SOCIETY OF ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALISTS AND INSTITUTE FOR ALPINE ENVIRONMENT NAMED AS CO-WINNERS of the 2010 CALOUSTE GULBENKIAN INTERNATIONAL PRIZE
July 14, 2010 — Created in 2007, the Gulbenkian International Prize distinguishes an individual or institution “whose thoughts or actions make a decisive contribution to and have significant impact on understanding, defending or fostering the universal values of the human condition.” SEJ's recognition is given with reference to the category of “humanity’s relationship with nature and respect for biodiversity.”
Winners will be honored at a ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal on July 20, 2010 where the prize of €100,000 will be awarded and shared on an equal basis by SEJ and the Institute for Alpine Environment,  a scientific research center of EURAC, the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano.
"It's an extraordinary honor for SEJ's work in educating and supporting environmental journalism to be recognized internationally, especially at this time of crisis for both journalism and the environment," said SEJ President Christy George.
The Gulbenkian Foundation identified members of this year’s International Prize jury to be Jorge Sampaio, Lord Robert May, Jacqueline McGlade, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber and Viriato Soromenho-Marques. According to a spokesperson, jurors decided to recognize both organizations “to highlight the importance of applied research to environmental and biodiversity protection,” as well as the work of environmental journalism “and its contribution to creating an informed and enlightened public opinion.”
SEJ was recommended to the 2010 Gulbenkian International Prize jury for its public service mission over many years, helping journalists improve their knowledge of complex environmental issues, especially through in-depth sessions and unique tours relevant to biodiversity, organized for the organization’s annual conference. The Foundation praised SEJ for giving journalists of varied backgrounds and experience “a high degree of understanding of multifaceted environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss and increasing pressure on essential water resources.” SEJ was also recognized for its awareness and fulfillment of the journalistic responsibility to produce “diverse, independent and accurate narratives, in areas characterized by conflicting interests as well as technical and scientific complexity.”
SEJ Executive Director Beth Parke (left) with Gulbenkian Chairman of the Board Emílio Rui Vilar and Ulrike Tappeiner, Head of Institute, Alpine Institute.
SEJ Executive Director Beth Parke travelled to Lisbon to accept the Gulbenkian International Prize on SEJ’s behalf during the July 20 ceremony. “I am so honored to be representing SEJ’s remarkable community of journalists, educators, students, board and staff for this event,” said Parke. “These are such challenging times for anyone concerned with media and environment. I hope everyone associated with the Society of Environmental Journalists can take a moment to share in the accolades and celebrate the collective accomplishments of environmental journalists worldwide.”
Jay Letto, a founding member of the group and SEJ annual conference director was thrilled by news of the prize. "We've been taking journalists into the field with scientists to learn ecological concepts firsthand for 20 years, and have felt this work to be increasingly important. This award gives SEJ meaningful recognition at a crucial time."
Based in Lisbon, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a Portuguese private institution of public utility whose statutory aims are in the fields of arts, charity, education and science. Created by a clause in the will of Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, the Foundation's statutes were approved in 1956. The large Foundation premises in Lisbon, opened in 1969, comprise the Foundation's head office and the museum. For more information about the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation see www.gulbenkian.pt