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Four winners awarded 2004 Volvo Environment Prize


For immediate release


GÖTEBORG (November 11, 2004) – A group of four specialists on the impact of urbanization have won the 2004 Volvo Environment Prize, Volvo Car Corporation announced today.


Dr. David Satterthwaite of the UK, Brazilian Jaime Lerner and the US-based husband and wife team of Dr. Mario and Dr. Luisa Molina were awarded the SEK 1.5 million prize ($250,000 CAD) at a ceremony in Göteborg, Sweden. Lerner and Dr. Satterthwaite were working on different themes while the team of American scientists collaborated on a third project. Their collective work on three closely linked urbanization issues provided models for defining, understanding and addressing complex problems in the urban environment of developing countries.


The common denominator among the four winners was their focus on the environmental impact of a growing population in urban areas around the globe. Offering trailblazing research and ideas, they stressed the absolute need for close cooperation and partnerships between authorities, governments and industry in order to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems on the road to a more sustainable future.


The Volvo Environment Prize was created in May, 1988. The objective of the award is to promote research and development across the environmental spectrum and acknowledge people who have made an outstanding contribution to understanding or protecting the environment.


Dr. Satterthwaite developed analyses of human settlements in developing countries, clarifying the complex dynamic interactions of these problems, and proposed a solid foundation for effective policy and management responses.


Lerner was honoured for his outstanding professional creativity as the architect/planner who devised innovative but very practical methods of city development and management for Curitiba, Brazil. Lerner was cited for his vision and political leadership as Mayor and Governor which contributed to making Curitiba a living example of a people-friendly, sustainable city.


Luisa and Mario Molina were recognized for their collaborative work in initiating and directing the large trans-disciplinary analysis which transformed the understanding of the science and dynamics of air pollution in Mexico City. Their contributions to programs for the measurement of air pollutants and assessment of their health effects helped institute policy dialogues and public outreach programs which have led to new approaches to air-pollution management in the megacity.


The work of the winners was inspired, in part, by the statistic that the world’s urban population has exploded by fourteen times, growing from a mere 225 million in 1900 to some 3.2 billion today. In the same period, the world’s total population multiplied fourfold, from 1.6 to 6.4 billion.


According to UN projections, four billion people could be added to the planet in the next 80 years. But 95 per cent of these are expected to be born in the expanding towns and cities or to migrate there from rural areas. Hallmark of this urban growth is the mushrooming of megacities with populations in excess of five million; hyper-cities with more than 20 million; and continuous urban-industrial corridors with populations reaching 50 million.


In 2004, the number of people living in cities is expected to outnumber the population living in rural areas for the first time in history. One billion people live in urban slums; within 30 years, according to the UN, one out of every three people on the planet will live in these areas. They will spend their lives in environments characterized by inadequate transportation, water supply, and sanitation, with widespread violence, insecurity, poverty, squalor, and disease. As the population in cities grows, so grows the need to tackle society’s growing urban ‘ecological footprint’ of waste, pollution and congestion.


The four recipients of the Volvo Environment Prize are unanimous in their belief that many of the problems caused by mass urbanization are solvable.


Road, rail and air transportation is generally perceived by the winners of the Volvo Environment Prize as a critical enabler of economic activity as well as being beneficial to social interaction.


In this respect, President and CEO of the Volvo Car Corporation, Hans-Olov Olsson, believes that automobile manufacturers have a key role in reconciling the issue of unrestricted mobility with that of energy availability, air quality and congestion. “Our job as an industry and individual car makers is to deliver an integrated roadmap for the future encompassing cleaner fuels, advanced vehicle technologies and designs, and support for infrastructural and institutional change,” he says.


For more information on the Volvo Environment Prize, visit


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Doug Mepham

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Chad Heard



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