In an annual list of the year’s most prominent global thinkers, Foreign Policy has listed, among others, the following names under the “Naturals” category:

David Lobell, “for helping farmers feed the world”

An agricultural ecologist at Stanford, Lobell’s work focuses on the area of crop informatics.

As food supplies are at risk from global temperatures rising, Lobell researches climate changes and how they affect the overall health of crops. Most recently, he discovered the unexpected vulnerability of corn to extreme heat and drought; a revolutionary finding that will affect the future actions of corn farmers while lowering the prospect of unfruitful seasons.

Azzam Alwash, “for saving the Garden of Eden”

Birthplace of several ancient civilizations and the assumed location of the Garden of Eden, Iraq’s marshlands were drained and paved by Saddam Hussein in an effort to lure out political enemies hiding there.

Alwash, a native of the area, founded the nonprofit organization Nature Iraq and initiated the restoration of the marshlands in 2003. Today, nearly half of the land has been restored and repopulated by flora and fauna, and Alwash was awarded the 2013 Goldman Environmental Prize for his efforts.

Ellen Macarthur, “for jumpstarting the circular economy

In 2005, she broke the sailing world record for fastest circumnavigation around the world. Today, she is an advocate for recycling.

Instead of making, using and disposing of resources, her mentality focuses on reusing and restoring: the bright future lies where food waste is used for compost and all packaging is created as biodegradable.

Macarthur’s vision was strengthened by a report she compiled in 2013 on the circular economy principle, which showed that the actions of reusing and restoring could save the entire consumer industry $700 billion USD annually. Her current focus is on recruiting companies to join her in making this vision a reality; so far, giants such as Coca-Cola and Phillips have, among others, decided to invest in the project.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – “for showing that humanity is on the brink of catastrophe.”

Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, the IPCC has made a shocking announcement. Through meticulous climate research data analysis, they have established that current greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been in the past 800,000 years.

If nothing is done about the matter, the IPCC now believes that in some 86 years, sea levels will rise nearly 3 feet worldwide. A popular theory up to date, however, has been that global warming is currently in a paused state.

The IPCC, on the other hand, states that the popular theory is faulty: global warming has merely slowed due to the actual absorption of heat by oceans.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: Foreign Policy, Nourishing the Planet, PBS
Photo: Ellen Macarthur Foundation