National Geographic Wins UN's Top Environmental Award

“Champions of the Earth” award given for leadership in research and education.

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New Mexico's Gila River is among the many corners of the world that have been explored by National Geographic, which is receiving an award from the United Nations for work related to the environment.

The National Geographic Society has been honored with the top environmental award from the United Nations, for efforts in research and education around issues of sustainability.

The nonprofit society is one of four organizations being recognized this year by the “Champions of the Earth” awards, to be formally presented by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on September 27.

“The National Geographic Society is a unique organization driven by a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to enlighten, excite and change the world," UN Environment Program Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

"By engaging citizens and stakeholders in solutions-based thinking and dialogue, they directly address environmental issues that impact us all—from air quality and biodiversity to sustainable cities and ecosystem management.”

The September 27 event will also mark the close of the UN’s adoption of new Sustainable Development Goals, in which countries will pledge to work toward a cleaner planet. Three other Champions of the Earth awards will be presented. Another winner is the Black Mambas, a mostly female ranger group in South Africa that is on the front lines fighting poaching. The other two winners will be announced later this month.

“We applaud the efforts of the United Nations Environment Programme to raise awareness around our planet’s most pressing issues—whether it is conserving the ocean, halting biodiversity loss and the decline of endangered species, or preserving cultural treasures," said Gary Knell, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society.

“This acknowledgement encourages us to continue to strive for meaningful solutions,” he said in a statement.

Steiner cited National Geographic’s history of providing thousands of grants to scientists and explorers since 1888, many of them focused on environmental issues around the globe. National Geographic media from books to magazines and television reach 700 million people around the world, often with information about the perils facing the planet.

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle was awarded a Lifetime Achievement honor as a Champion of the Earth in 2014, for her decades of work in marine biology and educating the public.

“In a year when the world aims to finalize the Sustainable Development Goals and sign a new agreement on climate change, the influence and leadership demonstrated by National Geographic is more important than ever,” said Steiner.

On Wednesday, the National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox announced that they are expanding their partnership in a venture that will include National Geographic's cable channels, its 127-year-old magazine, digital and social platforms, mapstravel and other media.

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