Richard Samson Odingo passed away on Saturday 12 June 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya. Doyen of African climate studies and an enlightened man, he had a very special relationship with the Gambrinus Giuseppe Mazzotti Literary Prize.
After graduating from London and Liverpool Universities, he returned to his country and undertook several studies on safeguarding the African continent’s climate, launching appeals against political decisions that were devastating for the climate; the project for which he is best known deals with African drought, in particular in the Southern Sahara, now a worringly regular occurrence. For many years full professor of Climatology (Faculty of Geography) at Nairobi University, in 2007 he received the Nobel Prize for the excellence of his scientific research and his indefatigable work on the issues of climate change, and from 2002 to 2008 he was vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a group of experts set up by the United Nations to study the climate.
“A rigorous scientist, honest and passionate, – recalls the Prize’s new Chairman Pier Francesco Ghetti – a pioneer on many fronts, he begged attention for his Africa and the worrying climate changes that were altering its equilibrium.
In 2009 – when Ghetti was a member of the Prize Jury – the Premio Mazzotti Management Committee assigned its Honoris Causa to professor Odingo “for his contribution to understanding the climate changes in progress, and for his convinced appeal to the nations of the world to take the urgent decisions and measures needed to overcome our planet’s ‘fever’ and trigger the huge changes human beings and modern society are able to generate in critical times, so that we can move towards the healthy, sustainable development of a durable green economy” – as the motivation states.
Since then, together with the Bioforest Association the Prize has financed Operation Got Owaga, an ongoing reforestation project in the Nyando Valley, Kenya, coordinated and directed by Odingo himself, with the indispensable support of his wife Alice.
Ten years later, in 2019, Richard Samson Odingo was once again a guest of the Prize as speaker at the conference ‘Let’s start taking the environment seriously’ (Asiago, 20-21 September 2019), the first meeting of the new project Contemporary Mazzotti Prize – The Environment’s Lamplighter. The professor’s talk, “The Impact of Global Climate Change and its Negative Effects on the African Continent’, is included in the conference proceedings published in a volume titled ‘Final Call for the Earth’ (edited by Salvatore Giannella, Antiga Edizioni, 2020).