To the Future of the Crystal-clear Blue Earth

Aired: February 10, 2023 (UTC)


The Blue Planet Prize is awarded every year to two individuals or organizations in recognition of their outstanding contributions to global environmental issues. The 2022 winners are His Majesty the 4th King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who introduced the concept of GNH (Gross National Happiness) to the world, and Prof. Stephen Carpenter, the emeritus director of the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin USA, who has been engaged in lake ecosystem research for many years.

The concept of GNH, initially advocated by His Majesty the 4th King of Bhutan forms the national foundation on which the Kingdom of Bhutan is built. The government considers environmental conservation and sustainable socio-economic development as essential to the happiness of its citizens. It also strives to realize economic growth that maintains a balance between development and environmental conservation.

This concept of GNH has provided a new perspective to modern society, where economy and efficiency were prioritized. It has been adopted as an indicator in the OECD Well-being Framework and the UN World Happiness Report and has made a significant impact on the world.

This program explores how the concept of GNH is reflected in Bhutan’s national policies to realize happiness for its citizens, and how happiness is achieved through the GNH pillar of environmental conservation.

The other winner, Professor Carpenter challenged the general perception that excessive algae blooms in lakes and rivers were caused by phosphorus inflow from surrounding agricultural land. He argued that the problem could also arise from changes in the ecosystem and proved his theory through experimentation.

He believed that algae blooms occurred due to a decrease in zooplankton which preys on phytoplankton. He conducted experiments by releasing large fish into lakes which prey on smaller fish which in turn prey on zooplankton. His experiments on artificially adjusting ecosystem balance proved to be successful in improving water quality and preventing the occurrence of algae blooms, a theory which defied the common conception of the time. The mathematical model he built from the research data obtained from his lake experiments has made a significant contribution to the improvement of the environment.

He also addressed the environmental threshold of human impact on the earth by quantifying the impact of phosphorus and nitrogen in the context of planetary boundaries. An in-depth look into his resilience theory linked to the ecological balance of lakes and rivers is also featured. The program introduces the contributions of these two winners to global environment improvement and our hopes for the future.

What insights do these two Blue Planet Prize winners share with us, so that we may pass on the beauty of our planet to the next generation? Our journey through their significant research achievements aims to reveal those answers.


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