Environmentalist Azaria Alon, a leader in the development and preservation of natural resources and co-founder of Society for Protection of Nature has been named laureate of the 2012 Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution.
Alon is considered the pioneering force behind natural reserves in Israel and has penned dozens of history, heritage and nature books, as well as Israel-oriented travel guides.
"The Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution was awarded to Mr. Alon for his unique contribution to the protection of nature in Israel, for his nurturing of the notions of the love of nature and heritage and for his immense public activities in the field," the Israel Prize Committee said in a statement.
Alon was informed of his win by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and said he was honored to receive the prestigious prize.
Nevertheless, Alon leveled criticism at Israel's shortfalls on environmental issues: "A lot has changed in the 60 years since we founded the Society for Protection of Nature. There is a greater awareness to environmental issues among the public but not so much among the decision makers," he said.
Alon believes that the two major environmental issues Israel should be paying attention to are open spaces and water. "We're a small country and every piece of land is designated for something. We have to ask ourselves – what are we leaving for future generations? We have to do everything we can to protect open spaces."
He also countered those who claim that the environmental groups' green agenda is preventing development and progress: "Green groups are not an obstacle, they look for alternatives… We live in a modern age and think we can adapt life on this planet to the things we know will impact future generations for years to come."
He is the laureate of the 1980 Israel Prize for Special Contribution to Society and the Environment and has honorary degrees from the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Ben Gurion University.