In a time where facts and logic are disregarded, and the natural world is being destroyed - scientists can no longer just be scientists - they must also strive to be stewards of the environment.
This is one of the biggest challenges facing environmental science today, says 2017 Tyler Prize laureate Professor José Sarukhán, who will deliver the annual Tyler Prize lecture tomorrow, May 4, in Washington DC. The Mexican ecologist will be in the US to accept the prize, the world's premiere award for environmental achievement - often referred to as the 'Nobel for the Environment'.
Professor Sarukhán is one of the most celebrated scientists and public intellectuals in all of Latin America, having developed one of the world's first national government departments dedicated to understanding and preserving biodiversity in his home country of Mexico.
Professor Sarukhán says academia has had a long-standing contract with the public, to make them aware of the implications of their research.
"But now, environmental scientists are charged with an even heavier responsibility: to make people see that ignoring the laws that govern the natural world has a critical connection to human risk," Sarukhán said.
"If we don't do this, we ignore the matrix of nature that is essential for our wellbeing - and of the rest of the species with which we cohabit."
"To inspire people to change their way of acting and living - that takes a certain kind of personality. It is tough work, but if you have the will, then I urge you to do it."
At this 44th Tyler Prize lecture, Sarukhán's talk will be followed by a panel with some of the United States' leading environmental scientists - such as Jane Lubchenco and Harold Mooney. The panel, Translating Research Into Policy Action: How Can Environmental Science Move Forward Quickly? will be moderated by John Iadarola, host of the political news network, The Young Turks.
Sarukhán is himself an exemplary model of an environmental advocator and communicator. As an ecologist, he has been published in esteemed journals and accepted into the top international academies - but has always made time to deliver free public lectures to help others understand the impact humans have on the environment.
His role as communicator reached a career pinnacle when, in 1992, after having built a strong relationship with his country's then-president, Carlos Salinas, Sarukhán was able to convince him to fund a government level department dedicated entirely to biodiversity. At the time, this model was one of the first of its kind in the world, which was later replicated in other countries. Sarukhán's model, now called CONABIO, is today a powerful department within the Mexican government, with 300 staff and an annual operating budget of $14 million US.
About the Tyler Prize
Established by the late John and Alice Tyler in 1973, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement is one of the first international premier awards for environmental science, environmental health and energy. Recipients encompass the spectrum of environmental concerns, including environmental policy, health, air and water pollution, ecosystem disruption and loss of biodiversity, and energy resources. The Prize is awarded by the international Tyler Prize Executive Committee with the administrative support of the University of Southern California. For more information on the Tyler Prize go to: http://www.