What do California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, chef Alice Waters, author Kim Stanley Robinson, and brothers Jean-François and Jean-Charles Decaux have in common?

Posted on October 14, 2008


They’re all part of TIME Magazine’s annual Heroes of the Environment list.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger photographed together for Time (Platon for TIME)

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger photographed together for Time (Platon for TIME)

“The Governator” was featured second in a list of the 30 leaders and visionaries, moguls and entrepreneurs, activists, and scientists and innovators whom TIME deemed to be this year’s Heroes of the Environment. His achievements? Definitely noteworthy, to say the least:

“While President Bush has sat out climate change, denying the problem in his first term and avoiding it in his second, Schwarzenegger has signed agreements with Canada, Mexico, and the United Nations encouraging cooperation on clean technology, while pushing greenhouse-gas reductions at home. He has enacted the first statewide cap on carbon emissions, the first statewide green building code and the first statewide fuel-efficiency standards. Bushy has blocked his proposed tailpipe-emissions cuts, but Schwarzenegger has sued, and 19 states will follow California’s lead if he wins.”

WOW. Talk about knowing when and where to fire his guns! I’ve never been a fan of Arnie and his accent, but when it comes to the environment, I’m willing to listen to anyone who will stand up, speak out, and act well in behalf of Mother Earth.

Here are my Top 10 favorites from TIME’s list, released for its issue dated October 6, 2008 (with excerpts):

(Jonathan Saunders for TIME)

(Jonathan Saunders for TIME)

Kevin Conrad (Papua New Guinea)

“It was a classic David versus Goliath moment. At the December 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Kevin Conrad challenged the U.S., the sole holdout on a plan for a post-2012 climate treaty. ‘If, for some reason, you’re not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us,’ he declared. ‘Please, get out of the way!’ Within minutes, the U.S. backed down. The resulting ‘Bali Action Plan’ provides a road map for an international climate treaty that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol.” – Joseph E. Stiglitz

Alice Waters (United States)

“It has been a slow 30 years of progress for all environmentalists, but Alice Waters has more right than most to be frustrated. She wasn’t asking anyone to install solar panels or convert their engines to run on biofuels—she just wanted people to eat stuff that tastes better. And it wasn’t like she was simply making claims that local, organic food tastes great. She was proving it every day at Chez Panisse, the Berkeley, California restaurant so good (the James Beard Foundation named Waters America’s best chef in 1992 and Gourmet named Chez Panisse America’s best restaurant in 2001) that it doesn’t even have a menu. You eat what Waters found at the markets that day, and you like it. You really like it.” – Joel Stein

Bharrat Jagdeo (Guyana)

“Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo leads a poor country with a priceless resource: 40 million acres (16 million ha) of largely untouched rainforest. Logging firms are keen to cut it down, but Jagdeo, an economist and former Finance Minister, is seeking what he regards as a better business proposal: he wants international donors and investors to pay for the increasingly tangible benefits of keeping the rain forest intact. ‘If we’re serious about global warming and its consequences,’ says Jagdeo, ‘then the market has to address all the sources of greenhouse emissions.’” – Tim Padgett

Jean-François and Jean-Charles Decaux (Denis Rouvre for TIME)

From left: Jean-François and Jean-Charles Decaux (Denis Rouvre for TIME)

Jean-François and Jean-Charles Decaux (France)

“Jean-Charles, 39, and his brother, co-CEO Jean-François, 49, are now building bicycles into a significant business for [their] company, which was founded by their father and has about $3 billion in annual revenue…”

“The scheme took four years to devise and perfect before the company first rolled it out in Vienna in 2003. The brothers developed a sophisticated software system that uses credit-card information and tracks where each bike was rented and returned, how long it was used, and by whom. They also have a business model that works: JCDecaux provides the bikes in return for an exclusive contract to sell outdoor advertising in prime locations around Paris. Some French environmentalists have criticized the business aspect of the arrangement, but without it, taxpayers would have to foot the bill. And while some motorists grumble about the new bike lanes and cyclists who weave in and out of traffic, Parisians are voting with their pedals: more than 200,000 have taken out one-year subscriptions, which cost just $40.” – Peter Gumbel

John Doerr (United States)

“John Doerr became America’s most famous venture capitalist by spotting the ‘disruptive innovations’ that will change the world, by betting on stars like Amazon.com and Google in their infancy, by building ideas into powerhouse companies—and by tolerating risks so high that 9 out of 10 bets were liable to fail.

“Now he’s focused that vision on unmasking the greatest disaster of our time. It was Doerr who first persuaded many of us that we could stop global warming, not by retreat but by harnessing innovation and entrepreneurialism… Doerr’s firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB), has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into green-tech start-ups. His portfolio includes a company developing power plants driven by the heat of the sun, and another that will mass-produce cheap solar cells to roll out on roofs like tar paper. He has bet on a high-performance plug-in hybrid car; on biologists making cellulosic ethanol from nonedible plant materials; and on a Berkeley team that has re-engineered yeast to ferment sugar into fuels indistinguishable from those we get from oil.” – Fred Krupp

Peter Head (United Kingdom)

“The British engineer heads a project to build an eco-city in Dongtan, a farming area near Shanghai that is three-quarters the size of Manhattan. Dongtan’s buildings, buses and cars will run on renewable energy; its heat and power plant will use waste from rice mills as an energy source. Almost all of the city’s waste will be recycled and reused, while Dongtan’s farmland will supply organic food. And with pedestrian and cycle paths criss-crossing the city, key destinations—from schools to hospitals—will be cleverly spaced to minimize journeys…”

“…Wowed by Arup’s [the British engineering company where Head is a director] plans for China, authorities in London commissioned Head to sketch a blueprint for the capital’s first large-scale zero-carbon housing development.” – Adam Smith

Gidon Bromberg, Nader Al-Khateel, and Munqeth Mehyar (Israel, Jordan, and Palestine)

“Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME)… the joint Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmental organization [,] got its start in 1994 trying to put environmental issues onto the peace process agenda. But after peace talks collapsed in 2000… FoEME turned that strategy on its head and started using environmental activism to foster peace. At a time of almost zero cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis, FoEME was building partnerships between Arab and Israeli communities in the Jordan River valley to teach water conservation, while also pressuring national governments to take action against pollution, overpumping, and other wastes of water. FoEME projects such as Good Water Neighbors encouraged local leaders to reach out across conflict lines and make contact for the first time with local politicians on the other side.” – Andrew Lee Butters

Van Jones (United States)

“Jones, 39, an African-American activist based in Oakland, started visiting Marin when he was burned out from years of running programs to find jobs for kids fresh out of jail. What he saw, he says, was a form of ‘eco-apartheid.’ In Oakland, his neighbours, working hardscrabble jobs when they could find them, had to deal with the industrial pollution that brings asthma attacks, In pristine Marin, just a few miles away, a whole new economy was being built around organic food, solar-panel installation and the like. Jones’ insight was to see that if the two sides of the Bay could be brought together, the economy of both would benefit…

“It won’t be easy to show members of America’s working class that a green economy can benefit them too… But Jones has a rich legacy to draw on. He sees his fight for green jobs as being in the great tradition of the civil rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s—while recognizing that times have changed.” – Michael Elliott

(Joachim Ladefoged / VII for TIME)

(Joachim Ladefoged / VII for TIME)

Søren Hermansen (Denmark)

“Hermansen knew Samsø islanders are tight-knit and conservative. But that could be an advantage: once he convinced enough potential first movers to act, the rest would follow. So Hermansen showed up at every community or club meeting to give his pitch for going green. He pointed to the blustery island’s untapped potential for wind power and the economic benefits of making Samsø energy-independent. And he sometimes brought free beer.

“It worked. The islanders exchanged their oil-burning furnaces for centralized plants that burned leftover straw or wood chips to produce heat and hot water. They bought shares in new wind turbines, which generated the capital to build 11 large land-based turbines, enough to meet the entire island’s electricity needs. Not satisfied with that, they supported the construction of 10 massive offshore turbines, which provide power that offsets the island’s dependence on cars and ferries. Today Samsø isn’t just carbon-neutral—it’s actually produces 10% more clean electricity than it uses, with the extra power fed back into the grid at a profit.” – Bryan Walsh

Jurgenne Primavera (Philippines)

And the Philippines scores! More than boxing or singing, THIS, I think, is an achievement that we should drum up. To be included in TIME’s list, which includes luminaries from different countries and different fields, is no small feat. Neither is Primavera’s advocacy. As TIME’s contributor Hannah Beech writes:

“Jurgenne Primavera, whose groundbreaking studies on the life cycles of tiger prawns in her native Philippines helped galvanize an aquaculture revolution, doesn’t want to impose a global ban on shrimp tempura. But the former senior scientist at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center on the Filipino island of Panay is campaigning for sustainable fish-farming in order to protect the mangrove forests that act as a crucial buffer zone between land and sea.”


Want to see the rest of TIME’s Heroes? Read the full story HERE

Posted in: Environment