Speech by the head of the Jury and Board Elin Enge

Oslo Sophie Prize Ceremony June 14, 2000

Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

I have the great honour of announcing that:

The Sophie Prize 2000 has been awarded to
Sheri Liao, representing the Global Village Beijing.

We have entered a new millennium that poses serious challenges to mankind. The world is now faced with ever increasing exploitation of natural resources and growing environmental stress. The quality of our lives in the future depends on our ability both to alleviate poverty and to care for the environment.

Close to one fourth of the world’s population lives in China. As China prospers through an unprecedented rate of economic growth, the choices China makes in the coming years when it comes to environmental resource management will define the livelihood security of all people.

We know that “business as usual” is not a sustainable option, neither in China nor in the rest of the world. We know that the changes in development patterns that nature calls for, will demand both political courage and public support.

The winner of this years Sophie Award has with an immense energy and through personal sacrifice, devoted her life to the protection of the environment. She has chosen to do so through the use of media, as an environmental journalist, in order to raise the environmental awareness of the Chinese people.

Driven by her deep concern over the environmental disasters she witnessed in China, she has over the last 5 years produced hundreds of TV-programs on the environment, reaching out to an audience of over 100 million people.

The jury of The Sophie Award is immensely impressed by Sheri Liao and:

  • Her pioneering and tireless effort of effectively reaching out to the Chinese people, promoting environmental awareness and encouraging change in lifestyle.
  • Her ability to work both at mobilising millions of people and engaging in a constructive dialogue with government in doing so.
  • Her efforts in building a new environmental movement in China, through the establishment of Global Village Beijing, with over 4000 volunteers. Forging links with local communities, NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) in China and internationally.
  • Her courage in addressing the complex environmental challenges that China is facing and in advocating strongly both for pollution control, environmentally sound resource management and sustainable lifestyles.

Sheri Liao, born in Sichuan, China in 1954, received her master's degree in philosophy in 1986 and became a researcher at the China Academy of Social Science. She was a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Sichuan University for five years.

Ms. Liao has published numerous articles on the environmental costs of industrialisation in China before becoming an independent producer of environmental television programming. Her first significant work, “Daughters of the Earth", was produced using her own personal savings earned as a visiting scholar in the U.S. for the NGO Forum during the Fourth World Conference on Women.

She realised her lifelong dream of producing an environmental program for China national television when Green Civilisation and China, a monthly program which reaches up to 100 million viewers, began in January 1996 (each programme is produced for less than US $ 500). Time for Environment her weekly program commenced in April 1996 and reaches over 40 million people (133 episodes were produced in one year alone!).

Ms. Liao founded the NGO Global Village of Beijing (GVB) in March 1996 and has initiated a series of environmental projects carried out in the media and through public lectures and other outreach activities. GVB has initiated community programs such as Recycling Campaign, Organic Vegetable Garden, GVB's Conservation Center and Green Citizen Movement. The community programs involves community staff and residents, teachers and students, parents and children to work as a team to change life style based on sustainable consumption.
As co-organisers of Earth Day 2000, Global Village Beijing mobilised 10 million people, rallying for a Green Lifestyle.

Having the great pleasure of getting to know Sheri Liao over the last week, I have truly experienced that she is a woman of action, great devotion and with an incredible energy.
While in Norway to receive this award she decided to produce a TV- program for Chinese TV, about how Norway faces its environmental challenges. Her focus is on the practical everyday choices of the individual consumer. Inspired by some of the efforts that have been made towards sustainable consumption in Norway, she challenges us to increase our efforts through: Reusing and Recycling, as well Reducing our consumption.

Her energy is breathtaking. With her in the forefront of the environmental movement in China, Sheri Liao is an inspiration to all people that strive for a sustainable future.

She  lives the words of wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi:

Never underestimate the individuals ability to change the world.

We sincerely hope that the Prize will encourage Sheri Liao to continue her efforts of protecting Mother Earth and be of inspiration to the growing Environmental Movement in China.

I now have the pleasure of inviting the Norwegian Minister of Environment, Siri Bjerke, to come forward to hand over the Sophie Prize of 2000.