Thursday, April 20, 2006

Kyoto Prize Laureate Simon Levin Says Mankind Must Make Hard Economic Decisions To Address Environmental Sustainability

“In Japan there is a saying that . . . just seeing and hearing the form, the manners and the words of great people helps you grow,” said Kazuo Inamori, 74, founder and chairman emeritus of Kyocera Inc. and head of the foundation that sponsors the Kyoto Prizes....

“I think that is the opportunity that is given by this event,” Inamori said through a translator.

The newest Kyoto laureates make an inspiring group. ... [They include George H. Heilmeier, who led a team that developed the first usable liquid crystal display], Princeton University professor Simon A. Levin, and Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

Levin has used complex mathematics to better understand the planet's declining biodiversity, the spread of infectious diseases and other environmental issues.

Harnoncourt's performances of classical European music, in which he conducts musicians using period instruments, have introduced people worldwide to great works as they most likely sounded hundreds of years ago.

Heilmeier and Levin presented lectures yesterday at the University of San Diego. Harnoncourt is scheduled to give a lecture and lead a musical performance today at USD's Shiley Theatre.

Each laureate receives a diploma, gold medal and 50 million yen (about $425,000). The three latest recipients bring the total number of honorees to 69 from 12 nations. Laureates have included scientists, engineers, musicians, philosophers, painters, architects, sculptors and film directors.

Levin, 64, has spent the past four decades studying how mathematics can be applied to some of Earth's most significant environmental problems.

For example, mathematical simulations and analyses are essential to studying changes in global climate, declining levels of biodiversity and the spread of diseases.

Levin said that during the past 15 years, he has become convinced that scientific challenges aren't the only things limiting humanity's ability to address such environmental troubles. The willingness of people to make hard economic decisions also plays a key role, he said.

As a result, Levin has worked closely with economists to find new ways to assign economic value to natural resources. He also has examined the costs and benefits of battling infectious diseases, particularly the growing threat of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

“Environmental protection and economic growth are not necessarily enemies of one another,” Levin said. “One has to find the right balance between them, and that involves finding ways to make predictions about ecological change, finding ways to put economic value on the services that ecological systems provide and, most difficult, finding ways to address these problems.”

The choice of Harnoncourt, 76, as a Kyoto laureate was intended to affirm the importance of artistic expression and spiritual growth, Inamori said. Through his work, Harnoncourt has enriched people's lives – bringing them together and exposing them to treasures from the past, Inamori said.

“The advancement of science and technology alone cannot make humanity happy,” Inamori said."

Bruce Lieberman "Kyoto laureates share genius with San Diego: Trio won Japan's top life-achievement prize" San Diego Union-Tribune via April 20, 2006



Trash is a major component of pollution entering San Diego Bay, California.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item found in the United States and around the world, and San Diego is no exception. Due to smoking bans inside public places in California and other states, over 99 percent of cigarettes are now smoked outside. A direct increase in the effects to the environment has been seen. Cigarette butts thrown onto streets and sidewalks get pushed into storm drains, which flow to creeks, rivers, and eventually the Bay. Once submerged in water, toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke found in cigarette filters are released, threatening water quality and marine life.

Photo and caption credit: Unified Port of San Diego, California. With thanks. sandiego_environment/h...


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