David Attenborough & The Champions of the Earth

April 24, 2022
Portrait of David Attenborough
Courtesy of UNEP
By Eko Diena in 

On some level I really do wish that the title of this article referred to a new eco-punk band fronted by the veteran broadcaster, but actually it's something quite different, an annual awards event that most of us don't even notice takes place.

Don't worry if you have never heard of the United Nation's Champions of the Earth awards then you are probably part of the majority.

Oscars, Grammies, Baftas, sure, everyone has heard of the awards that celebrate the movie industry, the music industry, and of course the world of sports. But awards for people taking action to protect the planet, they are not nearly as high profile.

Such awards do exist though, and the UN Environment Programme has been running the Champions of the Earth awards since 2005. They are given to people that UNEP considers to be 'heroes who inspire, encourage others to join them, and defend a cleaner future.'

The main reason that we've noticed the awards this year is that Sir David Attenborough has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement award, and not only are we at Eko Diena huge fans of his, but the world seems to love him too and he gives great headlines.

Lifetime achievement aside, there are four other categories that are celebrated by the awards:

  • Policy leadership – individuals or organizations in the public sector leading global or national action for the environment. They shape dialogue, lead commitments and act for the good of the planet.
  • Inspiration and action – individuals or organizations taking bold steps to inspire positive change to protect our world. They lead by example, challenge behavior and inspire millions.
  • Entrepreneurial vision – individuals or organizations challenging the status quo to build a cleaner future. They build systems, create new technology and spearhead a groundbreaking vision. 
  • Science and innovation – individuals or organizations who push the boundaries of technology for profound environmental benefit. They invent possibilities for a more sustainable world.

106 laureates have been recognised over the past 16 years, including 26 world leaders, 64 individuals and 16 groups or organizations. Some are household names but most are far less known than they deserve to be, after all these are the people who are making a difference in ensuring that there is a liveable planet for future generations of humanity to exist on.

The winners for 2021 are a hugely inspiring bunch including among others, Mia Mottley - Prime Minister of Barbados, the Sea Women of Melanesia and of course David Attenborough.

You can, and we highly recommend to, find out more about each of the awardees for this year as well as all of the past winners on the official website of the awards: UNEP Champions of the Earth

Finally, just in case anyone is in any doubt about why Sir David deserves this award, why any of this matters at all, or whether there is any point or we are beyond redemption, then this interview of the man himself by UN Environment Programme's Director Inger Andersen answers all of the above in his own ever compelling and eloquent way.

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