Good Guy Wins Big – Steve Carpenter Awarded Stockholm Water Prize

I love it when the good guy wins, and today a very good guy won big. This morning I learned that Stephen R. Carpenter, Professor of Zoology and Limnology and faculty member in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is being awarded the 2011 Stockholm Water Prize.
Steve’s input and wisdom, gained from a lifetime of work on the ecology of aquatic systems, has been fundamental to The Johnson Foundation’s freshwater work. Despite his very busy schedule, he agreed to join us for one of our initial convenings in March, 2009 when we assembled a group of (mostly) scientists to address questions such as “What key problems are we facing in the US with freshwater systems and services?” and “which of these challenges are driven or exacerbated by climate change?”
Steve’s voice was absolutely critical in helping us understand the concept of “environmental thresholds” which, if crossed, are very difficult to recover from. Steve also introduced the concept of resilience to our conversations, a term which is now routine language for those working on healthy communities and environments. And it was his unassuming leadership that brought the Wingspread group to coalesce around a bold vision of ‘achieving water resilience by 2025’. As if that weren’t enough, he also helped lay out our path forward, including our convenings on water and infrastructure, water and agriculture, and the water/energy nexus.
It took us another 18 months after the meeting that Steve participated in, and many more perspectives around the table, before Charting New Waters was hammered out and released amid much fanfare in September 2010. But today I’m reminded of where much of this started, and the big difference that one person can make. If you’ve got a minute, take a look at the output from that March 2009 meeting. It stands the test of time.
And so, on World Water Day 2011, I’ll raise my glass of clean tap water to a great guy, doing great work.  Our future is brighter because of Steve.
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