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Nobel winners put humanity on trial at sustainability talks

by Staff Writers
Stockholm (AFP) May 17, 2011
Planet Earth and humanity will face each other in a mock trial Tuesday, with around 20 Nobel Prize winners figuring as judges, organisers of a global sustainability symposium in Stockholm said.

"It's a civil court case to see whether we've breached our relations" with the planet, "and to see how to restore that relationship," symposium chair Johan Rockstroem told reporters at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The "trial" will be one of the sessions at the third biennial Nobel laureate symposium on global sustainability -- a three-day event that opened in the Swedish capital Tuesday.

In addition to the Nobel laureates, leading scientists and environmental research group heads were on site to draft a Stockholm Memorandum on the findings of the meeting, which will be presented Wednesday to the United High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

Rockstroem explained that one of the sessions had been shaped as a trial since "we've come to the point where just another meeting with another dialogue would fail to have an impact (and to clearly) communicate ... the possibilities and challenges we are facing."

In the mock trial, "Nobel Laureates will hear how our vast imprint on the planet's environment has shifted the Earth into a new geological period labelled the 'Anthropocene,'the Age of Man," where the most important changes to the planet are brought on by humanity and not natural phenomena.

"History will in any case judge us," Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren told reporters, explaining the "trial" was actually about humanity judging itself with future generations in mind.

Mario Molina of Mexico, the winner of the 1995 Nobel Chemistry Prize who is a science and technology advisor to US President Barack Obama, told the news conference he hoped rationality, common sense and wisdom would strengthen the planet's case in the "symbolic" trial.

At the conference's inaugural speech, Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria stressed the urgency of acting to make the world a better place.

"Mankind faces tremendous challenges if we are to hand our future generations a healthier mother earth, ... a planet more sustainable than it was when we received it from our parents," the princess said in a speech inaugurating the symposium.

"I see no better persons than Nobel laureates to carry this message to the world," she told the delegates.

The Stockholm Memorandum will be considered by the UN panel, which was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and includes South Africa's President Jacob Zuma and his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen and has been tasked with putting together a "new vision" on sustainable growth.

The panel will draw up a report with suggestions before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.



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