Calestous Juma Receives 2017 Breakthrough Paradigm Award

The Breakthrough Institute has named Calestous Juma the recipient of the 2017 Breakthrough Paradigm Award. Professor Juma will accept the prize on stage at the Breakthrough Dialogue in Sausalito, California, next June.

The Paradigm Award recognizes accomplishment and leadership in the effort to make the future secure, free, prosperous, and fulfilling for all the world’s inhabitants on an ecologically vibrant planet. Past recipients of the award include Mark Lynas, Emma Marris, Jesse Ausubel, Ruth DeFries, and David MacKay.

Calestous Juma is Professor of the Practice of International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School and Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Professor Juma was chosen in recognition of his scholarship and thought leadership in biotechnology and innovation. Of all global impacts on the environment, none has a bigger footprint than food and agriculture, and few scholars are better prepared to discuss and advise our agricultural future. With his acclaimed 2011 book, The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, Juma offered an essential and refreshing look at agriculture in emerging economies. Technology, entrepreneurship, and emerging regional markets, he wrote, would combine to create an economic, social, and environmental revolution in sub-Saharan Africa.

This year, Oxford University Press published Professor Juma’s new book, Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies, which chronicles 600 years of case studies on emerging technologies and the social resistance they ignite. Those familiar with modern discussions around nuclear power, transgenic crops, vaccines, and other controversial technologies have likely experienced frustration with what can seem at times to be regressive opposition to new technologies. But what is fascinating about Juma’s new book is the respect, curiosity, and skill with which he diagnoses these social tensions. In our bitterly divided debates about new technologies, his emergence as a voice of reason, wisdom, and civility is most welcome. Adam Thierer of George Mason University called Innovation and Its Enemies “the best book on technology policy of the past decade." "It takes one of the leading lights on innovation—Calestous Juma—to truly understand the forces that oppose it,” said the Scripps Research Institute’s Eric Topol.

Professor Juma’s ground-breaking research on science and technology has been recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Royal Academy of Engineering. He has been elected to several scientific academies including the Royal Society of London, the US National Academy of Sciences, the World Academy of Sciences, the UK Royal Academy of Engineering, and the African Academy of Sciences. He is a former Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the founder of the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi.

So it is only fitting that Professor Juma will join us for next summer’s Breakthrough Dialogue, the theme of which is “Democracy in the Anthropocene.” In this seventh iteration of the Dialogue, we will confront the question of achieving progress and innovation at a time when many voices are questioning both the benefits of new technologies and the efficacy of the institutions that have historically driven human progress. For ecomodernists, the question becomes not only whether we can overcome these democratic hurdles to progress, but what will be necessary for democratic institutions and civil society to embrace the ongoing processes of modernization and technological change that will be necessary to accelerate the transition to an equitable, modern, low-impact future. (You can read more about our vision for next year’s Dialogue here.)

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