Jakob von Uexkull, a former member of the European Parliament, recently delivered the 6th Annual Frank K. Kelly Lecture on Humanity’s Future in Santa Barbara, California. The lecture series, a project of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, honors Frank K. Kelly, a founder and Senior Vice President of the Foundation.

The lecture series was created in the belief that humanity’s future deserves our consideration and best thinking. Our future today is imperiled by the power of human-created technologies that threaten civilization and even human survival on the planet. Those who will inhabit the future deserve our advocacy and our stewardship of the planet. Those alive today have no right to threaten the future of humanity by depleting or seriously diminishing the resources of the planet or by destroying the environment of those who will follow. Rather, we have a moral responsibility to preserve the planet and to pass it on intact to future generations.

Jakob von Uexkull was born in Sweden and currently resides in London. He is one of the world’s leading visionaries, and is a man who has acted upon his vision to create a better world. Understanding the power of the Nobel Prizes, he went to the Nobel Foundation over 25 years ago with a proposal to add two new categories to their award prizes: one for protecting the environment and one for alleviating poverty. He even offered to raise the funds to support these awards.

After consideration, the Nobel Foundation, which had added only one new award to the initial awards, said no to his request. Von Uexkull then decided to move forward on his own with these new awards, which he named the Right Livelihood Awards (www.rightlivelihood.org). He funded the first awards with the sale of his stamp collection. The first awards were presented in Stockholm on December 9, 1980, the day before the presentation of the Nobel Prizes.

At first, the Swedish press questioned whether von Uexkull was working for the CIA or the KGB in seeking to undermine the Nobel Prizes. The next year the press ridiculed the awards. But within five years, the awards were being presented in the Swedish Parliament and soon became known as the “Alternative Nobel Prizes.”

The Right Livelihood Awards have now been presented for more than 25 years, and each year three or four recipients of the Award split a prize of approximately $250,000. Awards have been made to more than 100 leaders throughout the world who are working in the areas of environmental protection and sustainability, development and poverty alleviation, peace and human rights.

The overwhelming majority of Nobel Prizes go to American and European men, with countries in the southern hemisphere having received only 11 percent of the Nobel Prizes. By contrast, 44 percent of the Right Livelihood Awards have been made to groups and individuals in the Global South. Women have received only five percent of the Nobel Prizes, whereas women, including women-led organizations, have received 34 percent of the Right Livelihood Awards.

Von Uexkull’s latest innovative project is the World Future Council (www.worldfuturecouncil.org) . The purpose of the Council is to bring together wise elders, pioneers and youth leaders to be a voice for shared human values and for fulfilling our responsibilities to future generations. The Council will recommend best practices to ensure a positive future for humanity. The first meeting of the Council will take place in Hamburg, Germany in May 2007.

The title of von Uexkull’s Kelly Lecture is “Globalization: Values, Responsibility and Global Justice.” It will be posted on the Foundation’s www.wagingpeace.org website. A DVD of the talk will also be available from the Foundation. Previous Kelly Lectures on Humanity’s Future by Frank K. Kelly, Richard Falk, Anita Roddick, Robert Jay Lifton and Mairead Maguire can also be found at the www.wagingpeace.org website.


David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org).