In memory of Bruno Messerli
2019-02-25 - 350 Views


His main research achievements are in mountain geography, with a particular field research focus in glaciology, climate history, environmental change and resources management in the Alps, the Mountains of Africa, the Himalayas and the Andes. In addition to his university duties he took on many other important international responsibilities: he was the chair of the mountain component of the UNESCO-MAB Programme, he served as the coordinator of the Mountain Programme of the United Nations and, from 1996-2000, he acted as the President of the International Geographic Union (IGU). Bruno Messerli was a driving force for the inclusion of a mountain chapter (Chapter 13) in the Agenda 21 entitled "Managing fragile ecosystems: sustainable mountain development” at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992.
As one of Bruno’s assistants I still remember the vibrant preparation phase for the conference during which evidence about the importance of sustainable mountain development for the survival of our planet was assembled and published in a special volume (“The State of the World’s Mountains – a global report”), in an illustrated short document for policy makers (“an Appeal for the Mountains)” and in a series of speeches. Together with fellow mountain pioneers such as Prof Jack Ives, Prof. Jury Badenkov, Prof. Lawrence Hamilton and Dr. Jean-Francois Giovannini, Bruno Messerli managed to convince the delegates at the conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil about the need to devote a specific Chapter in Agenda 21 to mountain ecosystems and their sustainable management.
The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was a milestone for the political recognition of the unique services mountains provide to global sustainability. With the adoption of Chapter 13 on Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD), Agenda 21 demanded better stewardship of mountains and mountain regions for global well-being. Since then, an uncounted number of highly rewarding international and regional initiatives emerged, including the International Year of Mountains 2002 and the establishment of the Mountain Partnership, all contributing with success to enhancing knowledge and understanding of the issues and approaches of SMD. Bruno Messerli was a driving force behind this impressive follow up to the Rio Conference and the expanding attention to sustainable mountain development.
Bruno Messerli was a formidable teacher, mentor, advisor, supporter, motivator and friend. He was an outstanding pedagogue with unique capacities to identify the specific skills in young people, to nurture and support their development and to bring them to full fruition.With his creativity, his vision, his positive attitude and his strategic and integrated thinking he had a significant impact on a large number of experts, scholars and colleagues including on myself. Bruno’s commitment for the planet earth, for the mountains and for humanity inspired everybody who interacted with him! His energy and enthusiasm accompanied him well beyond his official retirement from the University duties. I still remember his passionate closing lecture at the University of Berne which was more an inaugural than a farewell speech! We will always remember Bruno and his legacy will remain.
During his long professional career, Messerli received important awards including:
1988: Global 500 Award of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP),
1990: Marcel Benoist Prize, 2002: Gold medal of King Albert I Memorial Foundation,
2002: Gold Medal (Founder’s Medal) of the Royal Geographical Society,
2002: FAO – Medal for the UN – International Year of Mountains, Global Mountain Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
His formidable legacy can be found in a large number of publications of which a small selection is quoted here:
with H. Oeschger and M. Svilar (ed.):1980.The climate. Analyzes and models, history and future . Springer Verlag.
with JD Ives (ed.):1984. Mountain Ecosystems, Stability and Instability . Spec. Publ. IGU Congress Paris - Alps Mountain Research and Development.
with E. Brugger, G. Furrer and P. Messerli (ed.):1984. Upheaval in the mountain area. The development of the Swiss mountain area between independence and dependence from an economic and ecological point of view . Main publishing house, Berne.
with JD Ives:1989. The Himalayan dilemma. Reconciling Development and Conservation . UNU / Routledge, London/New York, ISBN 0-415-01157-4.
with JD Ives (ed.):1997. Mountains of the World. A Global Priority . Parthenon, Carnforth / New York, ISBN 1-85070-781-2 • with T. Hofer: 2006. Floods in Bangladesh. History, Dynamics and Rethinking the Role of the Himalayas. United Nations University Press, Tokyo/New York.