Indonesia, Born 1930
Dr Emil Salim is a leading voice on environmental issues in his native Indonesia and abroad. “I was determined to show that economic development could take place without destroying resources,” he says.
A distinguished economist, he has been teaching economics at the University of Indonesia since 1972. He was minister of the environment from 1978 to 1993, and enacted his country’s first comprehensive law on the environment and sustainable development in 1982.
Between 1984 and 1987, he co-chaired the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development. From 1995 to 1999, he co-chaired the United Nations High-Level Advisory Board for Sustainable Development. He was also the founder and chairman of the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation and of the country’s Ecolabeling Institute, a group which ensures the ecological soundness of forestry products from the early 1990s to 2003. He has been a member of high-level boards on population, health and conservation for the United Nations, the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation, as well as an Eminent Person on the Extractive Industries Review.
Dr Salim’s single-minded devotion to conservation can be traced to his days as a young man living on the densely forested island of Sumatra. It was here that he became acutely aware of Indonesia’s bounty of rich, natural resources — and the threat they faced from indiscriminate development. For his tireless work to reconcile human progress and the natural world, he has been awarded, among other distinctions, the 2005 Zayed Prize for Environmental Action Leading to Positive Change in Society and the 2006 Asahi environmental award. "It is each generation’s responsibility to maintain the environment for those who follow," he says. "This is often ignored in the developing world where natural resources are abused. We must work to reverse this situation."
Published in 2008