An "environmental composer," a scientist who studies polar ice, a duo of sustainable food advocates and a pioneer in ocean "dead zone" research are among this year's winners of the 17th annual Heinz Award. The awards — named after the late senator and H.J. Heinz Company heir John Heinz — honor individuals "whose remarkable mix of vision, creativity and passion has produced significant achievements benefitting the environment." The nine awards come with an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000.

 

"At a time when so much of our public discourse is about constraints and the limits of possibility, these men and women offer an inspiring reminder that change always comes from those who see past today's boundaries to a world of new possibilities and new discoveries," said Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation, in a prepared statement. "Their ingenuity and persistence is a refreshing reminder of America's can-do spirit, which is as alive today in innovators like this as it has ever been. They offer us practical, real-world ideas for how to protect our environment, and their innovative spirit offers us a powerful and much-needed antidote to the idea that our country is no longer capable of greatness."

 

Heinz told the Associated Press that the awards are intended to inspire. "I know that young people, when faced with this type of person, it is infectious," she said. "It puts a light at the end of the tunnel. You see where you could be going."

 

This year's recipients are:

 

  • "Environmental composer" John Luther Adams, whose orchestral works are inspired by his home state of Alaska.
  • Polar ice scientist Richard Alley, whose two-mile-long ice core samples from Greenland and Antarctica proved that abrupt climate change is possible.
  • Scientist Janine Benyus, author of the book "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature."
  • Louis Guillette Jr., whose studies have shown the effect man-made chemicals have on the reproduction and physiology of wildlife.
  • Coral reef researcher Joan Kleypas, whose studies illuminate the effect of climate change or coral ecosystems.
  • Ocean biodiversity researcher Nancy Knowlton, author of "Citizens of the Sea: Wondrous Creatures from the Census Marine Life."
  • Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" researcher Nancy Rabalais, whose work connected the dead zone to fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi watershed.
  • And cancer survivor and biologist Sandra Steingraber, whose books include "Living Downstream" and "Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis."
 

The awards will be officially presented at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15.

 

The Heinz awards focus on the environment, arts and humanities, the human condition, public policy, the economy and other areas. The foundation last honored environmental leaders in 2009.