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National Geographic Selects Saleem Ali as Explorer

41F BURLINGTON,VT–The National Geographic Society has selected University of Vermont scientist Saleem Ali as an “Emerging Explorer” for 2010. He will be featured in the June edition of National Geographic magazine.

One of fourteen “visionary, young trailblazers from around the world,” the society announced today, Ali, an expert in conflict resolution and environmental science, will also receive a $10,000 prize.

Ali has received international acclaim for his work to bring together vying — even warring — groups to communicate and build diplomatic trust.

“My goal is to get policymakers and educators thinking about how environmental issues can, in fact, be used as a peace-building strategy,” says Ali, professor of environmental planning and Asian studies.

Working as a professional mediator for companies and governments, as an advisor to the U.N., and as a teacher and author, Ali has built a strong understanding of how common interests in natural resources — like clean water supplies — can be bring conflicting groups to the negotiating table.

“It’s an underutilized opportunity,” he says “environmental diplomacy is not often used by diplomats as a means of resolving intractable conflict.”

The National Geographic Society’s Emerging Explorers Program praised Ali as one the “uniquely gifted and inspiring adventurers” of his generation, a release from the society notes, who are “making a significant contribution to world knowledge through exploration while still early in their careers.”

“I have traveled to very distant part of the world,” Ali says, “always looking for ways of resolving conflict.” A Pakistani-American, he has studied border clashes in Ecuador and Peru, Pakistan and India, Congo, the Middle East and other war zones.

Ali intends to use his prize to work on a new project: an Atlas of Ecological Cooperation. “The atlas will make clear how, around the world, environmental issues can be used to build peace. It builds on my work on peace parks,” he says.

“National Geographic is one of the world’s premier environmental education organizations,” he says. “This is a fantastic honor and it provides a great opportunity to promote the atlas.”

The author of several books, including the recent Treasures of the Earth: Need Greed and A Sustainable Future (Yale, 2009), Ali was chosen by Seed magazine in 2007 as one of eight “Revolutionary Minds in the World.”

“Even in armed border conflict you can have environmental peace building,” says Saleem Ali, “there is so often a common ecological interest. This is not pie in the sky; it’s very pragmatic.”


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