Two dedicated environmental advocates were recently honored by the nonprofit organization Seacology for their work preserving island ecosystems.1 Patrick Danaya Pate of Papua New Guinea was awarded the organization's 2005 Seacology Prize and Felix Sugirtharaj, PhD, of India received a special Seacology Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony held October 25, 2005, in San Francisco, California.
Pate is vice president of the Kosua Orogo Resource Holders Association (KORA), an environmental organization of Papua New Guinea's Mt. Bosavi region. He was honored with the Seacology Prize for his work in organizing indigenous communities against industrial logging. The forests of Papua New Guinea have been increasingly threatened in recent years by logging proposals, and KORA's advocacy efforts have led many community members to reject proposals from the logging industry. Indigenous communities recently set aside a total of 1.25 million acres of pristine forest as 5 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), for which Seacology funded the construction of 3 local resource centers in 2003. Pate has coordinated that building project and helped ensure continued protection of the WMAs. Seacology regularly initiates and sponsors projects that preserve the environments and cultures of islands throughout the globe.
"Mr. Danaya Pate has courageously fought logging of the primeval rain forests of Papua New Guinea by journeying alone from village to village to inform the people of the devastation that logging will bring," said Paul Cox, PhD, chairman of the Seacology Board (e-mail, February 7, 2006). "His efforts originate from his heart, with no hope of recognition or outside approval." Pate also serves as community facilitator of the Sulamesi Resource Development Foundation—an organization that promotes sustainable development and livelihood improvement in the Mt. Bosavi region.1
Dr. Sugirtharaj, director of the Coastal Poor Development Action Network, received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts in protecting mangrove forests of the Andaman Islands. Mangroves are woody trees or shrubs that grow in tropical coastal habitats, which often protect coastlines from erosion and support marine life. He recently coordinated the establishment of a Seacology-funded mangrove resource center in the village of Kadakachang, near the Andaman capital of Port Blair.2 Construction of the center was completed in late 2005. "Born as an untouchable, [Dr. Sugirtharaj] has achieved against great odds an extremely high level of education, and he has used his education to benefit his own people by teaching them to protect their environment," said Dr. Cox.
Dr. Sugirtharaj was also recognized for his charitable actions following the December 2004 tsunami.1 He helped assess local damage to nearby communities, distributed resources to suffering families, and supervised the rebuilding of local homes. "His efforts to help the victims of the recent tsunami were heroic," said Dr. Cox.
Both award recipients were given monetary prizes of $7,500. The Seacology Prize has been awarded annually since 1992 to an indigenous islander committed to protecting his or her culture and environment. Dr. Sugirtharaj's Lifetime Achievement Award, which is not an annual Seacology award, was sponsored by Nu Skin Enterprises of Provo, Utah (P. Cox, e-mail, February 7, 2006).
1. Community organizer from Papua New Guinea and Indian mangrove conservationist to receive Seacology awards [press release]. Berkeley, CA: Seacology; September 8, 2005. Available at: http://www.seacology.org/news/display.cfm?id=173. Accessed February 6, 2006.
2. Island Projects page. Seacology Web site. Available at: http://www.seacology.org/projects/individualprojects/ANDAMANISLANDS2004.htm. Accessed February 10, 2006.