Physician)                                                             with Gonoshathaya Kendra (GK)

John Gofman                                          1992                       Nuclear Chemist and Physician

Edward Goldsmith  Honorary             1991                                             Ecologist/writer  

Bengt Danielsson                                    1991                                             Anthropologist                                                                                                (with Marie-Therese Danielsson)

Melaku Worede                                      1989                                             Agronomist

(Akilu Lemma                                          1989                                             Physician)

(Legesse Wolde-Yohannes                     1989                                            Physician)

(Inge Genefke    Honorary                      1988                                           Physician)                                                Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims

Jose Lutzenberger 1988 Agronomist

Johan Galtung Honorary                     1987                  Mathematician, Social Scientist

Hans-Peter Durr                                    1987                                             Physicist

Mordechai Vanunu                                1987                            Geographer, philosopher 

Rosalie Bertell                                        1986                  Biometrics, Environmental Health

(Alice Stewart                                          1986                                              Physician)

Wangari Maathai                                  1984                                               Biologist                                                                                                (Won Nobel Peace Prize in 2004)

Amory B. Lovins                                    1983                                      Experimental Physicist

Hunter Lovins                                        1983                     Political Scientists and Sociologist

Organization                                                                         Year of Award

Grain International                                                                                      2011
 

Grameen Shakti                                                                                            2007 

Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) Org. of Science Writers        1996  

 

Reading only the biographies of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates would lead a scientist to believe that there isn’t much change of being an activist for peace.

Reading the biographies of the Right Livelihood Award would lead scientists to believe that they can be effective in activist efforts, and that their particular talents and training makes them very, very useful in a drive for peace and sustainability.

——
September 24th, 2014

Right Livelihood Award 2014
The „Alternative Nobel Prize“ is awarded annually by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation „for outstanding vision and work on behalf of our planet and its people“. This year, the Foundation has selected not four, but five Right Livelihood Award Laureates:

Edward Snowden (USA), Joint Honorary Award with Alan Rusbridger
„… for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights.“

Alan Rusbridger (UK), Joint Honorary Award with Edward Snowden
„… for building a global media organisation dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest, undaunted by the challenges of exposing corporate and government malpractices.“

Asma Jahangir (Pakistan)
„… for defending, protecting and promoting human rights in Pakistan and more widely, often in very difficult and complex situations and at great personal risk.“

Basil Fernando / AHRC (Hong Kong SAR, China)
„… for his tireless and outstanding work to support and document the implementation of human rights in Asia.“

Bill McKibben / 350.org (USA)
„… for mobilising growing popular support in the USA and around the world for strong action to counter the threat of global climate change.“

We congratulate the Laureates and extend our cordial thanks for their outstanding enthusiasm and work for a more just, democratic and sustainable world!

http://www.rightlivelihood.org/

posted on http://www.inesglobal.com/news-2014.phtml
 

 

 

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