Gore gets $1m Dan David prize for planet efforts

Peres welcomes winners; ex-US vice president says missing ingredient on climate change "political will."

gore 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
gore 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
"We do face a planetary emergency," Al Gore told the audience Monday night at Tel Aviv University, "I know it sounds shrill - but it's true." The former US vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner was at TAU as one of the recipients of this year's Dan David Prizes. Gore, as is his wont, then rattled off several alarming facts about climate change. "Forty percent of the northern polar ice cap has disappeared in the last 20 years," he said. "We have enough solar energy from 40 minutes of sunlight hitting the earth to power the whole world for a year," he noted, "That is a decision we must make for our children and our grandchildren." "The missing ingredient is political will. And we all know that political will is a renewable resource," he concluded. On a more upbeat note, he wished Israel a happy birthday, and told the audience that today was the 38th wedding anniversary of him and wife Tipper, who was also present. Fellow Dan David laureate playwright Sir Tom Stoppard talked about the importance of art and culture. "The past throws a shadow as long as memory and time, but also throws light," he said. "Art is part of the immaterial universe... its essence is spiritual. It is the immaterial reality that makes endurance and survival bearable," he said. President Shimon Peres welcomed the prize winners and spoke about Gore and Amos Oz, another winner, whom he called friends. "Oz and Gore are eyeopeners. We were totally blind, now, because of them we are less blind," he said. "Judging by the two of them, all the rest are worthy as well," he added. The Dan David Prize is a joint international enterprise, endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University. This year's Dan David Prizes were awarded to authors, playwrights, filmmakers, scientists and activists. The prizes are divided into three categories: past, present and future. Three $1 million prizes are awarded with recipients making an automatic donation of 10% of their prize money to graduate students in their respective fields. Gore was awarded the "present" prize in the field of Social Responsibility with Particular Emphasis on the Environment "for his multiple contributions in raising the conscience of the world to the challenge posed to the continuing sustainable function of the global environment and life support system," according to the prize Web site. This year, Oz, Stoppard and Atom Egoyan won the prize in the field of Creative Rendering of the Past: Literature, Theater, Film. Oz won "for portraying historical events while emphasizing the individual, and for exploring the tragic conflict between two nations from a very human point of view." Stoppard was awarded the prize "for being a master playwright whose plays return repeatedly to the past as part of his ceaseless search for meaning in a bewildering universe while demonstrating farcical cleverness alongside profound humanity." Egoyan won "for his superb modernist filmmaking, which explores Armenian history and culture and the human impact of an historical event while examining the nature of truth and its representation through art." For their scientific breakthroughs, Professors Ellen Mosley-Thompson, Lonnie G. Thompson, and Geoffrey Eglinton were jointly awarded the prize in the future category. Ellen Mosley-Thompson and Lonnie G. Thompson won the prize for "studying the geological and environmental records in ice cores ranging from the polar regions to the highest tropical and subtropical mountains on six continents and remote islands; and for providing high-resolution environmental histories that contribute to the understanding of complex interactions in the Earth's outer envelopes, such as the fast melting of mountain glaciers worldwide and the retreat and disintegration of polar icecaps." Meanwhile, Eglinton's "studies of organic chemical fossils, which revealed the inhabitants and climates of ancient worlds and the mechanisms by which their products yield essential resources for the future; for his pioneering and modern investigations of chemical fossils in sedimentary rocks; and for revolutionizing standards for the identification of molecular structures, introducing systematic considerations of chemical histories, and undertaking seminal studies of the molecular processes affecting sedimentary organic matter" garnered him the joint prize with the other two scientists. Past recipients include conductor Zubin Mehta, Cellist Yo Yo Ma and the cities of Rome, Jerusalem and Istanbul. Dan David was born on May 23, 1929, in Bucharest, Romania. He made his fortune in instant-photography machines. He established the foundation in 2000 with half of his fortune - $100 million at the time. Prizes have been awarded since 2002.