BURLINGTON,VT–The National Geographic Society has selected University of Vermont scientist Saleem Ali as an â€œEmerging Explorerâ€ for 2010. He will be featured in the June edition of National Geographic magazine.
One of fourteen â€œvisionary, young trailblazers from around the world,â€ 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.
â€œMy goal is to get policymakers and educators thinking about how environmental issues can, in fact, be used as a peace-building strategy,â€ 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.
â€œItâ€™s an underutilized opportunity,â€ he says â€œenvironmental diplomacy is not often used by diplomats as a means of resolving intractable conflict.â€
The National Geographic Societyâ€™s Emerging Explorers Program praised Ali as one the â€œuniquely gifted and inspiring adventurersâ€ of his generation, a release from the society notes, who are â€œmaking a significant contribution to world knowledge through exploration while still early in their careers.â€
â€œI have traveled to very distant part of the world,â€ Ali says, â€œalways looking for ways of resolving conflict.â€ 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. â€œThe atlas will make clear how, around the world, environmental issues can be used to build peace. It builds on my work on peace parks,â€ he says.
â€œNational Geographic is one of the worldâ€™s premier environmental education organizations,â€ he says. â€œThis is a fantastic honor and it provides a great opportunity to promote the atlas.â€
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 â€œRevolutionary Minds in the World.â€
â€œEven in armed border conflict you can have environmental peace building,â€ says Saleem Ali, â€œthere is so often a common ecological interest. This is not pie in the sky; itâ€™s very pragmatic.â€