Environmental Lawyer and Professor Donald A. Brown (USA) receives 2019 UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science

On November 14, UNESCO in Paris honored me with the Avicenna Prize for my work on climate change ethics. The following is the UNESCO press release explaining this award.


The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, today awarded the 2019 edition of the UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science to Professor Donald A. Brown, Scholar in Residence for Sustainability Ethics and Law at Widener University Commonwealth Law School (USA). This year’s Avicenna Prize, its 5th edition, was dedicated to the ethics of the environment.

Professor Brown is a world-renowned expert in environmental science and more specifically in the international climate change ethics movement. His book Climate Change Ethics: Navigating the Perfect Moral Storm (2013) provides an influential analysis of why ethical principles have been neglected and how to include them in the climate change conversation.

He has sought to ensure that applied ethics is central to climate change policy development both nationally and internationally. His compelling argument that limiting carbon emissions and mitigating climate change is the ethical imperative of our time resonates widely in the current discourse on climate change.

An independent international jury, composed of three members of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), unanimously recommended the laureate for his sound scientific contribution to the ethics of science and technology, particularly the ethics of climate change and environmental sustainability, his unique qualities as a scientist, environmental lawyer, climate change educator, activist and opinion-leader, and his lifetime commitment to, and outstanding impact on the ethics of climate change science and policy-making.

Held at UNESCO, the Award Ceremony was attended by Ambassador Ahmad Jalali, Permanent Delegate of the Islamic Republic of Iran to UNESCO whose country initiated the establishment of the Prize in 2003.


The UNESCO Avicenna Prize is named after the renowned 11th century physician and philosopher of Persian origin known in Europe as Avicenna (980-1038). A healer and humanist, Avicenna developed an exemplary holistic approach that captures the essence of ethics in science and has thus come to serve as a source of inspiration for the promotion of this concern, which is of central importance to UNESCO. It rewards the activities of individuals or groups in the field of ethics in science with the gold Avicenna Medal, a certificate, and the sum of $50,000 as well as a one-week academic visit to the donor country.


3 thoughts on “Environmental Lawyer and Professor Donald A. Brown (USA) receives 2019 UNESCO Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science

  1. I was thrilled to hear this news! I think you are one of the great thinkers on environmental matters today. I was privileged to work with you at the 2009 COP 15 in Copenhagen on trying to draw attention there to the importance of what we then called the “cultural aspirations” of a people, specifically the island nations in response to climate change. I worked on our press release for that work to articulate that cultural aspirations were as important as economic aspirations. You and my experience of that work had a profound influence on my thinking but I’ve lost touch in recent years. What affected me from that experience wasn’t just the thinking thru of those ideas together at the time but even more profoundly in some ways, the dynamics of and consequences of resistance to that idea expressed not just at the COP but by the Danish Govt when they moved on demonstrators and shut down the Bella Center building where everyone was meeting. I wrote about my experience then for CSPA Quarterly and have continued to mull over it since as I’ve watched fossil fuels & specifically Russia, aggressively fight back against the ideas we tried to articulate then. It has informed my entire Blued Trees project (http://ghostnets.com/projects/blued_trees_symphony/blued_trees_symphony.html). I think the conflict between hyper-capitalist extractive ideologies and the adaptive potential of culture, expressed most agonizingly in this country at Standing Rock, defines the environmental war we are living in now. Thank you for your important work and inspiration!


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