"The Independent" (newspaper of the UK) Selects Captain Paul Watson as one of the planet's top ten eco-warriors.

January 23, 2006


THE INDEPENDENT

HEADLINE:

Defenders of the earth;
Green activism is not for the fainthearted, as anti-whaling campaigners found last week. The environmental expert Fred Pearce selects the planet's top ten eco-warriors

BYLINE: Fred Pearce


DAI QING

Who? Antidam pioneer. Once a spy, she challenged her former masters over the construction of the world's largest hydroelectric dam.

Why she's important Radicalized as a journalist in the 1980s, Dai Qing publicized scientific opposition to the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze River. Her samizdat book, Yangtze Yangtze, triggered worldwide opposition to the scheme. Jailed for a year after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, she is now a leading figure in the worldwide anti-dam movement. Three Gorges, now nearing completion, will flood out 1.5 million people. It also poses a huge flood risk for cities downstream. Today's Chinese leaders admit privately that it is an expensive white elephant, and Dai Qing was right al along.

She says "I will continue my opposition even when the dam is finished. Even then, it will be better if it is not used."

JOSE BOVE

Who? French anarcho-syndicalist. He cut his teeth 30 years ago opposing an army base in his home town, and has become a talismanic anti-globaliser, imprisoned for dismantling a McDonald's in Milau.

Why he's important Bove fights economic globalization by defending French rural values and countryside. Brought up in California, he returned to France in the 1980s, took up sheep farming and formed an environmental farmers' union. He organized a stunt to "plough up the Champs-ElysZes" in opposition to European Union agricultural policies. He trashed a GM seed manufacturing plant, and then, in 1999, attacked McDonald's, which he criticized as much for its bad food as for its culture. Soon after, he joined the world trade protests in Seattle. He has been deported from Israel New Caledonia and Brazil.

He says "Farming is the symbol of resistance against globalization."

AMORY LOVINS

Who? Energy guru. An American physicist and mountain-lover, he brought Friends of the Earth to Britain partly to protect Snowdonia from mining. He returned home to set up a green-technology think-tank, the Rocky Mountain Institute, with his wife Hunter.

Why he's important Lovins is involved in drawing up blueprints for an energy revolution based on renewable and energy efficiency. He is the author of Factor Four, which showed how the energy efficiency of most technologies can be improved cost-effectively by a factor of four. Breakthrough designs developed at his institute include the ultra-efficient "hypercar". Lovins argues only "soft technologies" can ensure people enjoy a good standard of living without wrecking the climate. He practices what he preaches' sunlight heats his lab at Snowmass, Colorado.

He says "In future, the efficiency revolution will be at the core of competitive advantage, and laggards will suffer."

WANGARIMAATHAI

Who? Africa's "tree woman". One of Kenya's first female scientists, she left the lab to help poor rural women to plant trees and restore their environment. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 and became environment minister in Kenya's new reforming government.

Why she's important The Green Belt Movement, which she founded and ran for 30 years, has set up tree nurseries and planted 30 million trees across Kenya. She fights the privatization and logging of forests, and saved Nairobi's Uhuru Park from being covered by a 60-storey tower block. Locked up several times by the former government, she has recently helped the movement spread to other African countries. For Maathai, preserving nature is about preserving the rights of women. Trees are the foundation of rural prosperity in Africa, protecting soils, maintaining water supplies and providing fruit and other crops.

She says "My achievement has been to link the environment to the problems rural people experience in their lives."

DAVID BELLAMY

Who? Bog man. A TV botanist, he became the freelance wild man of environmentalism, touring the world promoting green causes great and small for 40 years.

Why he's important Belamy's greatest love is bogs and the plants that grow in them. But he will go anywhere to protect wildlife habitats, using his skills as a media performer to gain attention. He went to jail after sitting down in front of bulldozers to stop a dam in Tasmania that would have flooded virgin forest. But he won. He has defended mangroves in Burma and Malaysia and coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, and campaigned for organic crops in Africa. Currently, and controversially, he is opposing wind turbines being built on his beloved bogs.

He says "Winston Churchill once said that we in England have a countryside worth dying for. And I'd be damn well wiling to do just that, to stop the turbines."

SINAFASI MAKELOADRIEN

Who? Forest custodian. A Twa pygmy from eastern Congo.

Why he's important

Central Africa has the world's second-largest rainforest, but it is being ravaged by wars, refugees, logging, mining and plantations. Pygmies and other indigenous groups are sidelined. Adrien fights for indigenous peoples' rights to their forests, taking the campaign to the UN and elsewhere.

He says "We are linked to the land. It is unacceptable for protected areas to be established in our land without consent."

MARINA SILVA

Who? An illiterate maid until she met the green hero Chico Mendes. She became Brazil's environment minister in 2002.

Why she's important Silva is involved in protecting the Amazon rainforest and the livelihoods of its custodians, including rubber-tappers. With Mendes, who was assassinated in 1988, she helped to organize resistance to loggers in the state of Acre.

She says to talk of defending the forest. was seen as being against progress. Now, no one would dare say such things."

PAUL WATSON

Who? Anti-whaling buccaneer. Prototype Greenpeace eco-warrior, but fired by the organization for being too extreme.

Why he's important Watson's aim is to save wildlife - by any means. As a nine-year-old in Canada he disabled beaver traps. He became a sailor before helping to found Greenpeace 25 years ago. He developed Greenpeace's strategy of sailing into nuclear test zones, and confronting whalers, and was the first man to navigate an inflatable boat between harpoon and whale. He was forced out after using allegedly illegal tactics. He then founded Sea Shepherd to "enforce" marine wildlife law, reinforcing his ship with concrete and ramming whalers. His crews scuttled two Icelandic whaling ships. He has been active in recent weeks around Antarctica, harassing Japanese whalers.

He says: "I am a proud traitor to my species."

ORAL ATANIYAZOVA

Who? Aral Sea doctor. Uzbek gynecologist who revealed to the world that the emptying of the Aral Sea in Central Asia was a health as well as an environmental disaster.

Why she's important Millions of people living round the Aral Sea have anemia. There are epidemics of cancers, miscarriages, birth defects and kidney and liver diseases. Life expectancy in her native province of Karakalpakstan has fallen to just 51. The cause of this health crisis, Ataniyazova says, is salt and old Soviet farm chemicals in the water blowing about in dust storms whipped up from the dried-out sea bed. Ataniyazova has also established the Karakalpak Centre for Reproductive Health and Environment, which runs clinics and trains people to grow their own vegetables and fresh fruit.

She says "All of our women are sick - and so are all our newborn."

MEDHAPATKAR

Who? Damner of dams. She has waged a 22-year struggle against the construction of dams on the holy Narmada River in central India. Repeatedly arrested and seven times on the verge of death during hunger strikes

Why she's important The Narmada's biggest dam the Sardar Sarovar, will take land from around 250,00 people. The dam has been ready for a decade now but it is being filed only slowly because her organization Nar mada Bachao Andolan, has harassed its operator at every turn. Patkar sat on the World Commission on Dams, which produced a groundbreaking denunciation of many dam projects.

She says "Those I work with are going to lose their lands, their homes, their community, their culture and indeed, their identity."

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