ScientificAmerican.com was up early again this morning checking the Nobel Prize Web site, waiting for the peace prize announcement. If you're wondering why, you'll recall that science and the environment have played a role in two of the last three Nobel Peace Prizes: Last year’s award to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore, and the 2005 prize to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Although this year's winner's achievements are profound and inspiring, it’s hard to discern a connection to science. Martti Ahtisaari takes the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize "for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts."
A former President of Finland, Ahtissari mediated conflicts ranging from apartheid South Africa’s occupation of Namibia in the 1980s to Kosovo in the 2000s and founded the Crisis Management Initiative in an effort to promote peaceful conflict resolution.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee—who determine the peace prize, unlike all the other prizes awarded in Stockholm—particularly cited him for his role as an “outstanding international mediator.” Ahtissari beat out 196 other nominations, including currently jailed AIDS activist Hu Jia of China, non-governmental organization Human Rights watch and Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.