Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Names 2016 Rieser Award Winner

By | December 13, 2016

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Names 2016 Rieser Award Winner

CHICAGODecember 13, 2016  –  The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has named Nikita Perumal its second annual Leonard M. Rieser Award recipient. Perumal’s essay, “The value in activism: Lessons from the Columbia University climate sit-in,” is a powerful examination of the eight days of the Columbia Divest for Climate Justice (CDCJ) sit-in, and the three years of campaigning that led up to it. Perumal, a Fulbright Scholar currently in Vanuatu conducting research on the intersections of human rights and climate change, found that activism is often thankless and can even invite the ire of university administrators. However, she points out: “For every disheartening moment in activism, there is a moment of blinding inspiration that counterweighs it.”

The Rieser Award was established in 2015 to recognize outstanding emerging science and security experts who are passionate about connecting scientific research to policy outcomes. The winner of the award is selected by the Bulletin’s editorial team from among our Voices of Tomorrow essayists–new authors and rising stars who write with distinction about at least one of the Bulletin‘s core issues: nuclear weapons, climate change, growing energy demands, biosecurity, and threats from emerging technologies.

In her essay, Perumal describes some of the verifiable victories of the CDCJ campaign, but emphasizes that many achievements that result from successful activism aren’t necessarily quantifiable. Regardless of outcome, it is the cause of climate justice that keeps Perumal and her peers going: “We keep organizing because we realize that vulnerable communities, from the South Bronx to rural Appalachia to the small island nations of the Pacific, continue to face the devastation of climate impacts and fossil fuel extraction.”

In selecting the Rieser Award winner from among the 19 Voices of Tomorrow authors who were published in 2016, Bulletin editor John Mecklin praised the emotional impact of Perumal’s work: “The best writing doesn’t just convey information; it also provides the context and emotional detail that are vital if readers are to become interested–and then be inspired to act. And if I had to use a single word to describe Ms. Perumal’s portrayal of more than three years of climate change protest at Columbia University, it would be ‘inspirational.'”

The Rieser Award is the capstone of the Bulletin’s Next Generation Program, created to ensure that new voices, steeped in science and public policy, have a trusted platform from which to address existential challenges and threats. The program includes the Rieser Award and the Voices of Tomorrow series from which the recipient is chosen, as well as a series of communications training workshops for emerging science and security leaders. Moritz Kütt, then a doctoral candidate at Technische Universität Darmstadt, received the 2015 award for his article “Arms-control lessons from the Volkswagen scandal.”
Leonard M. Rieser (1922-1998), for whom the Rieser Award is named, was the Board Chair at the Bulletin from 1984 until his death in 1998. He worked on the Manhattan Project while a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and he went on to a distinguished academic career as a professor and provost of Dartmouth College. He strongly believed in the ability of the next generation to play a critical role in finding solutions to persistent global problems. The recipient of the Rieser Award receives $1,000 and an annual subscription to the Bulletin’s digital journal, which is published by Taylor & Francis Online.

Donate to the Bulletin‘s Next Generation initiatives–Visit our donation page and choose “Next Generation” from the drop down menu.


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